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Spicy Chicken Salad

August 5, 2003

At last we are nearing the end of our house renovation. It has taken about 15 months and has included some structural work, painting inside and out and garden refurbishment.

Last week the painters finished the downstairs area and between us the cleaning lady and I managed to get rid of most of the residual plaster dust and things are almost back to normal.

The best part of renovating is choosing curtain fabrics and decorating accessories. I was visiting the curtain store and took The Fossil (as my mother is affectionately known to her rude daughters) along for the ride.

We ended up meandering slightly off track via an antiques shop and as the owner packed a little wine table in my car, The Fossil said going out with me always tended to be a bit of an adventure as she never knew where we would end up.

I have a series of favourite haunts around the Greater Wellington area, particularly food retail outlets. There are various places I go for Italian wine, cheeses, Mediterranean food, Asian ingredients, fresh fish and the more unusual vegetables. The site of shelves of salted capers, tins of anchovies, luscious olives, roasted artichokes, exotics dips and spices are usually enough to snap me out of the culinary doldrums and inspire me.

Last weekend I ended up at a little roadside vegetable stall where there is usually something different on offer. This time I found glistening dark red beet leaves taking my interest. The man at the stall said the grower had come up with a variety of beetroot grown more for their leaves than the roots. There was also a nice big fresh bunch of mizuna, a mustardy Japanese green with jagged leaves, also good as part of a salad. Those plus a couple of fresh stalks of lemongrass, a bunch of coriander and some small acid-free Italian tomatoes and I was soon thinking of a spicy Thai-flavoured chicken salad.

The marinated chicken here could be cooked in a wok but as I wanted to use the marinade as part of the salad dressing, it had to be cooked so it was easier to do the whole thing in the oven.

Spicy Chicken Salad

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
5-centimeter piece lemongrass stem, finely sliced
1-2 coriander plants with roots, washed and roughly chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons brewed soy sauce
2 tablespoons light olive oil
2 tablespoons red Thai curry paste

Place all ingredients except the chicken in a small blender. Process until everything is finely chopped. Put the chicken pieces in an ovenproof dish and cover with the marinade. Refrigerate until ready to cook - at least one hour.

Place in a pre-heated oven, 180 C, and bake for 45 minutes. Pour off the cooking liquid and set aside for a few minutes to cool down a little. Keep the chicken pieces hot.

Meanwhile make a salad, using a variety of salad greens if possible. I used mizuna, butter crunch and red beet leaves, along with the Italian tomatoes, cucumber and ripped basil and a few coriander leaves for garnish.

Place some salad on a plate and put the chicken pieces on top. Whisk a couple of tablespoons of lime juice or white wine vinegar into the cooking liquid and pour over the chicken and salad.


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