Feed Four for NZ$20 – Creamy Garlic and Mushroom Chicken (Gluten Free)

I have been inspired/challenged by rising food costs and concurrent meal plans from major supermarkets that rely on cheap glutenous products for their ‘affordable meal suggestions’ to come up with some tasty, healthy(ish!), affordable meals that are also gluten free, for those of us who don’t have the option of reducing costs with cheap gluten. Based on current prices, this meal costs less than NZ$20 (based on the actual ingredients used), including everything required except salt and pepper, and will serve 4 people.

I made this creamy chicken dish with bone-in, skin-on chicken drumsticks as they are currently significantly cheaper than other chicken cuts in my local supermarket. The quantity was calculated as the average weight required for about 2 drumsticks per person. However, this will work with alternative cuts if you prefer, such whole chicken legs or thighs, but do choose cuts with the skin on for extra moisture in the final dish. If you vary the type of chicken cut used or the quantity, adjust initial cooking time accordingly and make sure the chicken is cooked through before adding the sauce.

Reduce the cost:

The easiest way to keep the cost of this dish down is to ensure that you choose the cheapest, skin-on chicken cut available. To reduce costs further, you can either forgo the mushrooms or swop them for cheaper ingredients, such as frozen sweetcorn or broccoli. I prefer brown rice because it has more fibre than white rice, but to reduce costs further, swop the brown rice for white rice or another cheaper carb if one is available to you. Recommended serving sizes for rice seem to vary quite a bit – I have erred on the generous side, to ensure that the meal is filling enough and still under NZ$20, but you may be able to reduce the rice portion sizes to bring the cost down further. The pea portions are also slightly larger than recommended (80 grams is the recommended size – the peas in this dish work out at 100 grams per person) – to save more money while still providing a portion of veg, reduce the quantity of peas to 320 grams for 4 people (80 grams per person). Finally, to reduce the cost further, replace the cream with an equal quantity of milk (the final result will be less creamy but will still taste good!)

Fancy this up:

This dish can be served with potatoes or quinoa instead of the rice. Many vegetable side dishes would work well as alternatives to the peas, or in addition to them, for example a simple salad or leafy greens fried in a little olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon juice and sprinkled with toasted almond pieces.

What you need:

1 onion, finely diced

250 grams of white mushrooms, sliced

Approximately 1.2 – 1.3 kgs of chicken drumsticks (make sure there are enough pieces for about 2 per person)

5 tablespoons of neutral oil (I prefer sunflower oil or mild olive oil)

1 cup of milk

½ cup of cream

½ cup of room temperature water

3 teaspoons of garlic powder

2 teaspoons of dried oregano

5 tablespoons of cornflour/cornstarch (ensure gluten free if needed)

Salt and pepper to taste

400 grams of raw brown rice, cooked according to package instructions while the chicken cooks (and ready to serve hot once the chicken has baked)

400 grams of frozen peas, cooked according to package instructions while the chicken cooks (and ready to serve hot once the chicken has baked)

What to do:

1. Turn on the oven to 180°C fan to preheat.

2. Evenly sprinkle the diced onion across the bottom of a baking pan (I use a 9 x 12 inch pan, but the size is relatively flexible as long as it will fit all the necessary ingredients). Evenly sprinkle the sliced mushrooms over the top of the diced onion and then place the chicken drumsticks on top of the onions.

3. Drizzle the oil evenly across the ingredients in the pan and then place the pan in the middle of the preheated oven to cook the chicken. This takes about 45 minutes to an hour, but keep an eye on it and proceed to the next step once the chicken is cooked and the chicken skin is starting to brown.

4. For the sauce, place the milk, cream and water together in a large jug. Add the garlic powder, oregano, cornflour, salt and pepper to the jug and whisk everything together until completely combined.

5. Once the chicken is cooked, as described in step 3, remove the baking pan from the oven and carefully pour the sauce over the chicken in the baking pan. Using a fork and moving carefully between and around the chicken drumsticks, mix the sauce into the juices in the pan, and then return the baking pan to the middle of the hot oven.

6. Bake the chicken in the sauce for about 20 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven and carefully mix the sauce in between and around the chicken drumsticks, to make sure no large lumps are forming. Return the pan to the middle of the oven for a further 20 to 30 minutes to continue cooking and thickening the sauce and browning the chicken.

7. Once the sauce has thickened, remove the baking pan from the oven and serve the chicken hot with the hot cooked rice and peas.

8. Enjoy!

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