A meal that keeps on giving is worth a little extra effort. This asian-inspired salad feeds 4-6 people, but it generously extends itself to provide leftover poached chicken for another meal or two, a few containers of chicken stock to pack into the freezer and some pickled carrots to adorn tomorrow’s sandwiches. It’s also very flexible as it’s happily served immediately or can wait till tomorrow. This makes it a great Sunday meal, leaving starts of lunches and dinners for Monday and Tuesday. So if you’re up for a little bit of prep, you’ll be rewarded.
A pot filled with water on the stove is a simple and homely way of cooking a meal. Dunking a raw, whole chook in a pot of boiling water may seem daunting, or even out of fashion given the over-boiled meats you may have contended with as a child, but poaching is a gentle technique that leads to beautifully tender results.
If you have time, salt the chicken before you start cooking, letting the chicken come to room temperature. This will give the chicken a chance to absorb the seasoning, and the water won’t have to work as hard to heat the chicken, meaning the meat will not get tough. If your chicken is bouncing around in the pot, you’re boiling it too hard which will result in the poor chicken being worn out and leathery. Turn down the heat, let it simmer, and then take it off the heat all together for the hot water to gently coax the meat into perfection. When done, the bones of the chicken will wiggle out of their joints easily, leaving you with succulent, juicy meat to turn into future meals.
You’ll also be left with a pot of fragrant stock to form the base of risottos, soups or cooking baby vegetables along with some butter. A good stock requires a healthy chicken that lived a happy life out in the fields, not in a cage. It will cost more to buy a chicken from a farmer, not from a factory, but given the number of meals this approach to cooking the chicken will give you, it turns out to be quite economical.
The poached chicken has a delicate flavour that needs some punch to liven it up. I served it with noodles covered in a sweet and sharp dressing from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty
. The combination of vinegar, sugar, lime and chilli awakens the tastebuds, making a really light, refreshing meal. The pickled carrots also add some tang to the gentler flavours of the chicken and basil. All the elements for this salad can be stored in the fridge separately, ready to be assembled the next day. That’s how I served it to my oldest friends for lunch, and they both asked for the recipe, so here it is.
What to do with the leftovers? How about a Banh Mi inspired sandwich: take a fresh baguette and fill it with poached chicken, pickled carrot, a drizzle of the noodle dressing and add some lettuce, cucumber, coriander and mayo. Or heat up some broth and cook noodles, mushrooms and bok choy in it along with the leftover chicken. I was not as fancy, and turned the leftover chicken into a classic club sandwich and a simple pasta. The stock is still in my freezer, a delicious byproduct, ready to start another meal.
Ginger Poached Whole Chicken (and Broth)
- 120g fresh ginger (roughly the size of your palm), peeled and sliced
- 4 green onions (scallions), tied in a knot
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 bulb garlic, halved
- 4 litres water
- 1 x 1.7kg whole chicken
- 1 tablespoon sea salt flakes
Place the ginger, green onion, sesame oil, garlic and water in a large saucepan over high heat and bring to the boil. Rub the whole chicken with the salt. Add the chicken, breast-side down, to the pan and return to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat, cover with a tight-fitting lid and allow to stand for 1 hour. Remove the chicken and cut/pull apart into pieces. Shred the breasts for use in the salad, and keep leftovers for tomorrow’s sandwiches, salads or pasta dishes. Strain the broth and store in air-tight containers in the freezer for up to three months.
From Donna Hay Magazine, the beautiful black and white issue (issue 70).
Tangy Soba Noodle Salad
- 120ml rice vinegar
- 40g caster (superfine) sugar (about 3 generous tablespoons)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1/2 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
- 250g soba noodles
- 40g basil leaves, chopped (Thai basil is great for this, but use less if you have it)
- 2 spring onions (scallions), sliced
In a small pan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute, just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chilli and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.
Cook noodles according to packet instructions. Drain and rinse well under running cold water. Shake off as much excess water as you can, then leave to dry on a tea towel. If you’re storing the soba noodles for later, pop them in a bowl, add a bit of olive oil and work it through the noodles to stop them sticking.
When you’e ready to serve, dress the noodles in a big bowl and serve with shredded chicken, sliced spring onions, basil and chopped leftover chilli. If you’d like a bit more colour, you can add pickled carrots as well, recipe below. Sliced mango would also be great.
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty
Quick Pickled Carrot
- 1/3 cup white vinegar
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1 large carrot, peeled and julienned or sliced into thin strips using a mandolin
- 1 teaspoon salt
In a small pan gently warm the vinegar and sugar for less than a minute until the sugar is dissolved. Place carrot in a clean jar, pour over vinegar mixture, and 1 teaspoon salt. Replace the lid of the jar and shake to combine. Stand for 1 hour or until cool. Drain carrots to serve, or you can keep the jar in the fridge for up to 1 month.