This lovely healthy dinner began life under a cloud. I was in a bad mood having left Cornwall at 6am for a four and half hour drive to London, eaten A LOT of chocolate Easter eggs and then had my plans for dinner thwarted by a £23 sea bass. It was a good-looking wild West Country sea bass, all glistening, plump and silver, perfect for a celebration but above and beyond the budget for a weekday meal for two. Just no.
I wanted the sea bass for a recipe of chef Jason Atherton‘s, featured in the March issue of Waitrose Kitchen. There were smaller, farmed sea bass on offer at lower prices, but they didn’t have half the sparkly-eyed looks of that wild one. I also quickly realised that I couldn’t part with £10 for the 200g of white crab meat, required for the crab fried rice.
Cue disappointment. So, I made an on-the-spot decision to forget the crab and try the recipe with roast chicken instead of sea bass. I followed my failsafe method for roasting chicken (so far, the most popular recipe on my blog), using all the same flavours as for the sea bass with a few tweaks. I served it with egg-fried brown rice flecked with spring onion and Asian-style beansprouts and pak choi on the side. Oodles of freshly-squeezed lime and coriander complete the meal.
Turns out this comparitively budget version of Jason Atherton’s lovely recipe is a fresh, low-fat take on the classic roast chicken dinner. I didn’t even miss gravy, because the mirin rice wine, ginger, soy and lime made for deeply savoury roast chicken juices. So far, it’s done a meal for two and enough leftovers for three weekday lunches. Not bad at all.
Ingredients for the roast chicken: (Serves 4 comfortably or enough for 2 with leftovers)
1 chicken (I bought an organic one weighing 1.78kg, price £12.65)
3 limes, zest and juice
80g coriander, leaves and stalks separated
3 garlic cloves, sliced or left whole as you wish
3 shallots, quartered
150g fresh root ginger, sliced into fine rounds
4 tbsp soy sauce
90ml mirin rice wine
lime wedges, to serve
Ingredients for the ‘egg-fried and more-interesting-than-usual’ brown rice:
2 tbsp rapeseed or groundnut oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 or 3 eggs
freshly-cooked brown rice (I follow Delia Smith’s method and use 5 fl oz/150 ml of rice with 10 fl oz/275 ml of hot water, enough for 4 people)
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 spring onions, finely chopped
freshly-ground white pepper
Ingredients for hot pak choi and beansprout ‘salad’:
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
235g pak choi, leaves separated
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 chilli, finely-sliced (Jason recommends a Thai chilli – I used a regular red one with the seeds and it was plenty hot enough)
1 tbsp lime juice
The roast chicken
Follow Delia Smith’s fast method for roast chicken, explained in my ‘Perfect roast chicken every time’ post, but using the flavourings listed above.
So, halve and juice the limes, pour the juice over the chicken and place the juiced halves into the chicken cavity and scattered around it. Also place the coriander stalks into the cavity (leaving the coriander leaves aside for use later). Add the garlic, ginger and shallots and pour the water, soy sauce and mirin rice wine over the chicken. (As a note, don’t overfill the chicken cavity – you want heat to circulate as it cooks.) Now, season with ground white pepper and roast.
When you take the chicken out of the oven, check it’s cooked and cover with foil to rest. I like to leave it for about half an hour, so the meat relaxes properly and I actually think roast chicken tastes more delicious if it isn’t mouth-searingly hot. Dip the chicken slices into the pan juices before serving up. Lovely.
(TIP: A good tip from my friend, Sainsbury’s deputy food editor Hannah is to try steaming the chicken in the oven by placing it under a tent of foil then whipping the foil off after an hour to finish browning it in the oven. I haven’t yet tried this, but will do next time.)
Delicious brown rice
Jason Atherton uses jasmine rice in his recipe, but I like the nuttiness of brown, and it gets a big plus for being so healthy. Cook the rice according to packet instructions or following the Delia method for perfect rice, above. Leave the hot pan of freshly-cooked rice with a clean tea towel clamped down under the lid – this absorbs extra moisture and is a tip I learned from Simon Hopkinson.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan or wok, then add the garlic and a small pinch of salt before the oil gets too hot. You don’t want the garlic to catch. Fry gently until it smells good, then crack the eggs into the pan, allowing them to set slightly before scrambling. While they’re still soft and gooey, add the brown rice and, making sure the heat is low, toss it all together. Season with the soy sauce, a pinch of sugar and ground white pepper. Stir in the chopped spring onions and set aside.
Hot pak choi and beansprout ‘salad’
Make this just before serving. I call it hot because mine was, so if you don’t like too much heat, omit the seeds from the chilli or use less. Heat the oil in a wok and add the crushed garlic, pak choi and beansprouts. Fry it in the pan for a few minutes so the beansprouts heat through thoroughly and the pak choi wilts enough to eat. Take off the heat and add the fish sauce, chilli and lime juice.
As with all cooking, season to your taste. Serve with lime wedges on the side and plenty of chopped fresh coriander. I also added juices from the chicken pan and liberally sprinkled freshly-ground white pepper over the finished dishes, but be aware that fresh white pepper is also pretty darn hot, so avoid if necessary. Enjoy.