Think again: tasty ways with chicken that you may be tempted to throw away

With people reckoned to be throwing out the equivalent of 86 million chickens every year I thought we could all do with a little reminder of all the tasty things we can do with those leftovers that are too easy to put in the bin.

The research into our household food and waste – who would want a job looking at that? – estimates that UK households like ours are chucking out as much as 4.2 million tonnes of food and drink annually.

That’s equivalent to six meals every week for the average home.

To help us all cut down on this wasteful behavior, here are some chicken recipes for our leftovers. They are as fail safe as I can make them:


Soup with herbs, chicken & butter beans

This uses inexpensive ingredients to enhance your left overs


1 leftover chicken carcass, plus 225g meat, plus 1½ litres chicken stock

2 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, chopped

6 carrot, chopped

3-4 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked and chopped

3-4 sprigs sage, leaves picked and chopped

3-4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and chopped

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp plain flour

400g can butter bean, drained

crusty bread, to serve


Place leftover chicken carcass in a large saucepan, Cover with two litres of water. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes. While waiting, heat oil in another large pan and  add the onions.

Cook for 10 mins until the onions start to caramelise. Add the chopped herbs, carrots, spices and flour, and stir for a couple of minutes. This will toast the spices.

Strain the carcass’s cooking liquid into the vegetables. Stir, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the meat back into the soup, along with the butter beans, season and cook for a further couple of minutes.

Use a hand-held blender or food processor to blitz the soup to your favoured consistency.  Season with extra pepper, and serve with good crusty bread.


Chicken noodle salad

This is such a simple way of making your chicken go so much further


4 cooked chicken legs

400g soba noodles

½ tsp wasabi paste

1½ tbsp soy sauce

3 tbsp sesame oil

juice 1 lemon

good pinch of sugar

1 red chilli, finely chopped

6 spring onions, sliced diagonally

large pack coriander, leaves only


Shred the chicken leg meat, discarding the bones (the skin can be placed on baking parchment and roasted in the oven until crisp). Boil a pan of water  and cook the noodles as per the packet instructions. Drain the noodles and cool under cold running water.

Mix the wasabi, soy sauce, sesame oil, lemon juice and sugar until the sugar dissolves.

Toss the noodles with the dressing and arrange on a serving plate. Top with the chicken, chilli, spring onions and coriander.


Chicken with olives and tomatoes

This is such an impressive one-pot dish for summer – and so easy!


20g pack basil

2 tbsp oil

2 garlic clove, sliced

2 x 400g or 14oz cans cherry tomatoes

1 tsp sugar

handful of your favourite olives

sliced meat from a cooked chicken, plus any juices

crusty bread, to serve


Chop the basil stalks and shred most of the leaves. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a frying pan, and soften two thinly sliced garlic cloves with the basil stalks for three minutes or so.

Tip in the two  400g cans of cherry tomatoes, with one teaspoon of sugar and the basil shreds.

Bring this to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes until it’s educed but still saucy. Season to your taste and add a handful of the olives with the sliced chicken and any juices. Gently stir. Simmer for a further two minutes, scatter with any remaining basil leaves, and serve with crusty bread.

Lost and found: why it was important to revive the very special Haricots Tarbais

haricot_tarbaisTarbais beans  are the holy grail of beans – probably because they are so damned difficult to find.

Introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus in the dying years of the 15th century, the Tarbais bean became the first haricot bean in France to be granted the coveted Label Rouge in 1997 and a Protected Geographical Indication in 2000, guaranteeing its level of quality.

This is a surprise only because, thanks to intensive farming, the variety all but died out in the 1950s. It was only revived in 1986 by a small group of farmers in the Tarbes region who came together and created the co-operative that continues to cultivate this exceptional bean today.

The tradition of Tarbais beans in the Bigorre region of Gascony, close to the town of Tarbes, began in the 18th century in the valley of the Adour river. As it is a climber, it is traditionally planted alongside maize, whose stalks support it as it grows.

Over time the haricot adapted to the Gascony climate and environment, resulting in the treasure that is grown today.


Proof is in the eating: a traditional Garbure is a good way of sampling the bean’s quality

This special bean benefits from its terroire thanks to its its well defined criteria and being seeded on a specific date. Picking is exclusively by hand, pod by pod.

Tarbais Haricots have a very thin skin, making this type of bean easier to cook and giving it a particularly delicate flavour.

The lack of skin also causes them to melt in the mouth and deliver a creamy texture as well as making them light on the stomach and easy to digest. With low starch content they are remarkably tender, though they do not burst during cooking or become mushy on your plate.

Tarbais Haricots have other unique qualities: they cook 10% to 50% faster and absorb 10-20% more water than other varieties, like lingot, coco and soisson varieties. And nutritionists say they are full of health benefits.

As well as being low in lipids (1% fat), they are also rich in fibre and protein. Low in calories : 128 Kcal/100gr of soaked beans, the pulses help to balance the protein in your diet and may well help to prevent heart disease and some cancers.

Planted in May, these haricots are harvested between August and October, when they are hand-picked and commonly used in cassoulet and other classic French stews, including Garbure and La Mounjetade.

Inspired by this discovery, I decided to try a classic Garbure. The name is associated with the term “garb” which describes sheaves of grain on a coat of arms. Garbure is eaten with a fork,  a reference to the use of pitchforks to pick up these sheaves of grain.

A large tureen of garbure is a common sight in Bearnais restaurants, where guests can help themselves to as much as they wish using the ladle provided.

Often this meal ends with a traditional chabrot or godala. This is the custom of consuming red wine that has been added to any liquid left in the bottom of the bowl.

Ingredients for a classic Garbure for two people

1/4 green cabbage, cut into thin strips

100 g smoked bacon lardons

50 g Tarbais haricots soaked in cold water (if these are impossible to find use cannellini or other white kidney beans)

2 legs of duck confit

1 large potato, peeled and quartered

1 clove of garlic, whole

1 leek, sliced

1 turnip, quartered

1 carrot, sliced

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 bouquet garni (typically bay leaf, thyme and parsley)

Salt and pepper



In a casserole, brown the bacon, add the soaked beans, garlic clove, leek, turnip, carrot, onion and bouquet garni, salt and cover with water (no more). Bring this panache of vegetables to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for one hour.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, boil enough water to blanch the thin strips of cabbage. Let them sit in the boiling water for five minutes. Then remove the cabbage, pass it under cold water before adding it to the other vegetables. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes.

To finish, add the potato, the confit duck legs and some coarse ground black pepper. Taste, adjust  the seasoning if necessary and continue to simmer for another 25 minutes or so.

When you’re ready to serve, put a slice of toasted baguette on each plate, pour over two good ladles of vegetables, place a piece of duck on top and sprinkle on some of the bacon lardons.

C’est tout!