Regular readers will know that I had to get a personal trainer because being a food writer made me fat (there is absolutely nothing wrong with being fat – I just wasn’t happy). When I first started he – my personal trainer – asked me to keep a food diary, to which I responded, “boy, are you in for a shock.”
At the time I was judging an afternoon tea competition, which required me to eat six teas a week for a couple of months. I’ve never seen anyone’s mouth drop open so fast (except perhaps mine every time I walk into the kitchen and see the peanut butter banana bread I’ll be posting about next week).
Every now and again he still says something like, “so, how’s the food going?” to which I respond, “um, yeah fine” because I really don’t know what else to say. How do I tell him that I started the day with a cheese börek from the Turkish food centre, spent the day testing recipes, which meant I ate two lunches and then I’m out for dinner because I’m working on an area guide?
Yeah I know, you’re jealous. Well, let me tell you that actually, eating a lot is hard. Often I just want to sit in bed and slurp instant noodles while watching Netflix.
And sometimes, I just want to eat a salad.
I made this salad on Snapchat last week and loads of people asked for the recipe. It barely resembles a traditional Caesar but really, who cares? The chicken is cooked on the BBQ because that’s fun and tastes great, but we’ve also had it just grilled or bashed thin then fried in a skillet. We add Tenderstem broccoli because I’m obsessed with it and also because this salad is a celebration of green things. I love the flavours of Caesar but really it’s just a load of lettuce in a bowl. This, my friends, is more satisfying.
Finally, no mayo here because I just find it gross in dressings, coating the back of your throat like engine oil. Grim. Yoghurt is fresher and combined with garlic, Parmesan and anchovies makes a really lovely, rich yet sharp dressing.
Oh, one more thing – there’s a lot of garlic here, so I wouldn’t advise eating this before, say, a meeting, or indeed any human contact. Big flavours are what makes healthy-ish food work for me – it’s basically the opposite of energy balls, obscure flours and the milking of things that have no teats (see: almonds). I’m all about balancing salads with banana bread, and I’m about hitting a gym where the trainer kicks my ass so hard I sweat from my eyelids.
Super Green BBQ Chicken Caesar Salad
This serves two for a massive lunch that’ll make you feel like a total boss in the nutrition department.
For the dressing
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 scant teaspoon sea salt
5 anchovy fillets
100g grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice ½ lemon (but reserve the other half)
3-5 tablespoons natural yoghurt
For the chicken
4 chicken thighs, boneless (I leave the skin on because again, I’m not wasting chicken skin for the sake of saving calories)
Salt and pepper
For the salad
6 spring onions
200g Tenderstem broccoli
2 little gem lettuces, leaves separated
Prepare a BBQ for direct cooking.
Open out the chicken thighs and give them a little bash if needed to make them the same thickness all over. We used skewers to fan them out too as you can see from the photos. When it’s ready, rub the spring onions and broccoli with a little oil and salt and pepper, and grill under tender and slightly charred (5-10 minutes).
Set aside while you cook the chicken. Season and cook over direct heat, turning every so often, until cooked through – around 20 minutes depending on the size of the thighs.
In a pestle and mortar, bash up the garlic with a pinch of salt. Add in the anchovy fillets and mush them up too. Add about half the cheese, mush it up then add the yoghurt. Stir in the rest of the cheese, plus the oil and lemon juice. Check for seasoning and balance – add more lemon juice or some black pepper if you want it.
Mix the lettuce leaves and a heaped tablespoon of the dressing in a large bowl then mix with hands. Do the same thing with the Tenderstem and spring onions.
Arrange on a plate and top with the chicken and a bit more of the dressing to taste.