If there’s anything that screams out for a picnic, it’s your leftover chicken. You wake up, the sun is shining, and when you open the fridge for the milk you catch that nutty, roasted aroma of cold chicken. Pack in all your original plans and pack up your picnic basket, because there’s no point in fighting against the current that’s driving you toward hamper heaven.
Here are four of my favourite leftover chicken recipes, so get your picnic baskets at the ready, get set, and go!
1. Chicken, bacon and avocado ciabatta
I want to kick this post off with the chicken sandwich, because honestly, what else do you think of when you hear the words “leftover chicken” and “picnic” in the same sentence? So here’s my version of a chicken sandwich that always succeeds in shutting up any picnic conversation by filling mouths with a party for your taste buds.
1/2 leftover chicken
4 x ciabattas
3 x rashers of bacon chopped into smallish bits
2-4 tbsp Hellman’s mayonnaise (up to you)
knob of butter
Sea salt (or celery salt if you have it)
Optional: spring onions to chop into your sandwich
It’s pretty simple, really. Cook the bacon until it’s as crispy or chewy as you like. Tear up the chicken into nice bite-sized chunks and pop them into a bowl with the bacon. Dollop in the mayo. Here is where I would sometimes chop some spring onions and add them to the mix as well. Give everything a stir. Sprinkle in a pinch of sea salt or celery salt. Spoon this mixture onto the buttered ciabattas. Slice the avocado and spread evenly across the four ciabattas, then grind some black pepper over the avo, close the ciabatta, wrap in foil, and you’re ready to go!
2. Chicken broth with pearl barley [dairy free version available]
If you wake up on the preordained picnic day to the pitter-pattering of rain on your window, then don’t fret. Someone like you doesn’t let those big cumulonimbus bullies intimidate your picnic plans, especially when your roast chicken from the night before is waiting to be crowned the centerpiece of your picnic basket. In fact, you’ll work with the weather, rather than against it, because there’s no better way to enjoy the combination of a rainy day picnic and leftover chicken than by whisking up a hot chicken broth to fill your Thermos with.
leftover medium chicken carcass with 1/3 to 1/2 of meat still left
For the stock:
This is indicative only, all tasty herbs and vegetables taste good in a stock.
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 x celery sticks, roughly chopped
1 x leek, roughly chopped
2 x bay leaves
3 x sprigs rosemary
3 x sprigs thyme
For the broth:
Remember that the broth has to be poured into, and out of, the thermos, so chop only as roughly as your thermos can take.
large knob of butter/glug of olive oil for dairy free
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 x celery sticks, roughly chopped
3 x carrots, roughly chopped
75g pearl barley
2 tsp dried sage
4 sprigs chopped rosemary
4 sprigs chopped thyme
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp plain flour
2 tsp Bouillon powder if you have it (opt for the lactose free version if you don’t want dairy)
salt & pepper
The night before, take the meat off the carcas and put the carcas in a large pan and cover with water. Chuck in any vegetables you have that you’re not going to use. I always find that onions, celery and leeks add a lot of flavour to stocks, but use whichever you have to hand. Also add herbs such as rosemary, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to the boil, and then simmer gently for 3-4 hours. Add salt and pepper at the end. It’ll be ready to use for the next day.
Melt the butter in a heavy top deep pan over a low heat until slightly bubbling. Add the onions and celery and sweat over a low heat with lid on for about ten minutes. Turn up the heat to medium, and add carrots, the herbs, and the flour. Strain the stock into the pan – use however much you want, depending on the ratio of solid to liquid you like. Add the pearl barley and Bouillon powder, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for thirty minutes. After thirty minutes, shred the chicken into the broth, and cook for another five minutes. Add salt and pepper, and pour carefully into a thermos.
3. A chicken ploughman’s with mango chutney [gluten free version available]
If you’re the kind of picnic-goer who likes to capitalise on the DIY element of a picnic, then this recipe is for you. There is something truly liberating about the pick ‘n’ mix picnics. Etiquette is wiped away with the swoop of sticky fingers as they pause and ponder over Tupperwares of cheese, meat and chutney. The blank canvas of the oatcake becomes a space of self-expression, where themes of plenty and sparsity, concoctions both weird and wonderful, are nibbled at, picked at, or swallowed whole. They say that eyes are the window to the soul. I say that DIY picnics are on a level.
And what could be a better foundation on which to paint your work of oatcake than scrummy cold chicken?
Half a cold chicken, shredded into bite-sized pieces
Cold vegetables or fruit, such as sweet tomatoes, avocados, carrot sticks, or, my favourite to go with chicken, a nice, crisp spring onion
Oatcakes (gluten-free are widely available)
Butter (I put mine into a little silver container, but foil will do just as well)
Salt for the needy
A tart green apple, such as Granny Smiths
A hard, strong cheese, like a good mature cheddar or a salty manchego
Just pop everything into separate containers. It can also be nice to have a salad to accompany the rest of the ingredients, but the list above is plenty to begin with. Pick and pile the the ingredients onto your gluten-free oatcakes and nibble, munch, or chew away!
4. Cold chicken, pesto, and pasta salad
Pesto and chicken. Pesto and pasta. Pasta and chicken. Pasta, pesto and chicken. Chicken, pasta and pesto. The love triangle that worked. What more do I need to say? Find a good pesto (the BBC Good Food has a nice one), get some curly pasta, shred your chicken, give it a stir, and add any extra olive oil/sea salt/Parmesan that you require (remember GOOD OLIVE OIL IS KEY – if there’s any food product that really, really is worth splashing out on, olive oil’s it).