We’ve been exploring the countless benefits of sourcing quality meat products on the column recently and how this invariably leads to the conclusion that shopping with local producers is a no-brainer.
When our family first weighed up the superior nutritional value of pasture-raised chicken, as well as all the environmental and ethical boxes it ticks, we found it surprisingly easy to justify a permanent shift in our buying habits. We now shop exclusively with small-scale, local farms.
The only drawback – which pales into insignificance compared to the benefits (one of which is unparalleled flavour!) – is that they cost a little more than your average supermarket chicken.
And therefore, we enjoy chicken as a bit of a luxury food item – much like our Grandparents’ would have. We treat ourselves to one pasture-raised chicken per week. We usually buy a whole bird and make it last for several meals. And there is something deeply satisfying and nostalgic about this weekly ritual.
Bucking the trend
According to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics and Sciences, chicken is now the most popular meat eaten in Australia, ahead of all red meats.
In fact, the average Australian eats 44kg of chicken per year – up 40kg from 1960! That’s mainly because so many corners are cut in the large-scale industrial model and the resulting chicken is cheap to produce. Although as we touched on last week, the house of cards can tumble rather swiftly with the global shortages encroaching on us at the present time.
Our days of carefree feasting are likely numbered.
Good quality poultry and moderation
The other reason I recommend limiting poultry is that chicken (and to a lesser degree, duck and turkey) have a very high ratio of polyunsaturated fatty acids – and in particular, omega 6 fatty acids – when compared with other meats.
One of the underlying contributors to our modern health crisis is a hugely imbalanced omega-3 : omega-6 ratio, which negatively affects the functioning of every single cell and has far-reaching and devastating consequences in the body.
On a traditional diet, this ratio hovers around 1:3, but with our move away from traditional fats to refined ‘vegetable’ oils (seed oils like canola, sunflower and safflower), it is now at 1:25, or upwards of 1:40 for those consuming a heavily processed diet!
There are numerous ways to restore a healthy balance and repair the function of our cells. The most important one is to steer clear of refined seed oils wherever possible. The benefits of this can’t be overstated.
Another is to eat foods that are particularly high in omega 6, such as poultry, nuts and seeds, in moderation. This suggestion seems to provoke mild panic in people whenever it is offered, and I’m often asked what ‘moderation’ looks like. As a loose guide, it might be consuming poultry several times each week and a small handful of nuts or seeds each day.
Benefits of buying the whole bird
- It’s cheaper than buying individual cuts
- It offers more balanced nutrition as you have access to every part of the animal – each one offering a different profile of nutrients. The bones and skin are rich in nutrients that are only found in trace amounts in the meat, for example.
- Broth made from the bones and skin has a protein sparing effect – meaning that less meat can meet our protein needs.
- Nose-to-tail eating reduces waste and honours the life of the animal
- More parts involved allows for more creativity at mealtimes
Roast chicken on a bed of rustic vegetables
Roasting chicken on top of your vegetables is a game-changer. And if you’re sourcing pasture-raised chicken, they have much higher levels of gelatin. That means a delicious sticky, salty glaze for your veggies. There’s nothing quite like it.
This recipe takes literally 10 minutes to prepare as there’s no need to peel or dice the vegies. You have the option if you’d like to. Take this rustic formula and run with it – you can use this method with any vegetables of your choice.
Given that chickens vary in size, use the following as a rough guide to cooking times: 20-25 minutes per 500g.
1 whole chicken
Carrots, whole unpeeled and washed
Sweet potato, washed and halved lengthways
Pumpkin, seeds removed, sliced into 2cm wedges
Handful of rosemary or thyme sprigs
1 medium onion, peeled and left whole
1 whole apple, stem removed
1 head of garlic
salt and pepper
1 onion, quartered
Sprigs of thyme or rosemary
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tbsp of flour
1-2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
- Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes prior to cooking. Preheat the oven to 250°C.
- Toss the vegetables and rosemary in just enough olive oil to cover and spread evenly over your roasting pan. Brush the onion and apple with a little oil and place them in the corners of your pan. Sprinkle salt over the lot.
- Optional: rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Season the cavity with salt and pepper and fill it with the stuffing ingredients.
- Starting at the neck, use your fingers to slide the butter under the skin and spread it evenly. Then rub the remaining butter left on your hands over the surface of the bird, so that the skin is completely covered. Season it liberally with salt and pepper.
- Place the chicken on top of the vegetables in the centre of the roasting pan and roast for 15 minutes on 250°C. Prepare the head of garlic, by cutting it in half horizontally, so that the individual cloves are exposed on each half. Drizzle liberally with olive oil.
- After the 15 minutes is up, add the garlic to your roasting pan and reduce the heat to 180°C. Cook for 45-60 minutes or until the chicken juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a skewer. Allow it to stand for 10 minutes, prior to serving. Using tongs, transfer the chicken and vegetables from the roasting pan into a large serving dish.
- For gravy: place the roasting pan on the stove over low heat and stir in the flour until it forms a paste. Add ¼ cup of chicken stock, then whisk until thickened. Continue to add more stock, a little at a time until the desired consistency is reached.
- Serve with a refreshing side salad or some lightly steamed greens to balance the meal.
Stay tuned next week for more recipe ideas to make your whole chicken go further.
Georgia is a clinically trained nutritionist, wholefoods chef, columnist and mum. She’s been featured in Body & Soul and had TV appearances on ABC Breakfast and Studio 10 for her unique approach to food and health. She’s known for reinventing traditional foods for the modern kitchen and was instrumental in a radical new approach to sports nutrition with a program for the NRL Parramatta Eels, kickstarting their ascent on the ladder in recent years. Find out more at stirringchange.com.