Sunny days Hurrah! Isn’t the UK great when the weather behaves itself! Now some of you might be of the opinion that a salad is like rabbit food and not very filling or satisfying – and yes some salads are like that, but with the salad days upon us, I want to inspire you to get creative and make the most of the warmer weather with delicious and (yup I’m going for the rhyme here) nutritious salads that certainly won’t resemble rabbit food by the time I’m done with them! This recipe was inspired from my time living in LA. There was this wonderful little Bistro/Wine bar on the corner of Melrose and Vine; if you didn’t know it was there you would very easily miss it, as it was in what they call a strip mall area right next to a “Laundromat!” The windows were curtained off with just a sign above saying “Lou’s” – once through the door you were greeted by an intimate setting with classy decor and friendly banter from “Lou” himself. They didn’t take bookings so it was all on a first come, first serve basis. In fact this place was so cool, mysterious and exclusive Natalie Portman sat just a table away from us two nights after Oscar night (Black Swan year). It was within walking distance of my apartment and perfect for having a bite to eat and a little glass of vino. They had on their bar snack menu this devilishly good treat called “Pig Candy” – (I don’t think Natalie would have been into this, as I believe she is Vegan). I’m afraid I don’t know the name of the chef who created it, but I thank you Sir, for inspiring me to come up with my own version of this perfect Salad topping for my ultimate chicken salad!
Ultimate Chicken Salad with Pig Candy: Makes 2 large portions or 4 Small portions.
Preheat the Oven 200C
A packet of Free-range Bacon Lardons (you won’t use all of this necessarily – as it will just be a handful on the top of the salad – what is left can be used as a snack or for another salad creation)
A Drizzle of Maple Syrup
A Sprinkle of Cayenne Pepper
2 Free range Chicken breasts with skin on
Drizzle of Walnut Oil
Sprinkle of dried Oregano
Salt & Pepper
1 Romaine Lettuce
A handful of Radishes finely sliced
A sprinkle of snipped fresh Chives
1/2 an Avocado
Dressing: Fresh Garlic Mayonaise – this makes enough to store in a jar in the fridge to use in other salads or for dunking crudite as a snack! Will keep for about a week)
4 Fresh egg yolks (Organic Free-range if poss) Ideas for what to do with left over Egg white in a later post….
2 tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Clove of Garlic
2 tsp Wholegrain Mustard (check ingredients for any wheat/gluten – remember the purer the better on anything shop bought/processed)
Approx 1/4 pint Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Salt (Himalayan if poss) & Black Pepper
1) First thing is to get the chicken cooked. Place on a baking tray, drizzle with Walnut Oil, sprinkle with the Oregano, Salt and Pepper and roast in the oven (200C) for about 40mins.
2) While the chicken is on you can prepare the Pig Candy. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and add the Lardons (no need to add any extra oil). As the lardons cook you will see the fat melt into the pan. Stir occasionally to get an even colour all over. You need to cook these for about 10 minutes to get them to go crisp.
3) Once cooked pour the lardons onto a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb the excess fat. Wipe the excess fat from the frying pan with some kitchen paper too. Over the lowest heat now add the Lardons back to the frying pan and sprinkle with the Cayenne Pepper and add a small drizzle of Maple Syrup stir quickly for about 15 seconds and take off the heat.
4) Put the Pig Candy onto a plate and place in the fridge to set.
Now for the Mayo:
1) Add the Egg Yolks to a food processor and blitz until the egg yolk starts to go a bit paler. At this stage slowly add the Olive Oil whilst the processor is still going around. The colour will slowly start to fade as the mixture starts to thicken. Next add the Apple Cider Vinegar one tablespoon at a time. After that add the crushed garlic (you can leave the garlic out if you don’t like it), Salt, Pepper and finally the Mustard – keep blending for another couple of minutes to further smooth and thicken the mixture. At this stage give it a little taste to check the seasoning – you might want to add a little more oil, salt or pepper or even a touch more vinegar – personal preference here but if you add anything more – just give it another whizz in the processor to make sure it is fully combined. Add the mixture to jar and store in the fridge to chill down.
Check the Chicken to see how it is doing – If it is cooked by this point pull it out and leave on the side to cool and rest.
Next the Veg:
1) Wash and chop the lettuce into slices like this:
2) Slice the Radishes, the Avocado and the Chicken like this:
3) Now for the plating up. Place the lettuce on a plate or serving dish, toss together with the Radishes, the Chicken, a few snipped Chives and then gently add the Avocado so not to bruise it or make it go mushy! Drizzle with a little Olive Oil and gently toss together. Then sprinkle a small handful of the Pig Candy over the top and finally to finish spoon in a criss cross pattern a little of the fresh Mayo across the top. Rejoice in the sun and Enjoy! 🙂
Ok now remember what I said about Fats? Don’t worry – most of the excess saturated fat is drained off the bacon – and there is just a small drizzle of Maple Syrup (high in Manganese) which is a natural sweetener. So although I wouldn’t recommend you eat Pig Candy every day – It is just a topping for a salad to make it a little more interesting and flavoursome. The salad as a whole is full of healthy fats, Vitamin E, High in protein, B Vitamins, and Vitamin D.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Wonderful stuff actually lowers bad cholesterol, aids digestion has even been shown to be beneficial for people with Arthritis conditions. You can actually make a refreshing drink with it too – sparkling water, splash of the ACV, pinch of Cayenne pepper, a teaspoon of maple syrup, couple of shredded mint leaves and a slice of lime!
Olive Oil – well we all know how good this stuff is!
Free range/organic? Well this is up to you, but I think an animal that has had a good happy life allowed to roam and forage and is not full of growth hormones & anti-biotics etc is not only going to taste better but is also more beneficial to our hormonal balance and immunity when we eat them… I know it is not always possible to have this stuff due to the expense/availability but sometimes it is worth it for an extra health/flavour boost!
And finally the egg yolks in the mayo nutritionally have something called Choline in them.
Choline has a variety of functions in the body, it regulates several metabolic pathways, and aids detoxification in the body.
In fact Choline deficiency over time can have serious implications for our health. Symptoms of choline deficiency include fatigue, insomnia, poor kidney function, memory problems, and nerve-muscle imbalances. Extreme dietary deficiency of choline can result in liver dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, and impaired growth. Need I say more?