Having grown up in the tropics, I really miss the heat of summer. Now I do like winter - with it's comfort food and wrapping up warm in lovely winter gear and outfits (I'm very much a girl in that respect). But by the end, towards the last month when winter hangs on for dear life and tries to linger, I'm usually jaded, somewhat depressed, downcast, irritated, sick of not being able to hang my laundry out in the backyard and in desperate need of sun and warmth. I'm basically a walking petri dish of melancholy that needs to also lose at least 3 kgs. You see how it is?
Boatsheds at the marina
Wellington can be quite slow on the summer uptake compared to some other parts of the country. But when it arrives, it is GLORIOUS. I don't make this statement lightly - for those of you who live here, have visited or come here often (say for work), you know it's true. For the last +/- 15 years since I came to live in Wellington, summer has become for me, 3-4 months (dependent on global warming!) of all that is happy, positive and light. It's a season of celebrations, public holidays and long weekends. Of festivals, markets and fairs, open air orchestral concerts, movies in the botanical garden. Of time spent with friends, of beaches and baches, long laid-back days and lazy lie-ins on weekends.
Lazy lie in
It's also a season when I eat healthier - more salads, lots of fresh greens (e.g. chinese veg like kai lan, bok choy, ung choy and snake beans) and array of lush summer fruits that tempt every taste bud. Desserts and sweets are somewhat healthier (?) and less stodgy with the likes of ice-blocks/cream, fruit tarts and flans, baking with all types of berries, homemade ice cold milkshakes, smoothies and fruit juices.
(And yes, I am deliberately leaving out listing all the artery clogging, heart stopping food we indulge in over the Christmas and new year holidays). :-)
Summer also sees me hanging out in cafes a whole lot more than I would in the colder months. One that I've been frequenting a bit is the Pentifull Deli on Majoribanks St. As its name suggests, it is first and foremost a deli. But also has a table inside and one outside, where customers can sit and enjoy their purchases. Staff also often move things about a bit on a display table so that they can fit 1-2 more of their regulars if needs be. Now it's during summer that I tend to make more filled bread meals - sandwiches, rolls, burgers etc. Not just for lunch or snacks, but often for dinner as well, although more substantial that the lighter versions for earlier in the day. And it is at Pentifull that I ate what is now my favourite lunchtime meal - chicken salad baquette. Wendy who is the owner and also a chef makes the best chicken salad baquette, I reckon.
I loved it so much that it inspired me to make a version of it at home. There was no way I was going to be able to replicate Wendy's chicken salad at home - not without her recipe! (hint hint if you're reading this Wendy). But it was close enough that it was a hit with 'S'...and I was pretty chuffed with it.
Keeping it simple - just some chicken breast simply roasted with skin on to keep it moist. I used free range chicken, but if you're on a tight budget and buying free range is simply unaffordable, go with what you can.
I was going to remove the skin once the chicken was cooked, but it was so yummy and crispy that I left it on.
Use whatever salad greens you prefer - I used baby cos (a.k.a gem lettuce). Or if you think there's more than enough vegetables in the chicken salad, go ahead and omit the lettuce. No rules here!
Put this salad together whilst you're waiting for your chicken to cool down.
Slather the roast chicken and salad with good quality mayonnaise. Don't be all skimpy with the mayo either - slathering is the oly way to do it. Go ahead and make your own mayo if you're braver than I am. I just buy mine as mayo is one of those seemingly easy things to make, but scares the bejeesus out of me. If you're willing to part with a bit more dosh that you would normally for a jar of mayo, you can buy some decent ones out there. I used Heinz's Seriously Good mayo. It's not top of the line, but it's pretty good. According to the advertising on the jar, they use free range eggs which apparently makes the difference. If you're using a cheaper version, be prepared though for your mayo to be vinegar'ry.
The bread of choice that night was turkish bread. It was freshly baked and on special. So again, no rules here - use whatever type of bread you fancy.
As you can see, I've cramped in as much of the roast chicken salad as I could in the bread. No skimping in my kitchen! And don't go bothering with cutlery for goodness sake. Your hands are the best cutlery for this meal.
Store your leftover chicken salad (oh, there will be!) in the fridge and enjoy for lunch the next day, sans bread. :-)
Roast Chicken Salad with Turkish Bread
Inspired by Pentifull Deli
3 free range chicken breast, skin on
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and cracked pepper
1/2 telegraph cucumber or 1 regular cucumber, chopped fine (but don't mince)
1 small avocado, cut into small pieces
1 small red onion, chopped fine
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
2 stalks spring onions, chopped fine
Zest of 1 large lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Mayonnaise (homemade or store-bought)
1 tablespoon of either Dijon mustard or mild English mustard
1 head of baby cos lettuce
1 large turkish bread (or any other bread of your choice)
- Heat oven at 200C.
- Rub just enough olive oil all over the chicken breasts to lightly coat it, and then season well with salt and cracked pepper.
- Roast in preheated oven until chicken is just cooked through and skin is crispy. Over-roasting your chicken breast will produce dry stringy chicken meat.
- Once cook, take chicken out and let cool slightly so that you can handle it.
- Cut chicken breasts into small cubes and put aside - the larger the cubes, the harder it is to stuff your bread!
- In a large bowl, combine all the vegetables and the lemon zest, and gently toss to mix.
- Add chicken breast pieces to the salad and as much mayonnaise as you need (or want) to coat everything.
- Add the mustard and lemon juice. Mix everything gently.
- Butter your bread if you wish and then line your bread with 1-2 cos lettuce leaves.
- Fill your bread with as much of the roast chicken salad as you wish.
- Salt and pepper to taste...and enjoy!