I was going to cook duck tonight. I had it all planned out. The skin was going to be crispy, the sauce sweet, there would be noodles…but it didn’t quite work out like that. Before I went food shopping I went to see the dress-maker who is making some final alterations to my wedding dress - I am getting married in less than two weeks. As I tried the dress on one of the seamstresses said something to the effect of, “Isn’t that funny, you’ve put on weight. Most brides lose weight before their wedding”. “Hilarious” I replied, through gritted teeth.
I left defiant. I wanted to behave like a bride who knows that there more important things in life than being thin, even…no, especially on her wedding day. So I marched into the supermarket looking for duck. But they were sold out. The way I saw it, this was either just turning out to be a really bad day, or my dress-maker was an evil genius who had called ahead and arranged this. But my Thai friends who are more superstitious than I would see it as a sign. They would conclude that it is not auspicious for me to gorge myself on pan-fried duck days before my wedding. Maybe they have a point. So I caved and decided to make a chicken salad.
It actually worked out very well. The dressing is delicious - the ginger-citrus combination is really light and refreshing. Between the interesting selection of vegetables and the tasty croutons, I didn’t at all feel that I was eating health food. Don’t worry, my duck will have its day. But in the meantime, a very enjoyable meal which brings me a little closer to doing up the zip!
Time: 40 mins
Rating: Easy. You could do it with your eyes shut.
Serves: 2 (generous portions)
For the chicken:
2 large chicken breasts
1 tsp Chinese five spice powder
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
For the salad:
Large handful of mixed salad leaves
2-3 spring onions (about 25g) – white part only
100g trimmed sugar snap peas
100g asparagus (trimmed – the woody part removed)
About 1/3 cucumber (160g) peeled and deseeded
125g cherry tomatoes
Leaves from a small bunch of coriander (about 10g)
For the dressing:
1tsp finely grated/minced ginger
1½ tbsp olive oil
½ tsp sesame oil
Juice of 1 orange (about 5 or 6 tbsp)
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tbsp)
½ tsp caster sugar
Salt and pepper
For the croutons:
1 slice good quality bread
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sesame seeds
- Start by combining in a small bowl your marinade ingredients and mix well. Score the underside of the chicken breasts with criss-cross incisions. Place the breasts in a dish and pour over the marinade. Leave in the fridge for as long as possible, at least half an hour.
- Once your chicken has marinated, pre-heat the oven to about 180°C (for the croutons) and put a small pan of water on to boil (for some of the veg).
- Next cook the marinated chicken. I like to cook the breasts in a griddle pan but you could equally oven bake, pan-fry, or grill them. If using a griddle, place them top side down onto the hot griddle and cook for about 4 minutes. Turn them over and cook the other side for the same amount of time. Turn them over once more to give the first side another minute or so. They’ll take about 10 mins in total to cook. The meat should be white (not pink) all the way through but not dried out. The sweetness in the marinade will give the chicken a lovely colour and slightly sticky coating.
- When the meat is done, take it off the heat and let it rest. This lets the juices run before you serve it. After about ten minutes (once you’ve started on the next steps) slice the chicken into fairly thin slices and leave to cool.
- Next make the dressing. Combine all of the ingredients in a jar and give them a good shake.
- Then make the croutons. Remove the crusts from the bread and cut the remainder of the slice into small squares. On a small plate combine the two oils, and on another place spread out the sesame seeds. Brush each square of bread on both sides with the oil and then dip in the sesame seeds so they stick. Place the squares on a baking sheet and then in the oven for about five minutes until they are hard and just a little golden. Take out of the oven and allow to cool.
- Then prepare your veg. Trim the sugar snap peas and cut the asparagus into pieces about an inch long. Blanch them in the boiling water for about 3 minutes. They should soften but still have a crunch to them. Drain and run them under cold water to stop them cooking any further.
- Then prepare the other veg. Cut the tomatoes in half. Slice the cucumbers into thin matchsticks. Slice the spring onion diagonally into thin slices. Finely chop the coriander. Place all of the salad ingredients together in a bowl, combine, pour over the dressing and toss.
- Serve up the salad and place the croutons on top of the salad and the chicken around the edge. Enjoy!