• Smoked chicken salad

    Smoked chicken salad

    Here’s a life saver – a recipe of infinite variety and tastiness.

    Even over the last month, when time to spend on catering has been at a minimum, three different versions have emerged from the kitchen. The constants are a smoky flavoured bird (either chicken or quail, but duck would be great too), a mayonnaise-based dressing and Italian prosciutto or grilled pancetta. For ease butterflied and smoked quail or smoked chicken meat turn very nice tricks. If there’s time to cook, I’ll marinate chicken thighs in smoked paprika, olive oil, ground pepper and salt flakes and cook them in a single layer in a roasting pan for 25 minutes.

    Best’s Mayonnaise (the jar with the blue lid) is the best commercial preparation on the shelves. The smoky theme can continue into the dressing with the addition of smoked paprika as well as Dijon mustard and squeeze of lemon. At other times red pepper relish (available in jars) sparks up the humble bottled mayo.

    The choice of prosciutto (left in its natural state) or pancetta (grilled till crisp) will probably depend on ready availability. Either is delicious.

    Rocket usually gets a gig because it is the tastiest of all the green leaves with its nutty pepperiness. It has wintered over very well in the garden and now there are extra tasty and prettily veined flowers to sprinkle over the top. Sometimes waxy potatoes sneak into the salad, but only if I have time; ditto roasted and vinaigrette-dressed red pepper strips. A ripe avocado doesn’t go astray; neither do quarters of mini Roma tomatoes if there is no time to roast the peppers.

    Team up with 2007 Spring Vale Pinot Gris for a lively summer combination.

    The Recipe

    Smoked chicken salad (serves 2-3)
    1 large smoked chicken breast, cut into thin slices
    big handful rocket leaves, plus flowers if available
    8 mini Roma tomatoes, cut into quarters
    1 large avocado, cut into chunks
    8 thin slices pancetta
    Place a sheet of foil on a grill tray. Lay the slices of pancetta on top. Grill under high heat, turning once until the pancetta is golden on the edges. Cool on paper towel. As the pancetta cools it will crisp up. Break it up into pieces with your hands.
    Toss together the smoked chicken, rocket leaves, tomatoes, avocado and pancetta.
    Sprinkle the salad with the rocket flowers if available. Drizzle with the mayonnaise dressing and serve at once.
    For the mayonnaise dressing:
    half cup Best’s Mayonnaise
    1 tsp Dijon mustard
    one-quarter tsp Spanish smoked paprika
    generous squeeze lemon juice
    Mix all together and thin with a little hot water so that it is a fluid, dolloping consistency.