I’m baaack! And I deserve no alcohol. Nor do I deserve good food.
That privilege was lost following a Christmas and New Year period spent in borderline sickening excess. By the time The Swede and I returned from our sunny vacay Down Under, we had sworn off grape juice and committed ourselves to a routine of healthy eating.
Let’s be honest: foregoing wine was never going to happen. But we have, for the most part, been quite good diet-wise and I have made a conscious effort to pour what I believe to be a winning amount of post-work energy into the kitchen of an evening.
Not everything I have dished up has been a shining beacon of health and wholesomeness. If I want to cook with butter, I cook with butter; if an Asian-style dressing needs to be rounded out with the addition of sugar, that goes in too…and fat is flavour when it comes to certain cuts of meat as far as I am concerned. If my meals are in balance and all that good stuff is taken in moderation, I figure what does it matter?
That being said, each plate of food to grace our dinner table has been, at the very least, fresh, varied, nutritious and packed with flavour. I certainly feel all the better for it. It is almost like I didn’t spend the past month being a raging glutton. It has also meant I have had the opportunity to become reacquainted with an extremely annoying facet of my personality – the one that insists on endlessly creating useless lists. We meet again…
Anyway, I thought that before I launch into a relentless recap of meals passed, I would share one such recipe. It is really tasty and delightfully easy to whip up as a mid-week dinner. The lightly pickled cucumber is the perfect foil to the richness of any dish and I find that it often wriggles its way into being a side to many of the things I cook.
Happy kitchen-ing throughout 2016! xo
Chicken Yakitori with Lightly Pickled Cucumber and Seasoned Rice
For the Chicken
500g free range chicken thigh fillets, de-boned and skinless
4 spring onions / scallions, chopped into 3cm lengths
1/4 cup light soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp maple syrup
Shichi-mi*, to serve (optional)
For the Lightly Pickled Cucumber
1/4 cup Japanese rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp mirin
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
Pinch of sea salt
2 Lebanese cucumbers, thinly sliced**
For the Seasoned Rice
1 cup sushi rice
1 tbsp Japanese rice wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp caster sugar
Trim the chicken of excess fat and chop into medium sized slices. Place the soy, mirin and maple syrup in a non-reactive bowl and stir to combine. Add the chicken and spring onion and toss to coat before covering and placing in the fridge to marinate for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix to combine the rice wine vinegar, miring, toasted sesame oil, salt and cucumber. Set aside.
Rinse the rice under cold running water until it runs clear. Drain thoroughly and add to a medium sized saucepan with 1 1/4 cups of water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes until the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat and stand, covered (no sneak peaks!) for 10 minutes.
Thread the marinated chicken and spring onion lengths onto skewers. Heat a char-grill pan – or, even better, a barbecue if you have one! – over high heat and cook the skewers until cooked through and caramelised (around 3-4 minutes each side).
To season the rice, dissolve the caster sugar with the rice wine vinegar before pouring over the warm grains. Fluff with a fork to mix through and serve alongside both the yakitori skewers and lightly pickled cucumber. Add a sprinkle of shichi-mi to serve if desired.
*Shichi-mi is a Japanese seven spice mixture and can be found in Asian grocers.
**I slice mine lengthways on a mandolin, but a broad vegetable peeler works well too.