recipe

Credit: EARL CARTER

Chicken and chickpea salad packs some crunch

The success of a salad is, of course, dependent on the selection of flavours and quality of the ingredients. But consideration of the various textures must be given equal importance. The ingredients’ individual flavours should complement and at times even challenge each other. The balance of flavours is often intuitive; the balance of textures should be pleasant without being jarring. This balance is often overlooked when composing a salad. As with many things, simplicity is key and sometimes it’s what you leave out of a salad that will make it stand out.

I do like salads that deliver a complete meal, especially at lunch. Steamed or poached chicken has a wonderful texture and purity of flavour. Once the chicken is cooked and the skin removed, it is also a healthy option without skimping on any of the flavour. 

The meat can be torn into finer threads, which carry and absorb the dressing and flavours well. As soon as the chicken is shredded, it tends to dry quickly, so it’s best to dress and serve it straight away. The flavour of quality farm-reared chicken is noticeable when prepared in this way. Cold, shredded chicken has a regular place in many Asian salads. Together with Chinese cabbage, fresh herbs, chilli and citrus, it is a staple at home in the summer. 

Tahini is the base of many dishes in Middle Eastern cuisine. A delicious paste made from ground sesame seeds, it lasts well in the fridge. At times, the oil separates from the paste in the jar, but a simple stir will bring it together again. 

I also like to drizzle the yoghurt and tahini sauce in this recipe over grilled vegetables or serve it alongside grilled lamb or white fish. To make a lighter or vegan adaptation of this sauce, replace the yoghurt with water.

The dressing used here is a great alternative to a mayonnaise-laced chicken salad. It can easily be pepped up with a little extra lemon and a pinch of chilli or an extra clove of garlic.

A jumbled mess of a dish, the silky consistency of the sauce coats all the ingredients evenly when tossed together. The chickpeas are delicious as a stand-alone snack and have been served in the restaurant for some time. In this dish they provide crunch and spice.

Shredded chicken and chickpea salad

Serves 4

– 4 baby cucumbers or 1 small Lebanese cucumber, sliced into rounds 2mm thick

– 4 spring onions, green tops only, sliced into rings

– 1 leg and 1 breast of corn-fed chicken

– ½ cup vegetable oil 

– 1 small handful flat-leaf parsley

Season the chicken lightly with a pinch of salt. Place in a steamer and steam for about 15 minutes or until cooked through. Set aside to cool.

Make the tahini dressing and the fried chickpeas.

Heat the ½ cup of vegetable oil in a small saucepan and fry the parsley leaves until they are crisp. Strain the parsley from the oil and put it on paper towel to drain. Season with a pinch of salt.

Remove the skin from the chicken. Shred the breast and leg meat. Mix half the dressing through the chicken and spring onions, seasoning with a little salt.

Arrange the dressed chicken and the cucumber slices on a serving plate, interspersed with dollops of the remaining dressing. Tumble the spiced chickpeas and fried parsley over the top of the salad. 

Tahini dressing

– ½ clove garlic

– 1 tsp salt

– 1 tbsp tahini

– 2 tbsp lemon juice

– 4 tbsp yoghurt

– 1 tbsp water

Mash the garlic to a paste with the salt and mix into the tahini. 

Combine this with the rest of the ingredients and whisk until smooth. The dressing should be a thick cream-like consistency. If it’s too thick, thin with a little extra warm water and a dash of lemon juice.

Fried chickpeas

– 1 cup cooked chickpeas (tinned is okay)

– 3 tbsp vegetable oil

– ¼ tsp ground cumin 

– ¼ tsp ground coriander

– ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper 

– ½ tsp salt

– pinch dried chilli (optional)

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the chickpeas. Fry over medium heat, shaking the chickpeas around in the pan occasionally, until they are golden all over. Strain off the oil and toss the chickpeas through the spices and salt.

Wine pairing:

2011 Even Keel chardonnay, Mornington Peninsula ($29) – Mark Williamson, sommelier, Cumulus Inc

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 8, 2014 as "It's crunch time". Subscribe here.

Andrew McConnell
is the executive chef and co-owner of Cutler & Co and Cumulus Inc.

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