Chicken Salad with Red Grapefruit, Pomegranate & Cashews
Summer is always a bit like a weather roller coaster ride in UK. Three or four weeks ago we were slathering on the suncream and shops were selling out of electric fans, then a few days later I was digging out my winter boots and a warm jacket. Today has gone back to summer. The temperature has been in the high twenties; I did actually put a bit of suncream on and I decided a nice summery salad would be great for supper.
The idea isn’t entirely mine. I saw a salad in a photo the other day but there was no description so I tried to work out what it was. I think they’d used duck but I had chicken portions in my freezer so it was easier to take out a chicken leg. Then I decided on a red grapefruit instead of orange … but hey … I’m only trying to say the seed of the idea came from a photo I came across and then here’s how I cultivated it.
Chicken goes with citrus fruit so well but I liked the idea of the sweet tartness of the grapefruit; a bit like Goldilocks – neither too sweet nor too sour but somewhere in-between. I used to be lazy and buy salad bags a lot but recently have taken to buying two or three salad leaves I like and then putting them together at the last moment. It’s always much fresher that way and the salad leaves last longer. For this salad I chose sweet pea shoots and a fiery, peppery rocket. Keeping with the opposing forces of sweet and sour – or sweet and peppery – I decided to put some pomegranate molasses in the dressing. Pomegranate molasses – which isn’t molasses at all but more a syrup – has a sweetness nicely matched by a sour edge. Finally, I’d pan roast some cashew nuts to add too.
First of all I got the chicken piece in the oven. (You could of course use leftover roast chicken, if you have some.) I roasted it quite simply with just a coating of olive oil, some seasoning of sea salt and black pepper, and a fine dusting of sumac. Sumac is such a wonderful citrusy spice and brings a real Middle Eastern touch to the dish along with the pomegranate molasses.
I roasted it for about 40 minutes (but it will depend on size of your piece of chicken), basting a couple of times, in a moderate (220C/180 Fan) oven. Then I took it out and allowed to cool a little while I made the salad. I wanted to serve the chicken slightly warm but of course cold is OK too.
I cut a pomegranate in half.
I only needed a half for one salad portion so covered the other half in cling film to store in my fridge. I tapped out some of the pomegranate seeds and reserved. Then I squeezed the juice from the rest into a bowl. To this I added about an equal amount of extra virgin olive oil, about 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses and some seasoning.
I whisked it all together and then checked the taste. I adjusted it to what I was looking for but these measurements are only a guide. Taste and get it right for you. Then it was time to attack the grapefruit! I cut the ends off, stood the grapefruit on one end, and then with a sharp knife cut away the skin and pith.
Then I carefully cut the segments free of the membrane.
I pan roasted a handful of cashew nuts till browning slightly. Then I was almost ready to go.
I decided to dress the salad leaves before adding the other ingredients so they were nicely coated. I didn’t need all I’d made, but make sure you save a little for the end.
Then I put them in a shallow dish. I cut the cooled chicken into small pieces and lay on top of the salad leaves; a nice clump in the middle. I lay the grapefruit pieces round the edge of the chicken, sprinkled over the cashews and pomegranate seeds, and then finally finished it off by spooning a little more of the dressing over the top.
I’d put a little bit of effort into making a special salad and it was definitely worthwhile. I loved the freshness of it all, especially being able to sit in my garden in the warm evening air to enjoy it. I also loved the contrasting sweet and sour flavours that came from the different ingredients. And didn’t it look pretty too!