Baby Caesar Salad with Tea Smoked Chicken and Truffle Oil

Croutons

Serves 3 as a starter

We are in real dinner party or fine dining territory here. Keep it sophisticated by serving delicate portions. This dish is excellent served as part of a tasting menu.

For the Caesar dressing…
1 large egg
1 clove garlic, peeled & chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 heaped teaspoon mustard powder
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
50g tin of anchovy fillets in oil, drained but with the oil reserved
150ml olive oil
40g powdered parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper

Place the egg, garlic, lime juice, mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce and drained anchovy fillets in a food processor and blend until smooth. Slowly add the anchovy oil and olive oil until the sauce has a creamy consistency. Stir in the parmesan cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper if needs be.

For the tea smoked chicken…
1 tablespoon each of sugar, salt and tea
5 star anise
1 chicken breast, butterflied

Put the sugar, salt, tea and star anise in a foil packet, scrunched but with the top of the packet open. Place in a wok, heat until smoking, add the chicken (on a plate) and cover. Smoke for 5 minutes then turn over and smoke for a further 5 minutes.

Remove the chicken and finish cooking under a grill. Leave to go cold and cut into wafer thin slices.

For the truffle oil infused croutons…
Crustless white bread, cubed
Olive oil
Truffle oil

Toss the cubes of bread in the oils. The amount of oil you will need will depend on the age of your bread. They just need a very light coating and you don’t want them to be greasy. Place the croutons on a baking tray and bake on the oven at 180c for about 10 minutes. Leave to go cold.

To serve…
Small crisp lettuce leaves (or a Cos lettuce, roughly chopped)

Toss the lettuce leaves in the dressing and arrange on serving plates. Add a few slices of smoked chicken and sprinkle with a few croutons.

Bang Bang Chicken Salad

Crunchy peanut butter jpeg

Serves 2 as a starter or a side dish

This dish originates from China and is called Bang Bang chicken because traditionally the cooked chicken breast was banged with a lump of wood to break it up (honestly). It’s a cold dish so if you make a bigger batch it is great as part of a buffet.

For the dressing…
2 tablespoons groundnut oil
2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
A splash of toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
2 tsp light brown sugar
1 tsp dry sherry
400ml tin coconut milk

Heat the oil in a wok, add the chillies and stir. Add the ginger and stir. Add the sesame seeds and stir. Add the sesame oil and stir. Add the peanut butter and sugar and stir. Add the sherry and stir fry for approx 1 minute. Add enough coconut milk to give a loose dropping consistency, i.e. it should drop easily off a spoon without being too runny, a bit like thin ketchup. Turn off the heat and allow the dressing to cool in the wok.

For the finished dish…
2 handfuls of shredded iceberg lettuce
1 cooked chicken breast, shredded

Arrange the lettuce on a serving plate and place the chicken on top. Spoon the dressing over the chicken.

Ancho Chilli Sauce using Dried Spices

Ancho chillies

This is a delicious condiment/dipping sauce. It is quite hot and makes about 700ml. I like to freeze it in 4 x 175ml batches. That way I can defrost just the amount I need and not waste any. Once defrosted, the sauce will keep in the fridge for a few days. Either serve it cold or reheat it if you prefer a hot sauce. This sauce is vegetarian and vegan.

3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
Dried spice mixture made up with 2 tsp ancho powder, 1 tsp chipotle powder, ½ tsp cayenne, 1 tsp ground cumin and 1 tsp dried oregano
400g pasatta
100g raisins
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
300ml stock made with 1 tsp vegan stock powder
Salt to taste

Heat the oil and sauté the onions until soft and starting to colour, approx 10 minutes. Add the garlic stir fry for 2 minutes. Add the dried spice mixture and stir fry for about a minute, adding a splash of stock if it starts to catch. Add all of the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.

Blitz until smooth in a blender or with a stick blender and push through a sieve to give a smooth sauce. Check the seasoning, adding salt if necessary.