coq au rien (coq au vin sans vin!)

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As a French language student I feel like I can safely say that ‘coq au vin’ means chicken done with wine; the name implying that wine is a fairly important ingredient in this meal. But as a student, I know that cooking with alcohol is almost blasphemous, it goes against everything a student meal should be: cheap and… well, cheap. I for one would rather reduce my alcohol consumption, rather than increase it. 

So although the name suggests that wine is the be-all and end-all of this meal, there are plenty of other important ingredients: mushrooms (I despise them), lardons (too fatty) and garlic. Oh dear, this isn’t a great start is it?!

Yet I have had coq au vin a couple of times and have really loved it, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of a challenge when it comes to creating a tasty and cheap meal. So let’s see if it’s possible to do the impossible and make coq au rein...

Ingredients to serve four:

  • chicken thigh fillets (600g, Tesco, £4)
  • unsmoked bacon (£210g, Tesco, £1.50)
  • shallots (300g, Tesco, £1)
  • plain flour (500g, Tesco, £0.40)
  • cranberry juice drink (1l, Tesco, £1)
  • tomato purée (200g, Tesco, £0.50)
  • one garlic (£0.30, Tesco)
  • balsamic vinegar (250ml, Tesco, £1)
  • olive oil (250ml, Tesco, £1.20)
  • butter (250g, Tesco, £0.85)
  • dried thyme (16g, Tesco, £0.70)
  • dried parsley (11g, Tesco, £0.70)
  • dried bay leaves (3g, Tesco, £0.70)
  • chicken stock cubes (100g, Tesco, £0.65)
  • orzo pasta (500g, Morrisons, £0.77)


  1. Put two tablespoons of olive oil and a knob of butter in a deep saucepan on a medium heat. When it is bubbling add the peeled and chopped shallots along with 4 slices of the bacon, chopped. Fry until the onions are slightly brown and the bacon is crispy then take out of the pan and dab off excess oil on kitchen roll.
  2. Add another nob of butter to the pan and add 6 chicken thighs and 4 cloves of finely chopped garlic. Allow the chicken to brown for a few minutes on each side, then sprinkle over two tablespoons of plain flour and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  3. Return the shallots and bacon to the pan, along with 2 tablespoons of the following: tomato purée, thyme and parsley, then add 3 bay leaves and a chicken stock cube dissolved in 500ml boiling water. Put onto the lowest heat setting.
  4. Now to make the wine substitute! Put 250ml cranberry juice in a separate saucepan on a medium heat so it is boiling, and allow it to boil for a few minutes until it has reduced to roughly 125ml. Then add to the chicken along with about a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, or to your own taste. The vinegar should counteract the sweetness of the juice whilst adding a nice flavour. Season the mix with salt and pepper then partially cover and leave on the low heat for 1 hr – 1hr 30, making sure you keep an eye on it!
  5. When you can see that the chicken is becoming very tender and breaks apart easily, boil the orzo in another saucepan (or whatever you fancy) then serve and enjoy!

Total cooking time: 1hr – 1hr 3o

Preparation time: about 15 minutes

Price per portion: at roughly £2 per portion this is slightly more expensive than some of my other meals but still quite a bargain I think

I was really happy with how this turned out despite not using fancy ingredients. Chicken thighs are great as they are cheaper than breast and work better in stews as they don’t dry out. I’ve never tried orzo before and it’s shaped like rice but tastes like pasta! It’s nice to try something different and it seems to work well with stews.

It’s fun experimenting with substitutions, and I think the cranberry juice and balsamic vinegar worked well. Do you have any substitutions that have worked well in different meals?


14 thoughts on “coq au rien (coq au vin sans vin!)

  1. This looks delicious! I like mushrooms (and wine to be fair) so would probably add those back in. I’ve also wanted to try orzo for ages but never see it in the shops out here in the sticks!


    1. Thank you! 🙂 yes feel free to add them back in, I’m a complete mushroom-hater but they are an important part of coq au vin. I’ve only discovered orzo recently but it’s very good, if you’re able to get hold of it it does add a bit of a twist to your average casserole dish

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love coq au vin but I would definitely try it with cranberry juice instead of wine. Serving it with orzo sounds like a great idea. Chicken thighs are a godsend for me – so much cheaper and more flavourful than breast meat. I reckon this would work well in a slow cooker too 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! Yeah you’re right, I used to always go for chicken breast but it’s nowhere near as good. I’m sure it would, and means you can just leave it to cook without having to worry about it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi!! I just stumbled across your blog and I love it!! I am a college student and looooove cooking with fun ingredients, but I also have no money haha. Thank you for making such fun posts… I’m hoping to try a few recipes out. Where are you a student at? I would love to chat/e mail with you sometime about college, cooking, etc!


    1. Hey, thank you for your lovely comment! 🙂 so glad to hear you’re liking the recipes, I feel like even though I’m on a budget there’s no need to not eat tasty food 🙂 I’m at Durham University, what about you? Yes would be really nice to chat!


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