It’s really not food but chicken that’s my one true love! It’s versatile, affordable, packed with protein, easy to cook and delicious.
As well as being a major source of protein, it is rich in two B group vitamins – Niacin and Vitamin B6. These are important for the metabolism of food and cardiovascular health. Chicken is also high in the trace element Selenium, which is essential for thyroid function and aids our immune system to fight against diseases.
Buy organic or free-range chickens where possible – we do have to be careful of the hormones that have been used in some caged chickens. Like the additives and preservatives in our diet, we have to be aware of the potential health risks of overconsumption of these hormones.
Roast baby chickens (serves four)
4 baby chickens
Bunch of thyme
Rinse the baby chickens and make sure the neck has been removed.
Cut the lemon into four pieces and place a piece of lemon and a sprig of thyme in the cavity of each chicken.
Place the chickens in a baking dish with an inch of water and drizzle olive oil over each chicken, sprinkle with sea salt and some more thyme leaves stripped from the remaining stems.
Cook in an 180C oven for about 40 minutes. Halfway through the cooking, baste the chickens with the juice in the baking dish.
The skin should be wonderful and crisp. If after 40 minutes it's not, turn the oven to high and cook for a further five minutes.
Serve with a simple green salad of tossed oak lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, avocado and mung beans. Drizzle a little olive oil over the salad, this may seem a simple salad but the chickens are very rich – it compliments them really well.
Warm chicken salad
My favourite recipe is my warm chicken salad and, as many of my friends know, I cook it a lot. But they never complain – in fact, they expect it now when they come for dinner!
Even my children love it, although they substitute my homemade mayonnaise for the vinaigrette. Bless them – they believe that serving it would get me onto Masterchef or My Kitchen Rules. Well, according to them, it’s either the chook or the brownies .
And while the kids have tried to apply on my behalf, luckily, I have no chance of entering as I’ve been ‘paid to cook’. And, as Maggie Beer said recently after her celebrity challenge on Masterchef, ‘Why put yourself under this pressure?’ And on national television! She is one divine, inspirational and wise woman and a superb cook.
My chicken salad is so easy to prepare. Serve it with crispy roast potatoes, couscous, brown rice or polenta. You can serve the chicken warm in winter and cold in summer.
2 chicken fillets – sliced across (10 slices per fillet)
250g baby spinach
1 bunch of asparagus – blanched
200g snow peas – blanched
Half a punnet of cherry tomatoes – halved
1 avocado – peeled and sliced
1 mango – peeled and sliced
1 fig – sliced into 8
2 roasted baby beetroots in wedges (optional)
1 red capsicum – sliced finely and roasted in olive oil
100g roasted cashews
100g cooked chick peas (optional)
And for the vinaigrette:
1 cup of olive oil – light or normal (not extra virgin!)
½ cup of balsamic vinegar (not scented)
¼ cup of skipping girl vinegar (not scented)
2 tbsp seed mustard
1 tbsp castor sugar
For the vinaigrette, whisk all together and keep in a screw top jar. Make at least an hour before serving, as it thickens slightly – and will keep for months!
Place the chicken fillets in a baking dish and cover with cold water – place in a moderate oven and cook for approximately 40 mins or until fillets are firm to touch.
The chicken can be served warm on the salad or can be stored in a plastic container in the fridge and served cold on individual plates.
Place the spinach at the bottom and gently add the rest of the salad ingredients on top of each other then drizzle with vinaigrette.
Takeaway tip: Keep the fillets with the poaching liquid to store – this keeps them really moist.
Vegetable and lentil soup
4 cups of chicken stock
1 large potato – peeled and finely diced
2 large carrots – peeled and finely diced
1 large zucchini – peeled and finely diced
2 cups of green beans – chopped into 1cm pieces
Corn kernels – cut from 2 cobs of corn
2 large sticks celery – finely diced
1 cup of red lentils
½ cup of green lentils
2 tsp sea salt
Place all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil.
Turn down and simmer for 20 mins. If the soup is too thick for you, then add a little more water or stock.
Cool and put in plastic containers to store in the fridge.