Monday, 9 February 2015

Hot & Spicy Chicken Panzanella

Panzanella is one of my favourite meals - and during the summer, when I have an endless supply of fresh ripe tomatoes (all sun ripened and warm from the garden) - I make it a lot, either to serve as a lunch dish, or as an accompaniment to the main evening meal......

But during the winter, when I want to make this salad     - to remind myself of those long hot summer days -       I have to use shop bought tomatoes.These don't have all the sweetness of the summer and therefore, need a bit of help getting there.

So, in order to achieve this, I pop half of them into the oven to cook in olive oil and the other half I warm to room temperature to get as much flavour from them as possible - in fact a good rule is to never, ever, ever, ever, serve a tomato straight from the fridge - they have to be at least room temperature, and ideally warmed by the sun - so in the winter, on a sunny day, place them on your windowsill to warm. ......they look pretty all arranged there as well!

Panzanella originated from Tuscany and is a summer salad of bread and tomatoes with often olives, red onions and lots of olive oil added.

To make my panzanella more substantial I have added cubes of chicken breast to make a prefect supper dish.....

Recipe - serves two

1 large chicken breast - cut into bite size cubes
200g punnet of on-the-vine cherry tomatoes - I find these have more flavour this time of the year
1 red onion - finely sliced
100g sun blushed tomatoes
1 ripe avocado
large handful fresh basil leaves - roughly chopped
1 day old ciabatta roll
half red chilli - finely sliced and de-seeded
Olive oil
juice of two limes
2 teaspoons hot sweet chilli sauce
2 teaspoons tomato puree
2 teaspoons dried Italian herb mix or a mixture of dried thyme. rosemary and oregano
salt & pepper
some rocket leaves to serve - or any small salad leaf

Pre-heat oven 180C/ gas 4

Just a quick warning - this seems like a lot of work for a salad but honestly it's really quick and easy - it just took a lot of explaining.......

First of all grab two bowls. Roughly chop all the tomatoes, into at least half, and divide between the bowls.....

Peel and finely slice the red onion and again, divide between the bowls followed by some of the chopped basil, keeping about a 3rd of the basil back for the dressing - you don't have to be precise with any of this just roughly divide - that's fine.

Now, my favourite bit, grab you ciabatta and rip it into bite size pieces - there's something really satisfying about doing this - and then add to just one of the bowls.

Pour a good slug of olive oil into both bowls, along with some salt and pepper - make sure everything is evenly coated in oil - especially the ciabatta!

Spread the bowl of ingredients containing the ciabatta out onto a baking tray and sprinkle on your dried herbs, pop in the oven and leave for about 15 minutes or until you bread has dried and crisped, and the tomatoes and onion have softened.

Whilst the bread mix is cooking you can finish off the rest of the salad and prepare/cook your chicken.

Pop the chicken cubes into a bowl along with a slug of olive oil, juice of a lime, the tomato paste and the chilli sauce. Add a few basil leaves and some salt & pepper.....

Give it all a good mix. Grab a non stick pan and heat up a little olive oil. Add the chicken and quickly cook, on a high heat until coloured on both sides and cooked right through....

I like to get all the edges slightly caramelised ( ....oh ok.... burnt!) - I think it gives it a more rustic 'barbecue/outdoor cooked' flavour....

Set the chicken aside and keep warm....

Now finish preparing your salad part.....

To your second bowl of tomatoes and onions, add the avocado and chilli slices, along with the rocket and sun blushed tomatoes.

Next make up your dressing....

Pop the remaining basil leaves in a bowl add the juice of 1 lime and about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Give it all a good mix.

Remove the ciabatta mix from the oven and lift off the tomatoes, onions and bread - adding them to your other salad ingredients. You should now be left with a baking tray of hot tomato and olive oil juices......

Tip these juices and any crunchy bits! into your dressing and mix it all together - check for flavour and add seasoning if required.....

Place your warm chicken bites to the salad and then pour over your dressing - gently mix it all together, making sure everything has a good coating of dressing - I do this by hand it's gentler on all the ingredients - you don't want to mash or break up the cooked tomatoes......


Divide between serving dishes, grab a fork and eat.........

A taste of the summer in the middle of winter - lovely!

Have a good start to your week