Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 26, 2021

© Jonathan Lovekin

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Saffron chicken and herb salad

This colourful salad is extraordinarily moist and refreshing. It was created by the chefs at Ottolenghi in Belgravia and is a big hit there. The trick? Boiling a whole orange and blitzing it down to a paste — very effective for many sauces, salsas and cakes. If you don’t like fennel, replace it with a combination of green onion and arugula.

1 orange
2 1/2 tbsp. (37.5 ml) honey
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml) saffron threads
1 tbsp. (15 ml) white wine vinegar
1 1/4 c. (310 ml) water
2 1/4 lb. (1 kg) skinless, boneless chicken breast
4 tbsp. (60 ml) olive oil
2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
1 c. (250 ml) fresh cilantro leaves
1 c. (250 ml) fresh basil leaves, torn
15 fresh mint leaves, torn
2 tbsp. (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 red chili, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

Trim and discard about ½ inch (1.25 cm) off the top and tail of the orange and cut the orange into 12 wedges, keeping the skin on. Remove any seeds.

Place the wedges in a small saucepan with the honey, saffron, vinegar and just enough water to cover the wedges. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for about an hour. At the end you should be left with soft orange and about 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of thick syrup; add water during cooking if the liquid gets very low. Use a food processor to blitz the orange and syrup into a smooth, runny paste; again, add a little water if needed.

Mix the chicken breast with half the olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a very hot, ridged griddle pan. Sear for 2 minutes on each side to get clear char marks all over. Transfer to a roasting pan and place in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until just cooked.

Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, but still warm, tear it with your hands into rough, large pieces. Place in a large mixing bowl, pour over half the orange paste, and stir well. (The other half can keep in the fridge for a few days. It’s a good addition to herb salsa to serve with oily fish like mackerel or salmon.) Add the remaining ingredients, including the rest of the olive oil, and toss gently. Taste, add salt and pepper, and, if needed, more olive oil and lemon juice. Serves 6.

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