The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Alphonso’s Chicken Bonne Femme recipe – cooked in a Thermos


Photo: Alphonso, Zebedee and Inca

Photo: Alphonso, Zebedee and Inca

Well how did the cockerels taste?

Massimo is in the freezer as I chose Alphonso to star in our first eat your own chickens post. I decided a slow cook method was probably best so I christened The Giant Thermos that I bought from the church fete this year.

I also tried to use as many ingredients from our kitchen garden. We had fresh garlic – for the first time a decent sized bulb. Carrots – many strange and evocative shapes here as we don’t really have the perfect soil for them. Potatoes, just a tiny bit of slug/xxx damage – just one hole in each kilo of spuds. The newspaper wrap works! Thyme from Danny’s herb bath.

I’ve also spotted that tip top chefs always seem to add chicken stock cubes to their chicken dishes. So I did this too.

I made a massive mistake re The Giant Thermos and didn’t
a) Fill it to the brim
b) Pre heat it with boiling water
c) work out how many litres the TGT holds and use this as a guide for the amount of extra stock that is needed. I now know that it holds aprox 4.5 litres.

So instead of simmering the dish for the expected 12 hours the cooking time stretched to a staggering 30 hours with an extra 40 minutes simmering on the stove top.

But it was worth the palaver. The result was amazing. The most chickeny chicken dish that I have ever tasted. The leftovers have been squirreled away into the freezer for some stunning soup and risotto in the future. Being cockerels the meat was a bit chewy but oh so tasty. Meanwhile we are now seriously considering raising chickens for meat as we have never tasted any chicken dish as good as this.

We might not have enough land to raise sheep, cattle and pigs for the pot but we can raise chickens and if we give them the best possible life – sun, good food and a decent sized flock to find friends, I would feel fine with this.

Alphonso’s Chicken Bonne Femme recipe


I year old home grown cockerel cut into sizeable joints
2 slices of unsmoked bacon chopped (we used our own)
4 cloves of garlic (we used fresh straight drom the garden)
100g of red onions chopped fine
200g of carrots chopped (we used 100g of our own and topped up with sweet Chantenay carrots)
2 litres of stock made with 2 chicken stock cubes and 2 tsp of Marigold vegetable stock powder
600g of potatoes
2 tablespoons of mushroom ketchup
1 tsp of dried mushrooms (chopped fine)
Half a tsp of dried ground celery
Half a tsp of dried ground tomatoes
4 allspice berries (secret ingredient!)
4 tablespoons of flour


Prepare the cockerel for the table.

Giant Thermos method:
In a large pan that matches the dimensions of the giant thermos (4.5 litres) throw in all the ingredients and stir very well so that the flour covers all the ingredients and bring to simmering point for ten minutes. Meanwhile bring 4.5 litres of water to the boil and pour into the giant thermos and secure the lid. After ten minutes pour off the water and add the chicken contents. Leave for at least 12 hours and then bring the whole dish to simmering point on the stove. We drained off about 500ml of stock and thickened the sauce of the dish with a little corn flour.

Slow cooker/Crock pot method
Toss all the ingredients into the slow cooker. Set the knob to high. After about an hour the dish will start to simmer. Let it simmer for 10 minutes and then switch to low. Cook for about four hours taste for succulence and continue if necessary until the vegetables are soft and yielding.

Serve on warmed plate with peas or beans. A fresh baguette would be great with this too.

  Leave a reply


  1. I’m glad Alphonso found a worthy end!

  2. Once you start you’ll soon realise just how unrewarding it is using supermarket chicken meat. We’ve been growing our own chickens, turkeys, ducks and rabbits for the table since we came to France a couple of years ago.

    Haven’t had to buy meat other than pork (and only then when on offer) since the production line took off.

    In fact we’ve got 18 week old chicks in the kitchen at the moment, they’re moving to one of the outhouses later today.

    But this does get addictive – so beware.

  3. Kooky Girl

    The dish sounds lovely, and most worthy of Alphonso. Nice one !

  4. danast

    Well what can I say. I totally agree with Toffeeapple. I have never really considered rearing chickens for the table. If you get them please let me know what kind you get.

  5. Toffeeapple

    I’m glad you’ve eaten and enjoyed him, you know that he was well fed and looked after. You’re almost a pioneer woman now…

  6. veronica

    How nice to see a happy ending to this story! Your dish sounds amazing.

  7. Karen Lizzie

    Glad that the meal proved tasty. I wonder if the meat would have been more tender if cooked for even longer. I suppose it is more difficult to gauge the cooking times until you have experimented enough with the big thermos!

    I look forward with interst to more of your cooking experiments.

  8. moggymerlin

    Hi Fiona, You may be interested to read my daughter’s blog Sarah and husband Richard moved to France nearly two years ago and have started rearing chickens for the table. In the Food section she describes her feelings on killing her first chicken. They are also growing vegetables and enjoying the new challenges of fitting into the French way of life.

  9. You seem to have converted yourself in one ‘fowl swoop’:) You did Alphonso justice. Did you save the lower leg and feet for your stock? I understand you can eat the comb, though I have never tried it myself, it’s supposed to be something very special.

  10. Audrey

    I cooked one of our cockerels and it was very tough but very tasty. The family eat it with long teeth(Is this a South African saying?) The next day I minced the meat and made rissoles which they enjoyed. The next time I had a home grown chicken I kept it in the freezer for a few weeks to try and fool them.

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