Saturday, 19 January 2008

Sticky Chicken, Butternut Squash Roasted with Fennel and Ginger with Sesame Spring Greens

This is a dish that I created that captures all the eastern flavours of Chinese cuisine but cooked in a western style.
I love butternut squash and have tried it cooked in several ways, but roasting it really brings out its nutty sweetness. Considering this, I was wondering what flavourings would work well with it. The aniseed-like aroma of fennel and spicy hit of ginger immediately sprang to mind, and I think it works well with the richly marinated chicken.
The spring greens, I admit, were an afterthought, but I have tried to carry on the oriental theme by cooking them lightly with the addition of sesame oil.
Serves 2

For the chicken
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons medium dry sherry such as amontillado
1 tablespoon runny honey
2 garlic cloves, grated
Bristol blend pepper*, freshly ground
2 chicken breasts

For the squash
1 small to medium sized butternut squash
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 inch piece fresh ginger
Bristol blend pepper*, freshly ground
sea salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the greens
vegetable oil
2 heads spring greens
pinch sea salt
sesame seeds
sesame oil

First make the marinade for the chicken.
Put the soy sauce, sherry, honey, garlic and a few good grinds of pepper into a bowl and mix well until the honey dissolves and combined.
Make several diagonal slashes in each chicken breast, then put them into the marinade and stir to make sure they are evenly coated. Set aside for an hour or more.

Preheat the oven on Gas 6 / 200C / 400F and put in a tray to get nice and hot.
Cut the squash into about two inch chunks, remove any seeds. There's no need to peel it as roasting makes the skin very edible.
Grind the fennel seeds in an electric spice or coffee grinder until they become a fine powder.
Peel and then grate the ginger into a large bowl, add the ground fennel, salt and a few generous twists of the pepper mill and mix in the oil.
Toss in the squash and stir around until it is coated with the spice mixture.
Remove the hot tray from the oven and tip in the squash, return straight back to the oven and place on the top shelf for about 40 minutes. About half way through cooking, turn over the squash pieces so they they brown evenly.
The squash is done when it it nice and soft.

Too cook the chicken, heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan, remove the chicken from the marinade with tongs (keep the marinade) and place in the pan. Be careful as it will splatter quite a bit. Cook on a fairly high heat so that it takes on a charred appearance, turn over and do the same for the other side.
Reduce the heat and add the reserved marinade, cook gently, turning occasionally until the chicken is cooked all the way through and the marinade creates a sticky coating.

For the greens, removed the tough central veins from the leaves and finely shred.
Heat a small amount of oil in a wok, then add the greens. Stir fry for a minute or so until they become shiny and slightly wilted. Season with salt, tip in the sesame seeds and fry for another minute, then stir in a few drops of sesame oil.

Serve the chicken on top of the greens with the squash on the side.

*Bristol blend pepper is combination of black, white, pink and green peppercorns with allspice (pimento) berries


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