If you need to cling to summer, this is the recipe for you. This is the not-quite-succotash, mango and coconut scented, crisp bowl of frivolity that is guaranteed to lift your spirits. If your need for it (and for something to help employ the left over cold breast of chicken from yesterday’s roast) is acute, then skip straight to the recipe at the bottom. What you’ll find is a gluten/ dairy/ egg/ potentially nut free fiesta on a plate that is guaranteed to make you smile – or at least pretend for a moment that you’re somewhere tropical with your feet dangling in the wide blue yonder.
This recipe may seem a little like seasonal whiplash. Just last week we were celebrating the most wintery of comfort dishes – Cottage Pie- and the fact that our stowaway was sweet potato sized. Whiplash is not a bad metaphor for the journey of growing a human. This week we’ve graduated to mango proportions and it’s amazing how quickly things can shift.
It’s been a nerve-inducing sort of week. Some high jinks on Friday and over the last few days have seen some additional trips for scans and injections. Rest has been high on the agenda. Once again the adage of ‘not counting chickens’ comes to mind. Just because we’ve travelled past the socially demarcated danger zone, this doesn’t guarantee clear sailing. We all know too many people, with too many sad stories to be blithe. In the last few days I’ve been slowly building a little brick wall around my heart to hide behind, just in case.
And then, just as the anxiety levels were cresting again, here she is. Like the shuffling of tissue paper in the gift wrapping box, or the gentle blooming of popcorn in a pan, she’s making herself known. Each night for the past few, just as the sun out the window starts to go down, one of my own starts to come out. There she is, stretching and pointing. It’s like having a sly charming house guest who slinks out just in time for drinks.
So with that in mind, we’ve returned to sunnier climes and are looking towards the horizon once again. This salad is the perfect thing to serve for a casual lunch, or a swift tumble together supper. It’s a charming meld of temperatures and textures, with the corn and courgette softened slightly in a pan with the tropical notes of coconut oil (though olive would also work just fine) and the shredded fennel giving just the right sort of crisp bite. The mango adds sweetness and any errant juices help stand in for a dressing. You could of course substitute the coriander for mint if you despise it, swap the mango for other ripe stone fruits and switch the chicken for crisp pieces of pork belly (or grilled tofu, if you needed a vegetarian option). Think of this as a flexible template for easy good times, when you just want to put your feet up and exhale for a little bit.
Meanwhile here’s what else is going on.
Listening: I had a sharp nostalgia tumble the other morning and started listening to The Whitlams again. Nothing takes me back to being 15 like the strains of ‘Eternal Nightcap‘ and the smell of CK One. From there it was a deep dive into the archives and before I knew it I had ‘Keep the Light On‘ from ‘Little Cloud’ on repeat five times.
Reading: Bee Wilson’s ‘First Bite – How we Learn to Eat.’ Fascinating and hopeful- particularly for someone still struggling with a child who will not consume composed dishes that don’t combine salmon and avocado in a sushi roll, buckwheat noodles with miso in a bowl or any form of carbohydrate with strawberry jam. One day, (one day) he’ll eat a plate of meatballs with sauce and spinach. Or chicken salad.
Watching: Season 7 of The Good Wife. Michael J Fox is outstanding.
Eating: Chickpea flour crepes for lunch most days; I make a batch of batter (1 cup chickpea flour, 1 cup milk, 2 eggs) and whisk it together and leave it in a tupperware in the fridge. I quickly make a pancake and stuff it with anything from quickly wilted greens and some cheese, a few tablespoons of whatever braise was leftover from last night, to more elaborate chicken mornay scenarios. It’s an alternative to toast and having the batter pre made means it’s on the table in five minutes. Also, dinner at Acre in Sydney last Wednesday night- possibly one of the most convivial, enjoyable meals I’ve had out in a long time. The porchetta with quince sauce is outstanding and great value to share among a crowd and there is a fried brussels sprouts with strained yoghurt side that is begging to be reinvented at home.
On my soap box: Who’s terrific idea was it to track down the last remaining safe pain killer for pregnant women and declare it associated with behavioral problems in seven year olds? Let me join every other gestating woman with migraines in thanking you for the extra dose of guilt.
Ogling: I’m sick of non stick pans which don’t stay non stick (#firstworldproblem) .Plus, there seems to be some compelling evidence that cast iron is much better for our health. Hence these sautee pans from Solidteknics are on the birthday wish list.
Mango Chicken Summer Salad
1 cooked chicken breast, shredded
1/2 red onion, cut into slim half moons
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
pinch of salt
1 small fennel, ends trimmed and shaved on a mandolin
1 tbsp coconut oil (or mild olive oil)
1 cob of corn
1 medium zuchinni/courgette, diced
1 ripe mango, peeled, cored and cut into slivers
1/2 red chilli, finely sliced
1 handful coriander, leaves picked, ends trimmed and stems finely diced
1 handful almonds, roughly chopped (replace with pepitas if nut free)
1) In a small bowl combine the slivers of red onion with a pinch of salt and 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar. Allow to steep for 15 minutes to quickly pickle.
3) Combine the chicken and corn mix with the other ingredients in a bowl. Add any juices from dicing the mango and any acid remaining from pickling the onions and gently toss to combine. Serve immediately.
Previously in Poppyseed to Pumpkin
Each week mad websites and baby books will tell you how big your baby now is in comparison to a seed, fruit or vegetable. It starts as a poppy seed and goes from there. To make this process a little more palatable, join me as I bake my way through. Here’s the journey so far. (Nb, you can also see the poppy seed to pumpkin process in the app, or ebook from my first pregnancy with Will, or read about it on the blog here.)