Mark Hix recipes: Our chef's 'claw to beak' recipes use every bit of the chicken

We tend to turn to the prime cuts of chicken, but the cheaper, often overlooked parts of the bird can bring tremendous flavour to the right dishes
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

I've recently put a little snack section on to some of my menus which utilises what you might term "from claw to beak" on a chicken. I'm all for using every bit of the bird or animal. While it's not everyone's cup of tea, there's something satisfying about making tasty dishes without using the expensive prime cut – which, in the case of chicken, means the breast. As well as being cheaper, the non-prime cuts often have rich flavours and interesting textures that really suit certain dishes.

If you buy a whole bird and make these recipes, the breast can be saved to be stuffed, turned into escalopes, or whatever recipes you normally favour.

It's all about knowing what to do with the other bits. I was at The Clove Club a few months back and they did a great crispy chicken claw, all edible with no sign of bone or sinew. Necks on the other hand can be stuffed and slow cooked – bit fiddly but well worth it.

I'm not going quite as leftfield as that here, but will instead give you some delicious and accessible recipes that bring the best out of flavoursome cuts other than the usual breast meat.

Devilled chicken hearts

Serves 4

Any good butcher should be able to get you chicken hearts with a few days' notice, or if you have an Asian supermarket near you they often stock them fresh or frozen (which is fine for hearts as they are all muscle and can handle low temperatures, unlike livers which will go mushy when cooked). If you can't find hearts, you could use livers, cut into small pieces.

For the sauce

2 shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
A couple of good knobs of butter
½tsp cayenne pepper
2tsp flour
½tsp tomato purée
1tsp Dijon mustard
1tbsp cider vinegar
250ml beef or chicken stock
20-30 chicken hearts
Salt and cayenne pepper
A little vegetable or corn oil for frying

First make the sauce. Gently cook the shallots in the butter with the cayenne pepper for a minute, then add the flour, tomato purée and mustard, and stir well. Add the cider vinegar and stock, gradually so as to avoid lumps forming. Season and simmer very gently for about 10-15 minutes, stirring every so often, then remove from the heat and cover.

Season the hearts with salt and cayenne pepper, heat a little oil in a preferably non-stick pan, and cook the hearts on a very high heat for a minute, stirring as they are frying until nicely coloured. Now pour in the sauce so it bubbles, reduces and just coats the hearts.

To serve, arrange the hearts on a serving dish with a few cocktail sticks, for ease of eating and sharing.

Chicken lollipops

Serves 4

Chicken drumsticks can be a bit dull, especially if you have run out of new things to do with them. This is a great way to transform a simple drumstick into an interesting and easy to eat or transport snack. You can buy kimchi base from most good Asian supermarkets – it's a good store cupboard item for marinades, dressings, homemade pickle, and so on.

8 small chicken drumsticks
3-4tbsp kimchi base
1tbsp clear honey
2-3tbsp good quality mayonnaise
2tbsp chopped coriander

To garnish

A handful of coriander sprigs
2 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced on the angle

Chicken lollipops are a great way to transform a simple drumstick into an interesting and easy to eat or transport snack (Jason Lowe)

Chop the end knuckle off the drumstick and push the meat down as far as possible towards the joint to expose the bone.

Mix a tablespoon of the kimchi base with the mayonnaise and coriander, and put to one side. Mix the rest of the kimchi base with the honey and mix well with the chicken. You can leave this to marinate overnight if you wish.

Preheat the oven to 175°C/Gas mark 4. Put the chicken and marinade in an ovenproof dish and cook in the oven for around an hour, turning them as they are cooking until they are nicely glazed. You can add a little water if the marinade is burning on the tray.

Serve with the coriander and spring onions, mixed, and the sauce separately.

Sweet and sour cider chicken

Serves 4

This is a British take on the sweet and sour served in high-street Chinese restaurants. I've used cider in the batter, and a fine dice of apple in the sauce. It's great for a sharing starter or as a snack with drinks.

For the sauce

2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
A small piece of root ginger (30g), scraped and grated
2tbsp cider vinegar
1tbsp clear honey
150ml chicken stock
1-2tsp cornflour, diluted in a little water
1 red chilli, trimmed and finely chopped
1 small dessert apple, peeled, cored and finely diced

For the batter

100g preferably Doves Farm gluten-free self-raising flour
Enough medium-sweet cider to make a thick batter
4 large, boned and skinned chicken thighs, quartered
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
1tbsp chopped coriander, to serve

Sweet and sour cider chicken is a British take on the sweet and sour served in high-street Chinese restaurants (Jason Lowe)

First make the sauce. Put the shallots, ginger, vinegar and honey in a heavy-based saucepan and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in enough of the diluted cornflour to thicken it, then add the chilli and simmer for a couple more minutes. The sauce should be a nice thick coating consistency – if not, continue simmering until it's thickened. Add the apples and remove from the heat.

Put the flour in a bowl and whisk in enough cider to make a thick batter, then season to taste.

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180°C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. Season the pieces of chicken, dip them in the batter, and fry for a few minutes until crisp and golden, stirring as they are cooking with a slotted spoon. Remove from the oil and drain on some kitchen paper.

To serve, transfer the chicken to a warmed serving dish and spoon over the sauce. Scatter over the coriander.