Spicy Chinese Chicken Salad

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Well, if you can believe it, we’ve had four straight days of sunshine. And those four days are enough to have put me off soup at least until September. Even if the weather were to take a turn for the British, I am vowing not to make another pot of hot soup for a couple of months and, as I’m not a huge fan of cold soup, that may mean no soup period. What will we eat now, you may ask? Probably much of the same things I would’ve put in a soup, but I’ll keep them raw and put them in a salad instead!

There’s nothing quite like a bowlful of vegetables to make you feel good on a warm evening − fresh and crunchy, you can almost feel the vitamins and minerals soaking in instantly, filling you with that joie de vivre that a bit of sunshine and good food creates. At first I was planning on making a peanut butter based dressing, but then I opened Mother Hubbard’s cupboard and found it distinctly lacking in nut products. The great thing about this salad is you can totally change the whole vibe of it just by using different dressings. Go Japanese with mirin, pickled ginger and wasabi. Travel to Thailand with fresh ginger, lemongrass and lime juice or peanut butter, chilli and soy sauce. You can even go southern American with a classic coleslaw or Creole style dressing.

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After my satay idea fell short, I decided to go a bit Chinese. Pretty much equal parts sriracha and soy sauce combined in a food processor with some red onion, green onion and fresh ginger produced a salty, spicy dressing that was practically jumping out of the bowl. A tablespoon or so of plum sauce gave that hint of sweetness for balance (honey would’ve worked great too) and drizzling in a little sesame oil bound everything together and gave that classic toasty, nutty sesame flavor we associate with Chinese food. The dressing was thick and flavorful, embracing each piece of veg and bringing the whole salad to life.

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I poached the chicken legs (sans skin) to keep this ultra healthy and it meant I ended up with two liters of chicken stock which was a bonus − but wait, that’s just like making soup! Blast!

Next time I might roast the chicken instead because I think it produces a different texture to the meat. While it was still moist after poaching, it was just a touch on the rubbery side. Poaching did mean, however, that there was some chicken skin on the counter that was all dressed up with nowhere to go. Crispy noodles are something that always accompanies Chinese chicken salad, so I wanted to use the chicken skin to create that crispy element which might otherwise be missing. Pressed between two cookie sheets and baked at a high temperature, the skins came out golden and delicious, full of chicken-y flavor that just rounded off what was already a delicious salad.

So here’s to the good weather continuing so I can keep the soup pot in the back of the cupboard (for real this time)!

Bon appetit!

Recipe

Serves 2

2 Chicken Leg Quarters, bone in, skin reserved

1/4 head of Green/White Cabbage (It’s white in winter and green in summer, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same type of cabbage)

2 Carrots, topped and tailed

2 Broccoli stems, florets removed (I just had these hanging around, but they’re tasty don’t throw them away!)

6 Radishes, topped and tailed

2 large Green Onions

Dressing

2 large Green Onions, chopped

1/2 Red Onion, chopped

2″ piece of fresh Ginger, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup Soy Sauce

1/4 cup Sriracha or other Chilli Sauce

1 Tbsp Plum Sauce or Honey

1/4 cup Sesame Oil

1. Put the chicken legs in a pot and cover with water. Season the water with salt and bring to a boil.

2. Simmer chicken legs for 20-25 minutes until cooked through. Reserve the stock for another use.

3. Wrap two cookie sheets in foil (one with the foil on top and one with the foil on the bottom).

4. Lay the chicken skin flat on one of the cookie sheets and sprinkle with salt.

5. Put a layer of greaseproof paper on top of the chicken skins and then put the other cookie sheet (with the foil on the bottom) on top of the greaseproof paper to weigh down the skins.

6. Cook the skins in a 430ºF (220ºC) oven for 10-15 minutes until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

7. In the meantime, in a food processor combine first four ingredients for dressing and blitz until there are no chunks left.

8. While the food processor is running, drizzle in the sesame oil slowly to emulsify. Set aside.

9. In the same bowl of the food processor, using the slicing attachment slide the cabbage, broccoli stems, carrots and radishes and toss in a bowl. (No need to wash the bowl out, you’re going to toss the vegetables in the dressing anyway!)

10. Thinly slice the remaining two green onions lengthwise and add to the salad.

11. Toss salad with half of the dressing to coat.

12. Shred chicken and toss with 1-2 Tbsp of dressing.

13. Top salad with chopped cilantro (coriander) and mint and serve piled high with chicken and garnished with crispy chicken skin.

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