Holiday after-glow

I’m in that post holiday haze, everything looks brighter despite the kilos of unpacking to be done and child to ready for first day back at school.

My home town delivered one of those, “you can’t beat Wellington on a good day” days for our arrival, and the garden is laden with produce. It’s great to be home.

While I’m not suffering post-holiday blues, I have found myself suffering post-holiday book blues. Book club Commandant, Mary, will be shocked to hear (a) that I finished the book and (b) that I loved it. I’m a good attender of wine group, arh, I mean book club, I just don’t always manage to get the requisite reading done. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m just not good at finishing books I don’t like.

Finishing The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has left me feeling bereft. I find myself continually thinking about the characters as if I know them. It’s a jolt of reality when I remember that it was only a book and there is no more to read. Guernsey had never been on my travel list, it is now!

One of ways I try to retain the holiday spirit is to replicate something I ate while away. In the case of my recent holiday, I learnt a breathtakingly simple way to skin a mango.

Here goes…..

20160130_214334Take a mango – of course, Queensland mangos are the best as I discovered last week.

20160130_214446Cut a large slice down one side of the stone so you end up with a large piece.

20160131_173815Using a sharp knife, carefully cut a small incision between the skin and flesh to separate them a little.

20160130_214842Then pop the incision on to the side of a glass and carefully work it down the glass. This will easily remove the pulp from the skin and will also catch any yummy juice from the mango.

20160130_214914Repeat with the other side. You’ll end up with some flesh left on the stone, which you can take off with a sharp knife.

Now, what to do with said mango. Of course, you can inhale it in a few mouthfuls or throw it into a smoothie. But I decided to put mine into a fresh summer salad using one of my favourite grains, freekeh. This is toasted green wheat and just delicious. You can also use quinoa or bulgar wheat if you can’t easily find freekeh. You can throw anything into your salad – this is what I used and it was enough for the husband to ask where the recipe came from. Not bad praise given he’s not really a salad-for-a-main sort of bloke.

What you’ll need

150g freekeh (or quinoa or bulgar)

2 poached chicken breasts (see below)

Salt

Pepper

Extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil

Juice of 1-2 lemons

Very large handful parsley, finely chopped

Large handful fresh mint, finely chopped

1 mango, skin removed as above and chopped into chunks

1-2 fresh corn cobs, husks removed and kernels sliced off

Baby spinach leaves

Optional for garnish: coconut flakes, toasted walnuts or pumpkin seeds

How to make it

Into a saucepan, add the freekeh, a large pinch of salt and three times the amount of cold water to freekeh (in this case 450g) and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover the saucepan. Simmer for around 40 minutes.

20160117_130726Check the grain. When nice and nutty, remove from heat (you may or may not have to drain). Keep the freekeh in the saucepan and season generously with salt and pepper, squeeze in half-one lemon and a good glug of oil. Cover pan with lid and set aside for flavours to penetrate. After around 20 minutes (or longer if you have it), pour freekeh into a bowl and set aside to cool.

20160131_170241While the grain is cooking, poach your chicken. This is my poaching technique. Put the chicken breasts into a saucepan so they are reasonably snug – not tight but not with loads of room around them. Cover the chicken with cold water (or a combination of water and dry white wine or stock), salt and pepper, parsley, a slice of lemon and bay (although I used dried lemon myrtle I brought back from Queensland as an alternative) and bring to a boil.

20160131_170718Reduce heat to a simmer and partially cover the saucepan. Simmer for 10 minutes. Turn heat off and cover pan for 10 minutes. This always works for me (if using a particularly large chicken breast, you may need to cook a little longer), but you can check the internal temperature of the chicken with a thermometer if you are unsure. Remove chicken from heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Then shred.

20160131_174815Once grain has cooled, assemble the salad. Add the parsley and mint to the freekeh and mix through thoroughly, then taste – season more with salt and pepper if required. Add the chicken, mango and corn and gently mix through. Mix through the spinach leaves. Mix through a little more oil and lemon juice for moisture and flavour if needed.

20160131_175244Drizzle with oil and serve with coconut flakes and toasted nuts if desired.

Thanks Marion and Ayla for the mango skinning lesson – just a shame I couldn’t bring a tray load of the golden beauties back to New Zealand.

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