This time yesterday I was seeing off the end of a particularly vicious birthday hangover. To celebrate turning 30, I drank for a sustained period of time from champagne with Thursday breakfast, to afternoon G&Ts, to quinine sours with dinner at Gymkhana, to more champagne with Friday breakfast, to afternoon G&Ts, to copious amounts of gin, vodka and Jager at my Friday night birthday drinks. After seeing sense and taking myself off to bed at 4am, I was hit with a hangover so debilitating that the only food I could manage was either that I could order to my door or that I could make in a toaster. Hence having not posted anything here for almost a week. Birthdays are very distracting, especially when you have friends that are generous at the bar.
By Sunday evening I began to feel well enough to venture back into the kitchen, put all of the empty bottles into the recycling and make something that would vaguely resemble dinner. Shame prevented me from ordering yet more take out and, sadly, none of the restaurants locally have a dress code that includes ‘snowman pyjamas’, so I was left with little choice. Ollie kindly ventured out to the local supermarket and came back with the ingredients to make the mother of all comfort food: a roast chicken dinner. And it was beautiful: roast chicken, gravy, perfect roast potatoes, roasted carrots and green beans. My contribution to the meal was actually very little – I peeled the carrots – but I had successfully broken out of the slob-zone and was back to real food.
As there is only two of us, we always have a lot of chicken left over from a roast – even from relatively small birds. My favourite thing to do is to sit down after the meal and strip the last of the chicken from the carcass, putting it on a plate for another purpose later on. The beauty about cold roast chicken is that it can be used for so many things. My mother always served us up chicken pie on Mondays to use up the leftover roast. My particular favourite is an enormous sandwich of roast chicken, a crushed roast potato, a smear of leftover gravy, mayonnaise and rocket on some very thick brown bread – the ultimate sandwich of shame. This particular bird yielded rather a lot of chicken, so instead I went looking for something a little more substantial, but not a million miles away: a bread salad.
Adding bread to a salad is a great way to bulk out a meal and an alternative to the more traditional carbohydrates of rice and pasta. It is also a great way to use up stale bread as older bread tends to be more robust when combined with wetter ingredients – fresh bread has a tendency to disintegrate. Probably the most famous example of this kind of meal is the panzanella – an Italian salad of tomatoes, stale bread, olive oil and vinegar – but recently cooks are experimenting with a larger range of ingredients. This dish combines traditional salad stalwarts – chicken, rocket, tomatoes and olive oil – but is given a middle eastern twist with grilled aubergines, pine nuts, Harissa and pomegranate seeds. For the bread, it is best to use a good middle eastern flatbread, such as levash, but pitta bread will do if you cannot find it. Frying it in a little olive oil until crisp will give the salad an interesting texture.
Roast Chicken and Bread Salad with Harissa, Pine Nuts
- 500g leftover roast chicken
- 2 large flatbreads (see above)
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 aubergine, cut into 1cm dice
- 250g cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1½ tbsp harissa
- 2 large handfuls rocket
- Seeds of half a pomegranate
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- Sea salt and black pepper
If the chicken has been stored in the fridge, leave it on the side until it reaches room temperature. Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a frying pan, tear up the flatbreads roughly with your hands and fry in the oil until crisp. You will need pieces of roughly 1-2″ squared. Put the chicken and flatbreads pieces in a large bowl. In the same frying pan, heat 2 tbsp of the remaining olive oil and fry the aubergine until browned and tender. Add this to the bowl along with the cherry tomatoes.
In a small bowl, combine the Harissa and the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil. Pour over the chicken, bread and vegetable mix and toss until well coated. Season well and toss through the rocket leaves and scatter the pine nuts and pomegranate seeds over the top. Serve at room temperature.
Adapted from a recipe by BBC Good Food, serves four as a main course.