How to break down a whole chicken

There are countless ways you can break down a chicken but this is my usual operation which results in 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 breasts and a carcass.

I tend to buy a whole chicken rather than separate parts as it is much more cost effective. From one whole chicken I can get all the chicken parts and also use the carcass to make a great stock to make sopa de fideos or any other recipe calling for chicken stock. Once broken down, I then freeze the separate pieces for later use.

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1 Lay the chicken on a cutting board and trim off the excess skin around the cavity and the parson’s nose, if you wish. You can skip this step but I prefer to do it this way.

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2 Cut the skin connecting the drumsticks and breast so you have clear access. You can also skip this step.

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3 Hold the thigh bones and break away from the breast; the bone should pop out of the socket. Cut between the joint and remove both hindquarters.

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4 Turn the chicken over and grab the wing, pull taught from the body and make an incision; this should expose the joint so you know where to cut. Cut between the joint and remove both wings.

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5 Turn chicken over and pull off the skin from the breasts.

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6 Run your finger down the centre of the breast and locate the breast bone. Cut either side of the bone to expose the breast and cut away. Keep your knife close to the bone and make swiping movements to detach it from the bones and around the outside of the wishbone.

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To prepare the chicken parts

Hindquarters: You can leave the hindquarters intact if you prefer or remove the drumsticks from the things. To do this lay the drumstick as show and score the meat where the joint is; cut between the joint and remove both thighs; alternatively you can pop the bone out of the socket so you know exactly where the joint is.

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Wings: You can leave the wings intact or separate each part. Personally, I like my wings whole including the tip.

Breasts: You can leave the breast whole or fillet. To fillet: lay the breast upside down. Pull away the tender (it looks like a small flap) and cut off. Cut the breast in half as shown.  Repeat the process.

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Carcass: You can leave intact, which is perfect to make stock or break it down further into individual pieces. To break down place the carcass flat and cut horizontally through the chicken ribs. When you get to the end fold and break away from the carcass; you can easily break away with your hands without the use of a knife. Now you cut the carcass into how ever many pieces you require. The easiest way is crack the pieces and bend backwards and then use you knife to cut through.

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To freeze: You can wrap each piece separately in Clingfilm or into groups. I tend to freeze the pieces separately because then I can pick and choose which pieces I want in my next meal instead of having to defrost the whole thing.

Stir-Fried Cauliflower “Grains”

Eurghh that dreaded vegetable, the cauliflower. I’ve never had a good relationship with cauliflower; it automatically conjured up images of vomit-inducing smelly boiled cauliflower. For this reason I automatically put it on my Food Hate List until I heard about processing the cauliflower into a grain-like texture. I was intrigued as I love finding new ways to prepare and cook ingredients.

Once processed these these “grains” resemble couscous or rice and they are very versatile. They can be eaten raw or slightly cooked; be careful not to overcook them because otherwise it’ll just turn into a mushy mess which will probably end up tasting of the dreaded boiled cauliflower! The grains can even be transformed into a kind of bread.

In this recipe I have given them an Asian treatment and transformed them into a very simple stir fry.

For this recipe I made a large batch of cauliflower grains. I used half for the recipe and the rest I put into freezer bags. These grains freeze very well; cook them straight from frozen.

Ingredients

1 onion, sliced

1 carrot, diced

1 spring onion, sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

2cm fresh ginger, minced

2 eggs, beaten

½ cauliflower

1 Tbsp. Gochujang

1 tsp. Chinese 5 Spice

Method

1 Cut the cauliflower into florets and process into grains using a food processor. Alternatively you can use a normal grater. Set aside.

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2 Stir-fry onion, carrot and the lighter part of the spring onions.

3 Make a well in the centre and stir-fry the garlic and ginger.

4 Make a well in the centre and add the beaten eggs. Wait until it becomes nearly an omelette and then scramble and mix well with all other ingredients.

5 Add the cauliflower grains and season with Chinese 5 Spice. Mix well.

6 Make a well in the centre and add the Gochujang and a few tablespoons of water. Mix well and then combine with all other ingredients. Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes.

7 Add the green parts of the spring onion and mix well.

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Conejo al horno con patatas (Baked Rabbit with Potatoes)

There could be many reasons as to why rabbit has become less frequent on our menus; perhaps it has to do with its characterization as a sweet bunny “wabit” from cartoons which then probably led to an increase in people keeping them as pets. Once an animal is seen as pet, it is hard for people to distinguish the difference between pet and food.

In the UK, it seems people have gone off eating rabbit even though it was a popular meat not that long ago and featured in many humble dishes such as Rabbit Pie and Rabbit Stew.

In Spain it is still a popular meat but I have found that the younger generations are starting to turn these noses up at it too. Not me, but then again I am no longer from the younger generation hehe

The Spanish word for Spain (España) derives from Hispania which is thought to be a Phoenician word meaning “land of rabbits”. We have plenty of rabbits (it helps that they procreate a lot) and plenty of dishes feature rabbit including the traditional paella. However, I’ll leave the paella discussion for when I post my paella recipe because that is going to a long one!

Ingredients

2 potatoes, sliced

1 onion, sliced

1 rabbit, broken down

2 Tbsp. ajo y perejil

6 garlic cloves, whole

2 tsp. sweet pimenton (or paprika)

2 tsp. hot pimenton (or chilli powder)

1 tsp. Rosemary

1 tsp. thyme

Salt & pepper, to taste

1 glass white wine

1 glass water

Splash olive oil

½ lemon, juiced

Method:

1 Marinade the rabbit with ajo y perejil, sweet and hot pimenton, rosemary, thyme, salt & pepper, white wine and oil. Set aside

2 Place potato slices and onion on the bottom of an ovenproof dish and add salt, pepper, hot and sweet pimenton, thyme and rosemary. Drizzle with olive oil and coat well. 

3 Add the marinated rabbit and whole garlic cloves on top of the potatoes and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Add a glass of white wine and a small glass of water.

4 Bake in a hot oven for 45 minutes or until the rabbit is golden brown and the potatoes are done.

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Tostones con mojo verde (Fried Plantains)

I learnt how to make these tostones from a Cuban friend of mine. They are popular all over the Caribbean and Latin America and are also known as patacones, bananes pesée or just simply fried plantains.

Traditionally they are flattened in a device known as a tostonera but all you really need is any flat surface; a glass or mug works perfectly for me.

Oh and these are not sweet, they are savoury and are served as a starter or accompaniment to a savoury dish such as rice and peas.

Ingredients

1 green plantain

Vegetable oil, to fry

Salt, to taste

Mojo Verde:

2 Tbsp. Ajo y perejil

Few sprigs of coriander, minced

1 ½ Tbsp. lemon juice (or vinegar)

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. salt

Method:

1 Make the mojo by mixing all the ingredients together. Set aside.

2 Cut plantain into 2cm slices and fry in hot oil for 1 – 2 minutes on each side.

3 Take the slices out and squash them using the bottom of a glass.

4 Fry the squashed plantain slices again until crispy and golden brown.

5 Sprinkle the tostones with salt and serve with mojo verde.

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Chocolate & Ginger Chia Pudding

Chia seeds have shot into fame in recent times despite being already hugely popular in its native Mexico and Guatemala where it has been cultivated since Pre-Columbian times. Over here it has turned into one of those “superfoods”; one of my pet peeves. I don’t really buy into the concept of superfood; I think it is just all clever marketing and a fad but the reason I decided to give these seeds a chance wasn’t because of it’s supposed health benefits, although it is a plus, but because of the transformation it provides whatever liquid you mix it with. The seeds absorb the liquid it comes into contact with and turns it into a gelatinous-like substance. This substance then resembles some form of pudding. Pudding, you say? I am on board!

This probably isn’t the healthiest Chocolate Chia Pudding out there but it must be better than one of those over-processed chocolate puddings you’d expect to find in your local supermarket. You can be less indulgent and use milk (cow, coconut, soy, almond etc) instead of yoghurt but I personally prefer it with yogurt.

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. unsweetened raw cacao powder
1 ½ Tbsp. of stem ginger syrup (or honey)
A splash milk or water
2 pieces of stem ginger, diced
4 Tbsp. Greek yoghurt
3 Tbsp. chia seeds
1 tsp. cinnamon powder
Extra cacao, for dusting

Method

1 Mix cacao, ginger syrup and milk until smooth and silky.

2 Mix in yogurt, stem ginger and chia seeds. Combine well.

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3 Pour into desired pots and sprinkle with cinnamon and some extra cacao.

4 Refrigerate overnight.

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NB You can just as easily make this without the chia seeds; it won’t be a set pudding but the flavours work just as well.

Peanut Butter Praline Vegan “Ice-cream”

The easiest and fastest way to make ice-cream. This could actually be rather dangerous…

I never thought I would ever enjoy something vegan but on this occasion I am obliged to put my hands up and admit that I was wrong to judge. You would never guess that the base of this “creamy” ice-cream has absolutely no dairy in it! The trick to this ice-cream is frozen bananas + blender. I am afraid that it would be next to impossible to make this without a blender or food processor unless you are really strong and you can pound the bananas with your fists…

This is great way to use up overripe bananas; this takes full advantage of the saying: “Waste not, want not”. I always have a bag of overripe bananas and other fruits in the freezer to make into icecreams, smoothies or cakes. The darker the banana, the sweeter the end result will be and therefore you won’t need to add any other kind of sweetener.

The consistency of this ice-cream is akin to soft-serve but if frozen it also transform into traditional frozen ice-cream. Personally, I prefer to eat it fresh as even with “normal” ice-cream I mix it around and wait for it to melt slightly anyways…

The base of this “ice-cream” is solely frozen bananas so you can add what ever flavourings you like. Let your creativity go but to get you started here are a few of mine: tahini + cinnamon; chocolate + stem ginger; coffee + chocolate; baileys + cinnamon. You could also add texture with crushed biscuits or crushed nuts.

Ingredients

1-2 overripe bananas, frozen (see tips and techniques)

2 Tbsp. homemade peanut butter (or storebought)

2 drops praliné aroma

Method

1 Place bananas in a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth and creamy. At first it may seem that it will never turn into ice-cream but have a bit of patience; it will finally get there!

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2 Add peanut butter and praline aroma and blitz one more time to incorporate everything fully.

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Note: You can freeze the ice-cream in an airtight container; it won’t have the same consistency as freshly made but it is still good.

Ajo y perejil (Garlic and Parsley Marinade)

When I was a kid I remember my mum giving me heads of garlic to peel so that she could make this marinade. I now make it myself but, unfortunately, don’t have anyone to delegate the tedious job of peeling all the garlic.

This marinade is a staple in Spanish cuisine and I can imagine it would be just as useful in any other Mediterranean cuisine and even beyond. It is extremely versatile and can be used on practically anything including fish, seafood, poultry, meat, vegetables etc. It’s a great time saver for any recipe that calls for garlic, which in Spain pretty much means everything.

I always keep a jar of this in the fridge.

Ingredients

4 heads of garlic

1 large bunch of fresh parsley

Virgin olive oil*

Method

1 Blitz together all ingredients in a food processor. Add more olive oil until it reaches the consistency you prefer.

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2 Pour into an airtight container or jar and top up with more olive oil. The olive oil acts like a natural seal that prevents oxygen from spoiling the garlic. You may need to top up with extra olive oil as you use it.

3 Store in the fridge. It keeps for months on end.

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* You can substitute for regular olive oil but as I live in an olive producing country, it is quite cheap here.