‘Orange’ chicken curry

As I started typing this yesterday there was a wonderful smell filling the house from my latest slow cooker experiment: a thick, sweet chicken curry. The orange in the name comes from the first three ingredients in my list. My hope was that these three would soften as they cooked and (possibly with the help of a potato masher) become a thick, flavourful sauce for the chicken, and they have. I tend to cook the chicken breasts whole in a dish like this and then shred them once the meal is cooked as it makes it appear as though there is more meat than there actually is! I have even managed to deceive my carnivorous husband with this trick! He is one of those who feels a main meal isn’t complete without a decent quantity of meat (125g minimum!), he has eaten meals with half this and not realised.

Ingredients:
'Orange' chicken curry

  • half a butternut squash – peeled and cut into ~1 inch dice £1
  • 4 sweet potatoes – also peeled and diced 1.05
  • 250g dried red lentils 55p
  • Chicken stock – I used a large teaspoon of Bovril in just over half a litre of water ~10p
  • Curry powder – I use korma powder as I don’t like hot curries, but you can add whichever variant suits you and your family ~5p
  • Mango chutney ~50p
  • Chicken pieces – I used 4 chicken breasts as that was what I had in the freezer £3.33 (from a 3 for £10 deal)

While the slowcooker heated up I chopped the vegetables. I used the slow cooker to heat the water for the stock to save putting the kettle on as well. Once the slowcooker and water were warm I stirred in a very heaped teaspoon of korma powder, three heaped teaspoons of mango chutney and the chicken Bovril. I then layered up half the squash and sweet potato followed by the chicken breasts, the lentils and the rest of the squash and potato. I wanted to make sure the chicken didn’t stick to the bottom of the slowcooker and that the lentils would be covered by the cooking sauce (no one wants to eat crunchy lentils in their curry!). I turned the slowcooker down to low to cook through the day. 6 hours later the chicken was cooked but a few of the lentils were still a little on the crunchy side so I removed the chicken, shreded it and covered it to return to the slowcooker an hour later to heat through properly before serving (you can’t be too careful with chicken!). When you remove the chicken you may wish to add some extra spice or chutney depending on your preferences.

This isn’t the most attractive plate to look at, but the thick sweet sauce is lovely and a good introduction to curry for my spice resistant son! I served mine last night with an  extra drizzle of mango chutney on the top.

This made 11 ~200g portions at ~60p per portion.

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Trying to spend less on food

I’ve been reading a lot of thrifty living blogs lately and I have been inspired by some of the ideas I read.

Cooking an evening meal from scratch for us all doesn’t work in the week in our house. The husband doesn’t get home from work until a similar time to the children’s bedtime so a meal for all four of us doesn’t work. I prefer not to cook from scratch twice in the evening and have come up with a solution that helps my husband and I eat healthily, reduces the amount I spend on food and is also really easy.

Whenever I see a really good offer on meat (chopped beef, lamb or chicken breasts) I will buy some and then create something in the slowcooker either with a cheap jar of curry sauce, a tin of soup, or a carton of chopped tomatoes as a sauce base. I’ll add lots of vegetables and extra garlic or spices depending what I’m aiming for.

So far I’ve created:

  • chicken dopiaza (a jarred sauce with added peppers, onions and a carton of tomatoes)
  • beef madras (another jarred sauce with added peppers and onions)
  • chicken korma (a jarred sauce with added mushrooms, spinach and sultanas)
  • creamy chicken, leek and carrot (using a can of condensed cream of chicken sauce as a base and a little bit of smoked bacon and garlic for extra flavour)
  • a rich chilli, tomato and bacon pasta sauce (4 cartons of chopped tomatoes, lots of garlic, chilli and basil and a box of Sainsbury’s basics smoked, chopped cooking bacon)
  • garlicky chicken and mushrooms (a can of condensed mushroom soup, half a bag of frozen mushrooms, a couple of rashers of smoked bacon and 5 cloves of garlic) – this didn’t look appetising as the sauce separated a bit but it was gorgeous, very garlicky and lovely with some frozen spinach and a little grated italian hard cheese stirred though a portion
  • paprika beef (this came from a large box of reduced chopped steak late on a Sunday afternoon and was cooked with chopped tomatoes, garlic, onions, peppers, carrots, a beef stockpot and a lot of paprika) – it smelt amazing, but sadly due to the number of peppers put in it I couldn’t eat it 😦

These have all been boxed in individual portion foil trays (just like you get from a takeaway – but I bought mine on Amazon), clearly labelled with the date and contents and then frozen. They can be defrosted in a pan with a little water as the rice/pasta/potatoes are being cooked. The trays may not seem a cheap option, but I kept dropping plastic boxes out of the freezer and breaking them. The trays I bought worked out at ~12 pence each, which doesn’t seem cheap, but even including that cost I have been spending less on evening meals for my husband and I than I was.

My husband and I can have easy, healthy food on the table within 30 minutes of him getting home (or us getting the children into bed). We’re eating more vegetables (no bad thing!) and getting to sleep sooner due to eating earlier (which is definitely a good thing!).

Sweet BBQ chicken

I found this recipe on Over the Big Moon . I think our Bristish BBQ sauce is sweeter and more vinegary than the ones in the US so I did find it a little sweet and tangy but it was still nice and oh so easy!

4-6 Chicken Breasts
12 oz bottle of BBQ Sauce
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Vinegar
1/8 teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Garlic Powder

Once the chicken is cleaned, I like to rub it with the Cayenne Pepper.  But, if you’re in a hurry you can just add the Chicken to a Freezer Gallon Ziplock Bag and then add the rest of the ingredients.  Once bag is closed, use your hands to mash all the ingredients together!

To cook: Take the Freezer Meal out of the Freezer and hour before starting OR run it under some room temperature water for about 30 seconds.  Dump meal in the Crockpot and cook on Low for 4-6 hours!

I served it with rice and mixed vegetables.