Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Picnic chicken salad

Today I thought I try and recreate the old picnic staple of chicken salad. I had already poached a chicken for 12 hours, which left me with a litre and a half golden bone broth and a lot of cooked meat. After that amount of simmering there was no doubt the chicken was well and truly cooked, albeit slightly bland as poached chicken generally is. It needed to be mixed with some interesting flavours to liven it up a little. Now as I couldn't bulk it out with elbow macaroni it needed some other additions. Languishing in the fridge (amongst other dubious furry green objects!) was a small, slightly wrinkled kohlrabi and a small head of broccoli. I figured I could use these along with the old faithfuls of celery, green onions and freshly made mayonnaise to make it extra tasty.

As I  am hypothyroid, I have been advised not to eat raw cruciferous vegetables as they have been shown to inhibit thyroid function due to chemicals in them called goitrogens. Cooking or steaming the vegetables destroys these chemicals, so to err on the side of caution I blanched the broccoli and kohlrabi for about a minute in boiling water and then drained them in cold to stop them cooking further. The short cooking time doesn't make them soft and of course you can leave your broccoli and kohlrabi raw if you have no thyroid issues.

This dish keeps well and even benefits from sitting overnight in the fridge to give the flavours a chance to meld together. Use a whole chicken, double the other ingredients and bring this to your next potluck and watch everyone wolf it down. Once they taste it, they won't even realise that it hasn't got the macaroni in it and even better you can eat it safe in the knowledge that it's whole 30 approved, paleo and gluten free.

Ingredients serves 4-6
1/2 of a whole cooked chicken, skin removed and chicken shredded into small pieces
4 sticks of celery finely chopped  (I prefer mine this way, if you like chunks then go for it!)
2 green/spring onions, finely chopped (use all the onion including the green part)
1 small head of broccoli cut into small pieces (and blanched for 1 minute in boiling water-optional)
1 small kohlrabi coarsely grated (and blanched for 1 minute in boiling water-optional)
1/2 red onion finely sliced
1/2 cup fresh mayo, (this is a great foolproof recipe from Sarah Fragoso, watch how easy it is to make)
fresh chives
freshly ground sea salt.

Set a pan of boiling water on the stove over high heat if you wish to blanch the broccoli and kohlrabi, (If not go ahead and use these raw). Finely chop the broccoli and coarsely grate the kohlrabi, add to the boiling water and let it cook for one minute. Strain and rinse with cold water to prevent it cooking any more and becoming soft.

Finely chop the celery and green onions and thinly slice the onion. Shred the cooked chicken with a fork and set aside.

Freshly poached chicken, buy a whole deli chicken if you want to save time
Mayo with fresh chives, once you taste it you'll never go back to the stuff in the jar

In a large bowl mix together the shredded chicken, the broccoli and kohlrabi, along with the celery, green onions and red onion. Add the mayo and stir well to combine. Sprinkle over some freshly chopped chives and don't be afraid to be generous with the salt. The chicken is quite bland and the salt helps to bring out all the flavours of the vegetables. If in doubt add a little salt, let it rest a while then taste again and add more if needed. Allow to rest covered with cling film in the fridge for at least 2 hours, but ideally overnight is better. Serve on lettuce leaves, spooned over salad, or do as I do and eat it greedily by the spoonful straight from the fridge!!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Garlic Chilli chicken

 We love spicy food in our house, so when I saw this recipe on the BBC Good Food website I knew it would be well received. Ideally, I would have like to have used chicken thighs, as called for in the original recipe, but strangely they are hard to come by in the supermarket at the moment. Instead I used boneless chicken breasts which were a good substitute if you are trying to cut out unnecessary fat. I also tinkered around with the spices, purely because we like things hot, adjust spices to suit your own palate.

Ingredients serves 6 (adapted from A BBC Good Food recipe)
 6 chicken breasts cut into cubes
1 large onion very finely chopped
3 green chillies finely chopped
4 garlic cloves crushed
1" piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon curry powder
6 large tomatoes cut into chunks
400g fresh baby spinach leaves

Melt the coconut oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat, add the chopped onion, green chillies, crushed garlic cloves and grated ginger and stir for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the cumin, turmeric, chili powder and curry powder and stir for another minute or so until it is all combined.

Add the chicken pieces and mix well with the spicy mixture in the pan so it is well coated with the onion and spice mix. Cook for 10 minutes until the chicken is no longer pink.

Add the chopped tomatoes with 1/2 cup of water, cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes.

 Finally, add the spinach to the chicken and cook for a further 10 minutes. Taste and add a little more spice or a little salt according to taste.

 Serve with cauliflower rice  However, instead of adding peppers to the rice I gently fried 5 crushed cardamon seeds to infuse in a little oil, removed the seeds and then gently tossed the cauliflower rice in the oil to give it a light Indian flavour,

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Bacon fried spinach with poached eggs

 I love eggs and could probably eat them for every meal. My absolute favourite ways to eat them are poached, soft boiled, or scrambled to a soft creamy consistency. If you are going for the first two choices, you need something to soak up the yolk because it would be criminal to waste any of that golden eggy goodness. Seeing as how my childhood favourite of egg with toast soldiers (a Great British tradition) is now but a distant memory I needed something to catch all those last drops of yolk. This is good for a Sunday brunch, serve it with a couple of slices of good bacon and you'll be good to go until teatime!

There are many schools of thought on how to make the best poached eggs. I have tried the classic chef's method of pouring them into a deep saucepan of simmering water that you swirl around just before you drop the egg into it. All it left me with, was a solitary bobbing yolk and whites that resembled egg drop soup! I found the best method that works for me, in Cooks Illustrated Magazine and it really is quite simple. Of course you can also buy nifty saucepans with poaching inserts and also microwave egg holders. I have a tiny kitchen and no room for unnecessary gadgets so I do them in the frying pan and in 99% of cases they turn out great. If you're really not in the mood to poach your eggs you can also make this with soft boiled eggs or a sunny side up fried egg, whatever floats your boat.

Ingredients Serves 2
1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
4 slices thick bacon chopped into small pieces.
500g bag of freshly washed spinach leaves. (you can use the equivalent weight of frozen spinach for this, just be sure to microwave it until it is no longer frozen and then squeeze out all of the excess water)
2 eggs (or more if you are feeling greedy!)

Pour about 2" of hot water into non stick skillet, add 1 tablespoon white vinegar and bring to the boil. Once it is boiling turn heat down to low/medium so it is very gently bubbling away.

While the pan of water is heating up, add the bacon and onion to a preheated non stick frying pan (Medium high heat) and cook until the bacon is just crispy and the onion is slightly browned.
Add the spinach and toss gently until just wilted. Turn down the heat and cover with a lid
 Crack the eggs into two separate cups and gently pour them into the simmering water, don't pour them from up high, keep the cup as close to the pan as you can when pouring them in. This helps to prevent the white and yolks from breaking up and this way they don't move about too much so you get a neater poached egg. The eggs should take about 2 1/2 -3 minutes to cook depending on how well done you like your yolks.
To remove eggs from the skillet, use a slotted spoon and blot off any excess water with a paper towel 
Spoon the spinach and bacon onto a plate and top with the poached egg, cut it in half to let that lovely yolk ooze into the spinach and bacon.....Enjoy!