If I look to my right, there is a big, dark brown wooden bookshelf that reaches almost up to my ceiling, and it is absolutely bursting with books. Sure, there is plenty of casual reading, but two bookshelves are completely overwhelmed by cook books and food magazines. A lot fewer than some, but an impressive collection for someone who only started seriously collecting around 18 months ago. The problem isn’t the bookshelf itself, but the fact that since I ran out of room at the end of last year, the cookbooks have started to pile up on my desk on either side of me. I am now working with barely enough elbow space for working – and when doing my uni work, the books get relocated to my bed so I have space to sprawl out papers and books!
Because of this severe lack of room (unfortunately, there’s no room for another bookshelf!), I made a new year’s resolution that I would not buy any more books till I had tried at least a quarter of the recipes from every book that I own. Perhaps this doesn’t sound like too big a task, but most of the cookbooks that I own are mini-tomes, numbering hundreds pages between the front and back covers. I highly doubt that I will ever try every single recipe on any of their pages, but that doesn’t stop me from looking for new books to thrill me!
A few months ago, I received a letter from my book club, saying that it’d been too long since I’d ordered any books, and in order to entice me, they were offering me a two-for-one deal. Now, with an offer like that, how on earth could I refuse? Of course, it was a very clever lure, and looking through the catalog I noticed that there were two books that I’d been eyeing for a little while, so with no further hesitation I filled out my order and popped it in the mail.
Then came the wait.
And more waiting.
And even more waiting.
Finally, whilst hanging out with my ma one day, the doorbell rang and I heard the “CLUNK” of a parcel being dropped on my doorstep!
“THEY’RE HERE!!” I squealed, and bounded off the couch to the front door.
“What’s here?” My ma enquired, as I hurridly yanked open the doors and grabbed the parcel, cradling it to my chest.
“My new cookbooks!”
I pranced back to the lounge room and plonked myself down next to her, tearing at the cardboard box to reveal the glossy covers of my newest acquisitions. The crackling of the pages was music to my ears as I carefully opened Bill Granger’s “Every Day” from the box, and slowly started flipping though the pages with their beautiful photos. Bill Granger is one of Australia’s better known chefs, owner of a couple of restaurants in Sydney and possibly known these days for featuring his pearly whites in a toothpase commercial. I’d heard many reports of his restaurant (mostly good), and as the likelihood of me visiting Bills is fairly low, I was keen to give some of his recipes a go myself.
A few pages into the book, I came across this recipe for what he called “Spicy Chicken Salad”. Reading through the ingredients and instructions, it came across as being fairly similar to the chicken noodle salads that are often found on the menus of ‘hawker-style’ Vietnamese restaruants. I loved the sound of it so much that I actually made it for lunch, and since then make it for my family about once a week as they’ve fallen in love with it’s freshness and flavours. I’ve since passed the recipe onto another friend who is often lacking time to cook decent food, and he’s also reported back that it definitely is a great recipe to have on hand, and it’s proof that healthy and tasty food doesn’t have to be time-consuming!
Once again, as I can never leave well enough alone, I’ve ended up making a few changes to good ol’ Bill’s recipe as my family and I prefer certain flavours to be much stronger, but remember – as with anything with a marinade, taste as you go and alter it according to your own preferences
Spicy Chicken Salad (adapted from “Every Day” by Bill Granger)
Ingredients for chicken
3 tbsp fish sauce
6 large garlic cloves, crushed (or 3 tsp minced garlic)
1/2 tsp grated ginger
2 small birds eye chillis
4 tsp caster sugar
8 chicken thighs, boneless and trimmed of skin and fat
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Ingredients for salad
3 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp caster sugar
2 cucumbers, halved and thinly sliced
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, quartered
200g vermicelli noodles
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp roasted unsalted cashew nuts, crushed
1. Whisk fish sauce, pepper, garlic, ginger, chillies and sugar. Put chicken in a seperate bowl and pour over HALF the marinade (set aside the other half of the marinade for now). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 mins.
2. With the remaining marinade, add the lime juice and sugar and stir till the sugar has dissolved – this will be the salad dressing. Set aside.
3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, then fry the chicken (in two batches), cooking for 3 minutes on each side. To get really crispy chicken, put a large and heavy pot on top of the chicken to press it down to the frying pan. However make sure that you’re doing this in a non-stick frying pan otherwise it’ll stick horribly.
4. Pour boiling water over the noodles and leave for a few minutes or till soft. Drain and rinse under cold water, making sure to drain all excess water. Place the noodles in a large bowl and add the cucumber, spring onion, cherry tomatoes and cashews.
5. Add the dressing, toss well and serve sliced chicken on top.
The great thing about this meal is that nearly all the components can be prepared beforehand and whacked together in about 10 minutes when you’re hungry. The chicken can be left in the marinade in the fridge for a week, and the salad dressing mixed up and left in a seperate container – so when you’re hungry you just have to fry up the chicken, boil the noodles, chop the veg and bung it altogether for a quick and super tasty treat!
[tags] chicken salad, asian, bill granger, recipe, cooking, lunch, recipe[/tags]