Life is uncertain. Eat Dessert first.


Warm Stir-fried Chicken Salad

This is the first of two dishes I’ve recently cooked from the Wagamama Cookbook. I made a jar of the Wagamama salad dressing, the rest of which I can keep in the fridge and use again with other salads or as a marinade.

Put a teaspoon of sesame oil, 2 peeled and crushed garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons of fish sauce, 2 teaspoons of light soy sauce, the juice of a lime, 2 teaspoons of ground cumin, and 1 trimmed and chopped large red chilli in a blender and blend until smooth. Stir in 2 teaspoons of toasted sesame seeds. Put 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs into a dish, pour over the marinade, cover with clingfilm and marinate for at least two hours in the fridge.

Heat a wok over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until completely hot and smoking and add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add the chicken, stirring constantly so the pieces cook evenly, and stir fry for 4-5 minutes until caramelised around the edges and cooked through.

Mix two handfuls of salad leaves with the dressing. Divide between two plates and scatter over some toasted sesame seeds and chopped coriander. Top with the chicken and serve with a lime half on each plate.


Pollo alla Cacciatora

Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian, and in the contect of cooking “alla cacciatora” refers to a meal prepared hunter-style. In Jamie’s Italy, Jamie Oliver has a really simple recipe to make this incredibly tasty dish.

I used four chicken legs and four chicken thighs to serve four people. Even when buying free-range, these are really inexpensive pieces of meat that have a greater depth of flavour then chicken breasts, as the meat is cooked on the bone. Season the pieces with salt and ground pepper and put them in a bowl. Add eight bay leaves and two sprigs of fresh rosemary, tucked in between the chicken, then stir in a crushed clove of garlic (I use a microplaner to grate the garlic). Cover everything with a half a bottle of red wine (preferably Chianti, but any full, rich red will do), and leave to marinade for at least an hour, but preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180deg C. Drain the chicken, reserving the marinade, and pat it dry with kitchen paper. Pour some plain flour onto a plate and dust the pieces of chicken in it, shaking off any excess. Heat an ovenproof casserole dish, add a splash of olive oil, and fry the chicken pieces until browned lightly all over.

Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and then add two cloves of garlic, sliced. Fry gently until golden brown, taking care not to burn the garlic. Then add two 400g tins of good-quality tomatoes (break them up with a wooden spoon in the dish), six anchovies roughly chopped, a handful if olives (with their stones removed), the chicken, and the reserved marinade. Bring to the boil and then cover with a lid and cook in the oven for about an hour and a half.

When it’s cooked, skim off any oil that’s collected on top of the sauce and remove the bay leaves and rosemary. For a traditional Italian meal serve with some cannellini beans and crusty bread, or for a more hearthy meal serve with a big bowl of mashed potato.

Mexican Chicken Salad with Chili and Coriander Cream

Just finished my second day of leftovers of this dish, which is an adapated version of the one that appears in Darina Allen’s Easy Entertaining.

The quantities serve 12 people. It is important that if you don’t intend eating it all in one sitting, you are best to assemble just the amount of ingredients you need each time, as anything that’s left will just turn into a soggy mush. Once you have the chicken cooked in advance and the dressing made, it’ll only take five minutes to throw everything together each time.

Cook four chicken breasts on a chargrill pan. If the chicken breasts are very big, slice them in half longways horizontally, as this will ensure they get cooked all the way through without burning them on the outside. The great thing about a cast iron chargrill pan is that you can put it in the oven – what I sometimes do is grill the outsides to get the nice grilled look and taste, and then transfer the chicken on the grill pan into the oven to make sure it cooks through. Once cooked, leave to cool, and roughly chop/tear the chicken into approx 1cm cubes.

For the dressing, in a large bowl mix 175ml cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon sea salt, 4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 teaspoons English Mustard powder, 2 tablespoons honey, the juice of half a lemon, 4 crushed garlic cloves, 110g of tomato puree, 1 teaspoon of chili flakes, 175ml extra virgin olive oil, 225ml sunflower oil, and 1 tablespoon of ground cumin. Mix it all together, and if the taste is too intense add a little cold water.

In a very large bowl, add the leaves of a large Cos lettuce, torn into strips, the cooked chicken pieces, 400g tin black beans, 350g tin of sweetcorn kernels, 12 cherry tomatoes halved, 4 small avocados chopped, 350g grated cheddar cheese, and 225g of lightly broken (not crushed) tortilla chips. Add the spicy dressing and toss gently.

Serve on individual plates with a dollop of chili and coriander cream (225g creme fraiche mixed with 1 tablespoon red chili chopped very small and 2 tablespoons of roughly chopped coriander leaves).

The spicy dressing is amazing, so if you have any left over it would make a great dip with some nice tasty bread.