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Spring Salad with Curried Chicken and Spiced Nuts

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Homer Simpson sang “You don’t win friends with salad.” but not all salads are created equal. In our house we frequently have dinner salads whereby the meal is the salad. This is not because we are health food nuts. It’s because salad provides a nutritious, colourful and interesting backdrop to any number of other things and the options are endless.

In the case of this salad there are 4 parts: the salad itself, the curry sauce, the spiced nuts and the chicken. Now, don’t go getting overwhelmed. The chicken and nuts can easily be made ahead and then the whole deal can just be assembled. Or, as I did the other night for dinner, make the nuts and assemble the salad, allowing both to cool while the chicken is cooking and then add it warm.

The quantities below made 6 generous “dinner sized” portions — of course, scale it up or down as you see fit.

For the chicken:

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

enough water or stock to cover the chicken in one layer in the pot of your choosing

3 cloves of garlic, whole but peeled

3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon black pepper corns

1 dried chili or 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes

Place the chicken in a pot, making sure it is all in one layer. Cover with water or stock. Add the aromatics. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Poach the chicken for 20-25 minutes until cooked through.

While the chicken cooks, prepare the curry sauce.

Curry Sauce

1 cup plain yogurt

2 tablespoons curry powder

1 garlic clove, grated

1-1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated

juice of 1/2 an orange (or 1/4 cup of prepared orange juice)

salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl, large enough to toss the chicken in.

Once cooked through, remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and allow to cool before cutting into small bite sized pieces. Toss in the Curry Sauce. Set aside to cool as you prepare the salad and nuts.

For the salad

2 large handfuls of lettuce, arugula, spinach or mixed greens per person

1 cucumber, seeded and chopped

2 carrots, grated

5 radishes, grated

1 cup peas (fresh or if frozen, defrosted in warm water)

1/2 a cup of chopped green onion

a handful of chopped parsley and or cilantro

1 head of raddichio, coarsely shredded

For the Nuts

1 cup raw whole walnuts or pecans

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon hot sauce (such as sriracha)

1 teaspoon of maple syrup or honey

salt and pepper

Toast the nuts in a dry frying pan for 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat until they begin to get fragrant. Drizzle in the oil, hot sauce and maple syrup/honey. Cook, tossing and stirring frequently for 3-5 minutes more until the nuts have developed some colour and are very fragrant. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool slightly before adding to the salad. These will also keep in a sealed container for several days at room temperature.

Assembly:

With all components of the salad ready, top the vegetables with the chicken (the curry sauce will lightly dress the greens) and top with the spiced nuts. Hot chicken and nuts will lightly wilt the greens, which is delicious as well, but won’t give you the same texture as if all the components are cool. Enjoy!

 

* The croutons in the picture are nothing more than a day old baguette, cut thinly on the diagonal, drizzled with a bit of olive oil and baked at 350 for 12-15 mins. While they are still hot from the oven, rub each one with a clove of garlic to impart a gentle savory garlic flavour. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

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