From 12th-16th April I will Live Below The Line. The challenge – to raise awareness and funds for world poverty by living below the line, like 1 in 7 people who live in poverty. I will live on just £5 for 5 days. That’s £1 a day, just 33p per meal.
I’ll be blogging my recipes and a diary each day of the challenge – as well as sharing photos on instagram. If you think all these blog posts and recipes I’ve spent time working hard on in my spare time are worth a bit of sponsorship then my chosen charity Christian Aid will I’m sure put the funds to great use. You can sponsor me here. Or if you can’t sponsor me but want to raise awareness, then do please spread the message of what I’m doing with your peers. If you want to join in with the rest of the county – the official dates for the challenge are April 28th to May 2nd. Feel free to use my shopping list, meal plan and recipes to help you through.
Now that I’ve shared my shopping list, the why’s and what’s on my 5 day meal plan, today I’ll be sharing some top tips in thrifty land, to make the most of my financially challenged shopping basket. I’ll be covering what you can do with free chicken carcasses to ensure there will be a nutritious element running through all your soups and stews. I also show you how to make your own cheese and flatbreads from a simple pot of yoghurt and some oats. This is all starting to feel a bit Blue Peter!
I contacted my local butchers and was thrilled to discover that if they have enough in store they give away chicken carcasses (and other animal bones) for free. If you’re unlucky you may even be charged just 10p a carcass. I decided to choose chicken for my live below the line week, as I intended to make chicken broth as it has a more neutral flavor for soups, stews and even cooking rice.
Benefits of chicken broth are countless. Chicken contains an amino acid cysteine, which is converted in the body into a substance (I’ll spare you the scientific name) which breaks up mucus and boosts the immune system – great for warding off bugs. Since the collagen, gelatin and nutrients from the bones (i.e. calcium) from the chicken are dissipated into the broth, this also gives chicken broth the ability to sooth the human digestive track, and nourish our joints, skin, lungs, muscles, and blood. In a diet, which one could say is a little devoid of nutrients and variety, getting in nutrients where you can is essential for the well-being and general functioning of the human body.
Be sure to use a reputable butcher, it’s likely you’ll be able to get free-range or organic carcasses rather than cheap battery farmed ones. I used a local-to-me butcher, but also took the liberty of calling the The Ginger Pig a fab ethically sourced butcher with branches all over London to check their policy for you – and yes they do give away carcasses and bones if they can. It’s wise to phone any butcher ahead to check their policy on giving away bones. Here’s what I gained from 2 just carcasses:
- 1.75 litres of chicken stock – to be used in my soups & stews.
- 1 chicken burger – from picked meat from the carcasses.
- 1 Tbs of rendered chicken fat – which I will use for sautéing the base of my soups and stew.
- A taste of crispy chicken skin from the rendering process. Great for snacks. Don’t fear it.
All instructions follow below. First, you will need to conquer your fear of the carcass. The first time I did this, I’m not going to deny that I wasn’t a little freaked out. I learned to get over it. Take a good knife and pull off all the fat. Set aside. Next trim all of the excess meat from the carcass – be brave and get stuck in – the more meat you trim off the bigger the rewards. Set aside. Now you’ve just got the bare bones and you’re ready to make recipe 1 – Stock. By the way, stock is also referred to as broth my many – apologies if I switch between the two.
- 2 chicken carcasses, stripped of meat and fat
- 3 litres water
- 2 cloves of garlic, bashed, peel left on
- 1 small chunk of ginger (roughly 1 cm worth)
- Wash the carcasses. Place the 2 carcasses in a large stockpot and add enough water to cover (this should be around 3 litres). Add 2 garlic cloves and a small chunk of ginger to infuse the broth with some flavor.
- Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. The stock needs to simmer for at least 3 hours, but you can leave it for up to 24. This is where are slow cooker comes in handy, since they run off a tiny amount of electricity compared to a gas hob. During the cooking process the fat will rise to the surface so you can skim it off and discard (or leave it till the end to do).
- When the stock is ready discard the bones and strain through a sieve or some cheesecloth, leave to cool off a little (a bowl of ice will do this quickly), transfer to a container (glass preferably) and store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Alternatively you can freeze the stock. No need to salt the stock because you want a plain stock for cooking.
Ideally do this the day before the challenge starts since you will need if for the soup made on day 1. A traditional cooking stock usually includes some aromatics such as onions for flavour, carrots for sweetness and a bouqet garni (herb bundle) for flavour.
- Chicken skin stripped from 2 carcasses
- 100mls water
- Wash the chicken skin and place in a small saucepan with 100mls water.
- With the heat on low-medium cook the skin. The fat will begin to run out. It may take around half an hour for all the fat to render from the skin. You’ll know when its done as all the skin will be crisped up.
- Fish out the skin, then strain the fat through a sieve or some cheesecloth. For a clear fat strain multiple times. Transfer to a glass jar (old jam or peanut butter jars are perfect) and store in the fridge where it will solidify at fridge temperature as it is a saturated fat.
Also called Schmaltz when rendered with onions in Jewish cooking
- Meat stripped from 2 carcasses, (approx 75g)
- Pinch salt
- Pinch dried herbs
- Wash and pat dry the chicken, take the chicken strips and the ingredients and using a small chopper blend into a mince.
- Shape into a burger, cover and refrigerate till ready to eat (can be frozen, defrost before cooking)
- Cook in a pre-heated 200 degree C oven for 30 minutes
Making Cheese (well yoghurt cheese)
Cheese is expensive, but here’s a traditional way of making creamy luxurious-feeling cheese from very little, and costing very little. What’s more the leftover whey (the dripping by product) can be put to good use to soak oats or other grains such as whole grain rice. In our case white rice we’re using isn’t whole grain so I’m not soaking it. The soaking is done so the grains are easier to digest. They whey is full of lactic acid, a preserving agent. Labne makes a great spread for my oat flatbreads, and is a feature of my mezzo-style meal I’ll enjoy later in the challenge.
- 250mls natural yoghurt
- Pinch salt
- Mix together the yoghurt with the salt. Place some cheesecloth (double or triple lined) over a deep bowl (or a jar) and pour in the yoghurt. You could even use a clean tea towel or a pair of tights.
- Either secure the cheesecloth to the jar itself with an elastic band or secure like a ponytail with a band/string and weave the band through a wooden spoon. Hang the spoon over the top of the jar so the bottom of the cheesecloth doesn’t touch the bowl cavity. Place in the fridge and leave for 12-24 hours.
- Transfer the cheese and whey to separate airtight containers.
- You can serve the cheese with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of dried herbs (see meal plan)
Flat Bread – From Simple Oats
This one ingredient dish is a fantastically easy way of creating a flat bread suitable for dipping into soups – and these are how they feature in my meal plan. Again, I soak the oats overnight with a touch of whey to ease their digestion. The recipe works fine if you don’t soak them, so that’s up to you. Just skip step1. Delicious served spread with labne yoghurt cheese. Or I think If you had the resources they would make a great base for a simple pizza, or eaten with a slice of cheese or smoked salmon – just like oatcakes. Well a girl can dream…
- 150g oats
- 2 Tbs whey
- pinch salt
- ½ tsp coconut oil per flatbread
- The night before (or first thing in the morning if you’re eating later in the day) place the oats in a small bowl, and pour over 60mls of water and the whey. Stir, cover and leave in a warm place*
- Place the oats in a food processor with tsp salt and blend for approximately 1 minute, until the oats turn into a sticky dough. Bring together with your hands, and divide into 6 small balls. Cover any you don’t need with Clingfilm and refrigerate.
- Using parchment to cover the surface of your rolling station so it doesn’t stick, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a flatbread a couple of mm thick.
- Meanwhile heat ½ tsp of coconut oil in a medium hot pan or griddle pan ensuring the surface is covered. Add the flatbread and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.
- To cook the remaining flatbreads later in the week, bring the dough to room temperature before rolling, or they will crumble.
Yields 6 flat breads
Oh my goodness the challenge starts tomorrow! My shopping is all done, my labne is currently dripping in the fridge, and my chicken stock will simmer away in my slow cooker overnight, before I tackle the rest of my prep recipes first thing tomorrow morning. I do love taking part in a challenge, especially when it’s for charity (how I ended up running the London Marathon in 2011), so the excitement of being part of something so big is very much on my mind at the moment. I am sure the harsh reality of what I’m raising awareness and funds for, will dawn on me over the next few days, and I’m happy to be sharing all of this with you all through my blog. I’ll post up my eats and recipes from day 1 tomorrow evening or first thing on Sunday. Thank you for you support so far, and continued reading. 1