Before I get into the cooking, let’s define what I am making. A roulade is a dish of filled rolled meat or pastry. Roulade can be savoury or sweet. Swiss roll is an example of a sweet roulade. Traditionally found in various European cuisines, the term roulade originates from the French word rouler, meaning “to roll”. Whereas, a ballotine is traditionally a de-boned thigh and/or leg part of the chicken, duck or other poultry stuffed with forcemeat and other ingredients. It is tied to hold its shape and sometimes stitched up with a trussing needle. A ballotine is cooked by roasting, braising or poaching.

I find a certain amount of irony in the dish with the lesser known and arguably fancier title, uses the cheaper, more tender cuts of meat. It is indeed worthy of admission into The Pauper’s Pantry.

The vast majority of the ingredients should be found in a well stocked chicken. The only additional expense could be “Butchers Twine” – the string needed to wrap the meat.

Start with a pack of de-boned chicken thighs, mine was a 650g pack from Asda that was part of the 3 for £10 promotion or £4.05 individually. Place on a covered chopping board and cover with clingfilm or a clean tea towel, and tenderise the meat. If you don’t own a mallet, use any solid heavy object – baked beans cans are cool for this.

When the meat is about 1cm thick roll up in the clingfilm and place in the fridge. Let the meat rest for a few hours.

For the stuffing, you can use pretty much anything that’s in the kitchen, but there are some basics that you shouldn’t avoid. Start by thinly chopping an onion, shallots, and leek and fry until soft. Set a side to cool. Blitz 3 slices of bread to make the crumb. Place in a large bowl with a good sprinkling of sage.

Back in the food processor mix nuts and apricots and blitz. If you dont have dried apricots try a ready mix bag of fruit & nuts like the red Big Ds. You dont need a lot. Add the fruit/nut blend to the bread mix.

Now add the cooling the onions to the bread and combine. Add some spices – a little chilli or mixed spice will help.

Finally bind everything together with some grated cheese. Cheap and cheerful – no need for fancy labels here.

Allow the mix to cool to room temperature. Its best to prepare early in the morning or lunchtime if you’re at home, and come back in the early evening to do the assembly and cooking.

Taking the meat from the fridge, gently lay on the work area and unwrap. I took some smoked bacon layered that on top of the chicken before turning the meat over so that the bacon was on the outside. This is purely optional but adds some flavour and a little decadence. Spoon the mixture in centre lengthwise. Be constant not too thin not too thick. Now roll the meat. Next is the tricky part – tying off with Butchers Twine. There is a butchers knot that once you’ve mastered is simple. The only trouble is most YouTube videos dont show enough detail. I practised on a can of beans and when I came to do it for real it was very straightforward. I have included a link to the best video I found in the links section.

After tying the Ballotine, next wrap in parchment or baking paper, and make like a Christmas Cracker tying off the ends, and maybe a knot or two in the middle to keep everything nice and neat. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C Fan for 60 minutes. After the hour remove from the parchment and allow the bacon to brown more if needed by using the residual heat in the oven.

Allow the meat to rest for at least an hour, longer if you can.

Don’t waste the juices but pour over the slices of meat and accompanying vegetables for a truly flavour packed, stylish, and pretty frugal supper.

This dish is an ideal Sunday roast and even a celebratory meal such as Christmas and Easter. Its not where as expensive, labour intensive, or stressful preparing as a full turkey dinner.

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