You don’t make friends with salad

Well, according to the Simpson’s but I tend to disagree. As we head into the summer (which I am desperately hoping will be soon!), I am looking forward to giving baked dinners the flick and getting my veggie fix through more interesting ways. Like salads!

The café downstairs from work makes some awesome salads that are super-tasty but still healthy enough I don’t feel guilty eating them everyday. Well, except for the haloumi number – grilled haloumi, rocket, paper-thin apple slices, sultanas and toasted sesame seeds. It’s divine!

Another favourite is a roast sweet potato and fetta number which uses baby spinach as its base (making it an excellent source of iron) and relies mainly on the flavour of the sweet potato, the saltiness of the fetta and a little dressing to pull it off.

Rather than try and recreate it though, I thought I would make my own version by incorporating some additional protein and adding some extra flavours to add to the complexity.

It also gives me an opportunity to try poaching something savoury. While I’ve poached a few pears in my time, I haven’t ever tried to poach anything more adventurous and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to infuse enough flavour to make it worthwhile.

That said, the experiment worked and I am so happy with the result that I think it’s my new favourite method of cooking! The flavour is subtle but delicious and although it can be served warm, I quite like it at room temperature meaning you can prepare it well ahead of time. Too easy!

Poached chicken salad with baked sweet potato, beetroot and fetta (serves 4)

  • 3 large chicken breasts (for an entire you’re looking at about 120gms per person; dinner 160-180gms)
  • 1 litre good quality chicken stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 large garlic cloves, bruised
  • Juice of half a lemon (plus the lemon discards)
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp seeded mustard
  • 200gms baby spinach
  • 4 small beetroots, peeled
  • 8 small pickling onions, peeled and halved
  • 1 large sweet potato, sliced into thin strips
  • 150gm good quality fetta, crumbled
  • 2 tbsp good quality olive oil
  1. In a large saucepan, add the chicken stock, water, garlic cloves, lemon juice (and the lemon discard), cracked pepper and mustard. Bring to a gentle simmer and add the chicken breasts (depending on the size of your saucepan, you may need to poach in batches). Cook for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Let cool and thinly slice.
  2. Place the vegetables in a tray and coat with 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Wrap the beetroots in foil to stop them bleeding into the other vegetables. Bake at 200 degrees for about 25 minutes and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Strain and reserve 1 cup of the poaching liquid. Cook at a high heat until it has reduce by half and thickened slightly. Season to taste (noting it may already be fairly salty due to the salt content of the stock).
  4. In a large bowl, add the baby spinach leaves, the remaining olive oil and about 2-3 teaspoons of the reduced poaching liquid. Dress the leaves with the dressing. Add the onions and sweet potato and gently toss through.
  5. Divide the spinach salad mix between the plates. Top with the beetroot, chicken and fetta. Drizzle with a small amount of the dressing or a little olive oil before serving.
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