In Newry, every dish comes with a side of mayonnaise, be it chips, salad, or pasta. What am I suppose to do with it? Eat it with a knife? If you (like me) don’t fancy mayo, bacon, butter, and/or soup every day for dinner, you too will take to the less expensive, more delicious activity of home cooking.
Through shopping at places about the size of 2 aisles at Safeway and not wanting to spend too much, I’ve quickly learned how to pick ingredients that are filling, nutritious, and can be cooked simply. Chicken is my ingredient of choice (sorry vegetarians, pescatarians, vegans and the alike).
Chicken goes great with potatoes, rice, bread, and pasta (which themselves can be cooked many different ways). It can be breaded with flower and seasoned using a mix of herbs. Or chicken can be smothered with chili peppers, herbs, and tomatoes and fried. Or you can make incisions in the breast and wedge chunks of toasted garlic and cook it with some rosemary. Saute, pan-fry, bake, etc, the opportunities aren’t endless but there are quite a few.
I use ingredients that I have/that are cheap. I’ve found you can usually make lots of different types of chicken with a couple basic ingredients: salt, pepper, herbs, olive oil*, garlic, flour, chili pepper, and lemon (though I never did get around to buying lemons). These by themselves or combined with whatever vegetables, cheeses, and other food you (or your flat mate or the people living in the flat below you) have make for delicious chicken centered dishes.
In terms of herbs, it was too expensive given the length of time I was to stay in Ireland to buy each separately or freshly so I bought a dry herb mix of rosemary, oregano, and thyme. This was nice since I didn’t have to worry about getting the proportions right for each and it made the cooking process a bit faster.
Generally speaking, I would cut the chicken up into 4-5 inch long pieces, a little more than 1/4 an inch thick allowing for fast cooking and (to me) more delicious chicken since there is more surface area available for being doused.
In baking, I’ve found the more creative liberties I take, the more disastrous the food. But it’s quite a different store with cooking where experimenting is fun and leads to new delicious dishes.
*You can also use butter as it is delicious, but I found that what I use butter for, I can use olive oil and that I liked olive oil enough that the taste difference didn’t offset the health difference.