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How we got 14 meals from our Swillington Farm chicken

Posted by on Thursday 14 July 2011 in cooking, eating, frugal | 7 comments

We got our first Swillington Farm meat box delivery at the end of June and are determined to do it justice. I’m keeping a lengthy record of what we did with every bit of it – but as we’ve not got through much of it so far, I thought I’d mention this separately – what we did with the chicken.

As part of our “medium” box, we get “1x large organic chicken” each month. By “large”, they mean large – it was considerably bigger than any I’ve seen for sale at supermarkets. According to the Swillington Farm’s website, the birds start indoors but then “spend the next 2 months free range on organic pasture” and “aged at least 3 months before they reach your plate [producing] larger, better tasting chickens than the average supermarket bird” (supermarket chickens are typically 6-9 weeks in age when they’re killed – ie, 1.5-just over 2 months old). Butchered, our Swillington chicken weighed 2.6kg (5lb 12oz), and they included the liver & neck in a little baggie.

How we used it

  • 2 portions: Chicken legs (each weighed close to 370g!) roasted with a light garlic, lemon, ground coriander & black pepper marinade. Cooked with roasted new potatoes, and served with purple sprouting broccoli.
  • 2 portions: Chicken wings and some meaty bits from the carcass roasted with the same marinade, with leftover roasted potatoes and garlicky broad beans & salad from the garden.
  • 4 portions: Chicken & sweetcorn noodle soup made from stock/meat from the carcass/neck.
  • 3 portions: Chicken jalfrezi, made with one chicken breast and our eggs.
  • 3 portions: Chicken & pepper jalfrezi, made from the other breast and our eggs.

And the cats had the skin & liver cooked up and blended into a “pate” – which they *loved*.

We have … generous appetites so the portions were still quite large – both in the amount of chicken in each portion and the size of the portion. I thought there was enough meat in all the meals – all the meals felt sufficiently chicken-y for me – but John said he’d have liked a better chicken-to-other ratio in the first jalfrezi.

Update – Jan 2013: We’ve had Swillington Farm meat boxes most months since I wrote this post and we’ve always had equally generous chickens – including some even bigger ones at times! 14 meals from a bird is the rule in this house, not the exception – and 16 meals isn’t uncommon. I’ve written a little update here.

What are your favourite ways to get the most out of chickens?


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Attila

    Wow, that was a big chicken! I prefer a free range chicken at 1.3 kg to a non-free range one at 1.5kg because the free range is so much tastier and there’s more meat on the back where the bird has had a more natural life, rooting about and building up muscle. We generally have one roast dinner (DH likes a leg and I like 2/3 to 3/4 of a breast). Then I can get two or three stir fries for two out of the rest, or a curry and one stir fry, plus stock and all the bits for soup. Recently, I used up the meat from two lots of frozen stock from the freezer to make a chicken and ham pie. If I make chicken curry, I pad it out with chickpeas, cannelloni beans or suchlike.

  2. PipneyJane

    Sounds like you got a similar sized chicken to the ones I normally buy from my (kosher) butcher. I’ve never seen one that large in the supermarket. FWIW, I regularly buy filleted chicken breasts from our butcher that weigh in at 450g and split them between two meals of 4 portions.

    What did you think of the taste of the chicken? One reason (besides the kosher thing) that we’d never go back to supermarket meat is that it is so tasteless when compared to what we’re buying now.

    Love the blog.

    – Pam

  3. janet

    Thats a waste to give the liver to the cat, we would have it our selves with bacon and tomatoes. The skin and the rubbish would be put out for the seagulls.Who needs food recycling when you have seagulls.

  4. louisa

    Attila: that’s exactly what we said when we lifted it out of the box – far bigger than anything we could get at the supermarket. Do you roast the whole bird then use cooked chicken in your stir-fry/pies? We rarely have already cooked chicken in the house so I’m not sure how to cook with it!

    PipneyJane: it certainly was more tasty than supermarket ones — especially the dark meat. I deliberately kept the marinade on the roast chicken quite light so we could taste the meat and we could – rather than it just being flavourless protein like so much supermarket chicken.

    Janet: I might keep future ones to make pate for us – the cats won’t get them all ;) For non-meat things, we feel the same about our hens as you do about seagulls – feathered recycling machines :)

    • Attila

      Yes, I do stir fry the cooked chicken; it’s fine as long as it’s heated right through. If I joint a chicken or buy chicken thighs (the best meat for stir frying as it’s moister) I often slice up the raw meat and bag it to freeze for stir fries. With the chicken and ham pie, both meats were cold and any sauce or gravy in the pie would be hot, so I’d either let the sauce cool, add the cooked onion and cooked meat, assemble the pie then cook it, or I would add the meat right away to the still warm sauce, shove it in the pie and put it in a hot oven pronto. It’s the meat hanging around warm that lets the bacteria grow, isn’t it. And regarding the phrase “dark meat”, when we first had free range chicken, I was surprised to see that it really is dark, unlike the intensively reared meat.

  5. Alison

    I thought I did well getting 3 main meals for 2 and 2 lunches for 1 out of a chicken ( that doesn’t include using the stock which I use in various meals). Having said that, they are supermarket (organic) chickens, so not as big as your Swillington farm chickens.

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