The cheat: barbecued chicken

For no-fuss meals that are ready crowd-pleasers or for a last-minute picnic favourite, nab a barbecued bird.

When the day is long, but time and the inclination to turn on the oven are short, it pays to be smart when it comes to meal ideas. And while salad days are upon us, sometimes we crave just a little more substance. That's where a barbecued chicken can serve perfectly to bolster all manner of meals without you needing to go the hard kitchen yards.

We've been heartened to notice more free-range and even organic birds at barbecued chickens shops, and this is what we recommend you use - both for their superior flavour and your peace of mind, knowing that what you are eating has been reared more humanely.

Whether you use the skin is up to you, but we find it irresistible.

Barbecued chicken, baby cos and asparagus salad with crème fraîche dressing
Serves 4-6 as a light meal (pictured)
Preheat oven to 180C. Place 8 baguette slices on an oven tray, drizzle evenly with 1 tbsp olive oil, season to taste and bake until golden and crisp (4-5 minutes). While bread slices are still warm, rub them with the cut-side of a garlic clove and set aside. Blanch a bunch of trimmed asparagus, 200gm trimmed sugarsnap peas and 150gm trimmed baby green beans until bright green and tender (1-2 minutes), drain, refresh and transfer to a large bowl. Coarsely break baguette slices into the bowl, add the coarsely torn leaves of a baby cos, the coarsely shredded meat of a barbecued chicken, a handful of mint leaves and a handful of flat-leaf parsley. Whisk 50gm crème fraîche, 50ml olive oil, juice of 1 lemon and ½ finely chopped garlic clove In a separate bowl, season to taste and drizzle onto chicken mixture. Toss to combine and serve.

Lemon chicken, celery and walnut finger sandwiches
Serves 4-6 as a snack
Stir 90gm mayonnaise, 90gm thick plain yoghurt, finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon and ½ a finely chopped garlic clove in a large bowl to combine and season to taste. Add the coarsely shredded meat of a barbecued chicken, 2 thinly sliced inner celery stalks (coarsely tear the leaves and add them to the mix too), 40gm coarsely chopped roasted walnuts and a small handful each of coarsely chopped tarragon and flat-leaf parsley. Season generously to taste and stir to combine well. Butter 12 slices of wholemeal bread and spread chicken mixture over half the slices. Scatter a few watercress sprigs over each, sandwich with remaining bread slices, then trim crusts and cut into fingers. They're best eaten as freshly made as possible.

Chicken tostadas with spicy crushed avocado
Serves 4 as a snack
Preheat vegetable oil in a deep saucepan to 180C. Cut 6 small corn tortillas into quarters and deep-fry in batches until crisp and golden (2-3 minutes; be careful, hot oil may spit). Drain on absorbent paper and season to taste with sea salt and smoked paprika. Coarsely crush an avocado in a bowl with a fork, add 30ml olive oil, juice of 1 lime, 4 thinly sliced pickled chillies and ½ finely chopped garlic clove, mix well and set aside. Combine the coarsely shredded meat of half a barbecued chicken in a separate bowl with 2 tbsp olive oil, juice of 2 limes, 2 thinly sliced spring onions, ½ a finely chopped garlic clove and a handful of coarsely torn coriander. Pile a little chicken mixture on each tostada, top with a little crushed avocado mixture, season to taste and serve with lime wedges.

Chicken, corn and spring onion soup
Serves 4 as a light meal
Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 6 thinly sliced spring onions (white part only; reserve green to serve), 2 finely chopped garlic cloves, 1 tbsp finely grated ginger and a thinly sliced small red chilli and stir occasionally until tender (1-2 minutes). Add 1 litre chicken stock and 50ml soy sauce and bring to the simmer. Add the kernels from 3 corn cobs and simmer until tender (10-15 minutes). Coarsely purée with a hand-held blender, then stir in the coarsely shredded meat of half a barbecued chicken and simmer until warmed through (1-2 minutes). Lightly whisk 2 eggs in a bowl, add to soup and stir continuously until thickened. Season to taste with soy sauce and freshly ground black pepper. Serve hot scattered with thinly sliced spring onions.

Hot tips
+ The bones are great for making stock: use them straightaway or freeze them until the stock-making mood strikes, so you get the most bang for your roast-chicken buck.

+ Shred the chicken as close as you can to serving time so it doesn't dry out.


More recipes
Check out our chicken recipe slideshow for some of our best-ever chicken recipes.

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