When I was a teenager, I worked at a local French restaurant, Café Francais, in Headington, Oxford, where I grew up. The most popular item on the menu was a salad with a warm avocado and prawn mixture poured over it. This was my first experience of warm salads. The idea of warmth and salad going together seemed a bit odd to me. But after trying it, I discovered how tasty they can be – the warm ingredients gently cooking and wilting the salad below, and softening some of the crisp sharpness that cold salad sometimes has.
On a baking hot day, proper cold crisp salad is ideal. But in spring or autumn, when summer sun and warmth aren’t too far away but it’s a little bit chilly, then warm salads are perfect. Wherever you are in the world, keep this recipe to hand for when the weather isn’t quite sure if it’s hot or cold!
When I was running 100+ miles per week, the thought of eating salad didn’t appeal much. I was always so hungry and they just seemed a bit unsatisfying. But fear not! My warm salad recipe has plenty of rice in it to provide energy for anyone who’s training hard. And it includes a large number of different ingredients – the holy grail for obtaining a wide range of micro-nutrients. Altogether, it includes carbohydrate, protein and vegetables, so can be eaten as a meal in itself.
Japanese cooking is famous for having lots of variety – one meal might include 20 or more different foodstuffs. This recipe tries to copy that top billing on variety. It isn’t a typical Japanese dish, but I’ve used common Japanese ingredients to give it a ‘washoku’ flavour. During coronavirus lockdowns, buying unusual ingredients might be tricky, so I’ve stuck to basic ingredients which I hope are available in a supermarket near you. While enjoying this dish, just visualise some of the awesome athletics we can look forward to at next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
My thanks to the Japanese running club ‘Team Paris Marathon’ whom I coach, for inspiring me with their relentless pursuit of fine food.
Warm Japanese-style chicken salad
• Two chicken breasts
• Green leafy vegetables for the salad base – lettuce, spinach etc
• Wholegrain rice
• Courgette sliced, and red & orange peppers chopped into large chunks
• Variety of other vegetables, chopped – I use cucumber, radishes, tomatoes, broccoli
• Cooked pulses – I use chick peas
• Handful of nuts or seeds – I use pine nuts
• Marinade: miso, mirin, cooking sake and soy sauce (1 tablespoon of each)
• Dressing: rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce (1 tablespoon each), pinch of sugar
1. Make the marinade by mixing together the miso, mirin, cooking sake and soy sauce.
2. Chop the chicken breasts into cubes and marinate in the fridge for 2-3 hours.
3. Start boiling the rice according to packet instructions.
4. Make the dressing by combining all ingredients and mix well.
5. Fry the courgette and peppers in olive oil in a large flat-based frying pan until softened and slightly charred; set aside.
6. Steam the broccoli for a few minutes; set aside.
7. When rice is nearly ready, fry the chicken pieces in sesame oil in the frying pan you used for the courgettes and peppers until browned.
8. In a large serving dish, lay out your green leafy vegetables to create a bed. On top of that, spread cooked rice after allowing it to cool a little. Then add cold salad ingredients and pulses, and pour over dressing. Then add fried courgettes and peppers, chicken pieces and finally sprinkle over pine nuts.