chicken Chicken. A bland, blank canvas?Growing up in the United States, we ate a lot of chicken; it was a bland, blank canvas that could be transformed into a myriad of tasty meals by combining it with a countless combination of ingredients. It was rare that chicken was simply baked…too tasteless for that. We had it soused, curried, steamed, fried, smothered, stewed and gumboed to name a few.

When I moved to the UK, I tried the local supermarket chicken simply baked and decided that this chicken as well needed to be soused, curried, steamed, fried, smothered, or stewed in order for it to have some flavour.

Well one day, I went to my local farmers market in Penderyn and there was this nice man, Mr. Buck, from Glaisfer Uchaf Farm, near Llangynidr, selling chicken. Well someone at the market said that “yes his chickens are a little dearer, but they are delicious”. I bought one to see if it was any different than a supermarket chicken. Glaisfer Uchaf's chickens are free range, home reared and a slow growing variety, Hubbard and Sasso. They take upwards of 90 days to mature and so I was assured by Mr. Buck, that they would, indeed, be flavoursome.

That evening, I cooked a simple roast chicken. I put lemon, garlic and ginger inside the cavity and rubbed the outside with butter and seasoned it with salt and pepper. The chicken was full of flavour. It was not a blank canvas waiting for flavour, it was simply delectable in and of itself. The taste was so much richer than the supermarket chickens I have had and therefore needs less fuss. As a home cook, I am grateful for ingredients that help me save time in the kitchen.

When I start with a chicken that has been bred to be full of flavour, I tend to cook it as simply as possible to just enhance that flavour . I absolutely adore Stephan Renaud’s recipe for “Poulet Roti Tout Simplement “ found in his cookbook, Ripailles. Stuff the chicken with Boursin, lemon, garlic and tarragon, oil the skin of the chicken and season, bake in the oven and baste regularly. Add a little wine in the pan and the giblets for a rich gravy. The Boursin keeps the chicken moist and as it melts, it enriches the pan juices. I also love to simply roast a good chicken with lemon garlic and fresh herbs in the cavity; whatever I have on hand. I don’t have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen to make a chicken tasty if the chicken was reared well.

But what about costs? Well it is true that a bog standard supermarket whole chicken is cheaper than one from Glaisfer Uchaf. At my local supermarket it would fall in between the price of a Free Range Whole Chicken and an Organic Whole Chicken. However the top of the range organic bird is still only reared for a little over 70 days, against Glaisfer Uchaf’s 90 day average.

When one starts to compare a whole Glaiser Uchaf bird against supermarket chicken portions a different picture starts to emerge as the portions come at premium prices but not necessarily premium qualities.

If you’re looking for a chicken with bags of flavour, that requires the minimum of effort, then maybe it’s time you gave your local producer a try.

You can find more information on local producers and markets at:-

http://www.farmersmarkets.net – UK Farmers Markets
http://www.farmacymru.org.uk – Local foods in Wales
http://www.bigbarn.co.uk – reconnecting consumers with their local producers

Glaisfer Uchaf Farm
Owner/Manager: Kate Buck
Llangynidr, Crickhowell Powys NP8 1LN UK.
Phone: 01874730876
http://www.glaisferfarm.co.uk