Poached Chicken

New Year, New You my arse. I was quite happy with the me that existed before 31st December, thanks very much.

This year, I just can’t muster up the requisite self-hatred to go on a new year diet. It just wouldn’t seem like learning my lesson somehow. Ditto the pointless annual alcohol fast, conducted as a kind of macabre experiment to see if I might be a teeny bit addicted to the sauce. What the hell. This year, I intend to accept that sometimes I mix a martini when what I really need is ten minutes in my happy place, and move on.

However, amends do need to be made. I am not convinced I have been getting my five a day over the holiday period. Moreover, I accept that it’s not a good thing to habitually swig Gaviscon as if it’s a digestif. I feel the need to stick a flag in the ground that says, ‘Normal eating is resumed.’

What’s more, I need to carry out my annual chutney cull. This vexes me somewhat. I used to be the only chutney maker I knew. Every year, I would turn out a dozen smart jars of plum, apple or fig, and proudly present them as Christmas presents. Nowadays, everyone’s at it. Which means that, increasingly, I don’t end up making any of my own. Plus, Herbert is in the habit of picking up a jar of something every time he buys cheese. It’s always disappointing and over-shiny, and it stacks up. The cupboard has got so full that the least movement makes four jars topple out, like those penny machines in seaside arcades.

I submerge a whole chicken in my deep stock pot with onions, carrots, garlic, ginger and celery bobbing around it. As an afterthought, I slosh in the remains of the NYE champagne. As it begins to bubble happily, I delve into the cupboard, casting out no less that three jars of soft pickled onions, six jars of random chutney, two blackcurrant squash bottles that have less than an centimetre of cordial left in them apiece (Herbert is the blackcurrant drinker in this house, that’s all I’m saying), and a kilner jar of greying cherries in brandy. I am alarmed to find a bottle of red wine vinegar with a thick cap of mould; I didn’t know that was possible.

Now I’m left with the sickly task of disposing of the contents of the jars. I am glooping them into the bin when Herbert comes home. He gazes between the bin and the boiling chicken and then quickly exits the kitchen. I call him back to admire my pristinely empty cupboards.

‘There,’ I say, ‘That’s better, isn’t it?’

‘Mmm,’ says Herbert, who only ever goes in there for mustard, marmite or his MSG-based Swiss salad seasoning.

‘This year, there will be a rule: one jar in, one jar out. No stockpiling weird ingredients.’ He smirks. He knows that’s not possible.

We eat the chicken in front of the TV, with spelt grains thrown into the broth and purple sprouting broccoli on the side. I had planned to make salsa verde to dribble on top, but in the new spirit of cupboard-clearing, I blob nasturtium pesto onto it instead, a gift from a friend’s summer garden. It goes some way to taking the ascetic edge off the dish.

As does the glass of sherry I pour afterwards, to use up the Christmas stash. I don’t want to become that person, after all.

Recipe: Poached Chicken with Spelt

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19 Responses to Poached Chicken

  1. Beccy 05/01/2011 at 20:31 #

    How funny – had a similar cupboard/fridge purge myself today, when not building bookshelves. And this week, we are mostly eating leftovers; your chicken looks way nicer…..

    • betty 06/01/2011 at 08:56 #

      I believe I ate some of your cupboard purge in this very post ;-)

  2. Kavey 05/01/2011 at 20:42 #

    Yay, welcome welcome welcome to food blogging! x

  3. betty 05/01/2011 at 21:05 #

    I am conscious that I’m standing on the shoulders of giants here! Thanks Kavey x

  4. meemalee 05/01/2011 at 21:26 #

    I don’t know if I’m feeling hormonal or what, but this actually made me tear up a bit.

    When I started writing myself, I made a conscious decision to include snippets about me and my life with my husband, because I wanted to put everything into context. I watch awful food TV because my husband likes to take the piss out of it with me. I’m adventurous in what I eat because my husband is equally game.

    A lot of people have nothing about their personal life on their blog – sometimes I don’t even know their gender. And fair play to them, but being a sentimental and intrinsically inquisitive person, I want to know more.

    Thank you for indulging me and look forward to reading more.

  5. Miss Whiplash 05/01/2011 at 21:37 #

    Oh My Goodness…
    I entirely recognise your chutney/cupboard pain… I don’t have the will to cull though – you must let us know how that works out for you :-)

    • betty 06/01/2011 at 08:59 #

      Well I’m not missing anything yet…and am enjoying the smug feeling of tidy cupboards, even if it’s only for a few days!

  6. Leluu 05/01/2011 at 21:45 #

    I totally agree with Meemalee (as usual), it is really nice to read and engage in a post thats beyond recipes and with character and so much personality. I too look forward to reading much more. Happy New Year x

    • betty 06/01/2011 at 08:23 #

      Thanks Meemalee & Leluu – I think of it as a relationships blog with recipes really, but I’m totally loving indulging my inner Nigella (which is actually an inner Nigel). How fun!

  7. deepa 05/01/2011 at 21:47 #

    we collect jam here. I ate two slices of toast with jam on it last week before i realised it too had a thick mouldy growth on the lid. nice.

    great post, welcome to blogging :)

    • betty 06/01/2011 at 08:54 #

      *boak* How horrible! I try to spirit jam away before Herbert finds it – otherwise he only eats it. I am Ms Whiplash in the kitchen!

  8. Hilsters 05/01/2011 at 23:06 #

    I love love love your writing style. Look forward to reading more about Herbert, I think my Mr Predictable has some similar traits, he too has a Colmans habit but only if accompanied by a sausage roll (of the frozen variety!!!) :)

    • betty 06/01/2011 at 08:54 #

      Mmmm, sausage rolls and mustard. That made me hungry.

  9. elizabeth 06/01/2011 at 02:55 #

    For us, it seems to be salad dressings. We’ll buy a new one, try it once, and decide we like our old standards better. The rest of it will sit in our fridge until we can admit that we are never going to use it again and pitch it. We also seem to accumulate dressing when we have parties. People bringing salad always seem to also bring multiple bottles of dressing, which all get opened, but only partially consumed. I swear, we probably have 10 opened bottles of salad dressing in our fridge right now, and I only use one of them on a regular basis!

    • betty 06/01/2011 at 08:26 #

      And it’s so guilt-inducing to throw them all out! But it’s a choice between that and keeping completely unwanted things. My inner eco-warrior sighs heavily.

  10. NickyB 06/01/2011 at 08:45 #

    New kitchen getting fitted next week, so this weekend’s job is to clear everything out of the cupboards. I’m actually quite interested, after reading this, to fond out what’s accumulated! Though dreading my husband’s mighty bout of grumpiness during the task (I know him too well!)

    • betty 06/01/2011 at 08:53 #

      It’s quite fun once you get going – fascinating what lurks back there. You’ll have to let us know what you find!

  11. Niamh 06/01/2011 at 12:34 #

    Lovely, lovely post! Food is about stories and people as much as it is about ingredients, and this was a real pleasure to read :)

    I do love poached chicken too.

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