Recipe: Harissa chicken with soft herbs and shaved raw asparagus salad

Harissa chicken with soft herb and shaved asparagus salad

OK, I get it. Salads can be dead boring. But this bright and satisfying dish certainly isn’t any ordinary chicken salad. Weirdly I’m really into finely slicing and shaving raw vegetables at the moment – the crunch of the asparagus and sugar snaps here is a great contrast to the supple chicken, but you could also add something like fennel if you wanted extra freshness. Similarly, if chicken’s not your thing, prawns or a griddled fish fillet will work equally well with the harissa, a spicy North African chilli paste.

Using herbs as salad leaves with the toasty seeds takes things to the next level without the palaver of a hundred different processes. This will make enough for two for a dinner, but I recommend making more so you can have it for lunch another time – it’ll beat that sweaty box of limpness you can buy any day.

Serves 2


Chicken breasts, two plump
Aubergine, large
Asparagus spears, bundle
Sugar snap peas. handful
Coriander, handful, leaves roughly picked
Mint, handful, leaves roughly picked
Flat leaf parsley, handful, leaves roughly picked
Chives, handful, cut in half
Kale, handful
Rocket, two handfuls
Garlic cloves, two
Harissa, two tablespoons
0% fat unsweetened yoghurt, 250ml
Pumpkin seeds, desert spoon
Sesame seeds, desert spoon
Sunflower seeds, desert spoon (or get a mix of all three for ease)
Smoked paprika, heaped teaspoon
Olive oil, desert spoon (or spray oil if you’re that way inclined)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Set the oven to medium heat (something like 170-180° depending on your oven).

In a bowl spoon out one tablespoon of the harissa, add some salt and pepper and stir together. Butterfly the chicken breasts – when on his back, slice halfway through once from the round end to the pointy end and then two slices either side within the first cut to open it up like a book (I don’t bother bashing it out thin as there’s less margin for error in the cooking time). Pop the chickens in the harissa and make sure they’re fully covered. Set aside in the fridge for as long as poss, but don’t worry if that’s only while you get on with the other stuff.

Get an appropriately sized ovenproof dish (I love a Le Creuset but I’m frightfully middle class like that), slice the aubergine long-ways and dust with the smoked paprika in the dish. A little spray oil might help the paprika stick. Season well and pop in the middle of the oven.

Pour a glass of wine sparkling water and have a sit down for a bit. Tweet something. Or maybe not.

Ten minutes later, put a griddle pan on the highest your hob will go. Same again for a frying pan.

Start the salad by putting the rocket and soft herbs in a large bowl. In a food processor finely shred the sugar snaps and add. Using a speed peeler, shave the asparagus lengthwise and add to the bowl. When hot, toast the seeds in the frying pan and, once golden and hissing, set aside in a bowl, returning the pan to the heat.

With your griddle pan now in danger of bothering the smoke alarm, lay the chicken in. It should only take three minutes on each side (depending on how thick you’ve made them) as you’re looking to keep them really moist. Obviously test with a knife if you’re a little unsure.

Meanwhile, finely slice the garlic and add to the frying pan with a bit of olive/spray oil to colour a little before adding the kale. Toss around – you’re looking for a little wilting but not limpness (ooh er) and again, set aside to cool a little.

Everything should be coming together nicely by now. Test to see if the aubergine is soft with a knife (around 25 minutes or so is normally about right) and then place on your table with the chicken laid on top. Mix the cooled kale and seeds with the raw bits and toss through – I find the oil in the kale is enough with a little lemon juice as a “dressing”.

Bring to the table with the rest of the harissa marbled through the yoghurt and go for it, dolloping the yoghurt on with abandon.

Let me know how you get on!

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