Vietnamese chicken and rice noodle soup. Photo: Marina Oliphant
With a little planning you can create three delicious meals from one chicken, using the meat and extracting flavour from the bones. Buy the best organic chicken you can find.
Vietnamese chicken and rice noodle soup
If you start your trio of dishes with this seductively aromatic soup, your chicken will be prepared for the next two meals. The fresh herbs, chilli and bean sprouts add texture and lift to the spice-laden broth.
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 cinnamon quill
2 star anise
10 cloves garlic, crushed
10cm ginger, peeled and sliced
1 red onion, sliced
1.7kg organic chicken with the breasts removed (reserve for the chicken and pancetta salad)
2 tbsp salt
2 stalks lemongrass
6 kaffir lime leaves, whole
6cm piece galangal, sliced
3lt cold water
3 tbsp fish sauce
50g palm sugar
6 spring onions, sliced on an angle
1 punnet shiitake mushrooms, each sliced in half
1kg wide fresh rice noodles, rinsed in hot water
3 large red chillies, sliced250g bean sprouts
1 bunch of mixed herbs such as Asian basil, Vietnamese mint and standard mint, left as sprigs to be picked at the table and piled into the broth
1 lemon, cut in wedges
1. In a large stockpot add the oil and all the spices and toast for three minutes over a medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger and red onion and cook for three minutes.
2. Add the chicken, salt, lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal and water. Bring to a simmer over a high heat, reduce heat to low and continue to simmer for one hour.
3. Lift the chicken out and strain the broth.
4. Put the strained broth back on the heat, season with fish sauce and palm sugar and bring back to a simmer.
5. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull all the flesh from the legs and carcass and set aside half for your fried rice.
6. Drop the other half of the meat into the soup along with the spring onions, shiitake mushrooms and noodles and heat for three minutes. Ladle into bowls and pass around the chilli, bean sprouts and the herbs and lemon to squeeze over.
Drink Jasmine tea or lager.
Chicken and pancetta salad with crisp parsnip and saba dressing
This is a perfect light salad for lunch. Saba is a syrup made from cooked grape must and adds an underlying richness and complexity to the dressing. You can prepare the chicken beforehand and put the salad together at the last minute.
2 chicken breasts, skin removed (reserved from the soup recipe)
1 tsp salt flakes
2 cloves garlic
5 sprigs thyme
10 strips flat pancetta, finely sliced
2 large parsnips
Extra virgin olive oil
50ml saba (available from good delis)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 corella pears, cored and sliced
2 handfuls rocket leaves
2 handfuls watercress, picked
1/4 bunch Italian parsley, leaves picked and torn
1/4 red onion, sliced
60g toasted walnuts, tossed in a little oil, seasoned with salt
1. Separate the fillet from the tenderloin and cut fillet into three long strips, giving you four pieces per breast.
2. In a mortar and pestle, smash the salt flakes, garlic, thyme and peppercorns, pounding hard until you have a paste. Then dry rub this all over the chicken.
3. Roll each strip of chicken up in a piece of pancetta, press flat and set aside in the fridge.
4. Peel the parsnips, discarding the outer peel. Continue peeling the flesh to end up with long, thin ribbons.
5. Place a large frying pan over high heat and add a good splash of oil. Add a handful of the parsnip ribbons, fry quickly until light brown and drain on paper towel. Continue with the remaining parsnip. Season with salt, repeat until all ribbons are fried - they will crisp as they cool. Set aside.
6. Combine saba with a splash of extra-virgin oil, salt and pepper in a bowl, adjust dressing to taste. Toss the pear slices in dressing so all are coated.
7. Wipe out frying pan and place over a high heat. Add a splash of oil, then sear the chicken. Cook for two minutes until golden brown, pressing down on each piece as it cooks, then flip over and cook for another two minutes until crisp.
8. Place some rocket, watercress, parsley, dressed pear slices and a little onion on the platter. Top with the chicken, a few more leaves and slices of pear. Pour over the dressing and top with parsnip chips and scattered walnuts.
Fried rice with chicken, ginger and egg
The third dish is really satisfying and quick to whip up, especially if you have cooked rice to hand. Both white and brown rice work well, but the latter has a wonderful nutty flavour and a chewy texture.
2 cups long-grain rice
2 tsp sesame oil
80ml vegetable oil
60ml light soy sauce
2 tbsp white sugar
3 cloves garlic
8cm ginger, peeled and julienned
2 stalks celery, finely sliced
1 cup picked chicken (from the soup recipe)
3 heaped tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 bunch spring onions, finely sliced on an angle
1 small packet bean sprouts (about 250g)
1 handful coriander leaves
1 green chilli, snipped
1. Boil rice, drain and spread on a tray to cool for 25 minutes, or cook the rice the day before and leave in the fridge overnight. You will need three to four cups of cold, cooked rice.
2. Crack eggs into a bowl with one teaspoon sesame oil and lightly beat with a fork.
3. In a heated wok (or wok-style pan), add a splash of vegetable oil and the eggs to make a quick omelet, flip and remove from pan, roll up, chop roughly and set aside.
4. In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, sugar and remaining sesame oil.
5. Place wok over a high heat, add a tablespoon and a half of vegetable oil, then fry the garlic and ginger for three minutes. Add the celery and cook for one minute.
6. Add the cooked chicken, sesame seeds and cook for another minute.
7. Scatter the rice into the wok, separating with fingers, then add soy mix and stir quickly to combine.
8. Add the sliced omelet, spring onion and sprouts, stir through and check seasoning, adding more soy if necessary. Serve piping hot, sprinkled with coriander leaves and snipped chilli.
Tip to make a more classic fried rice, add one sliced lap cheong Chinese pork sausage or chopped bacon when you fry off the garlic and ginger in step five, and finish with half a cup of cooked prawns.