I believe people come into your life for a reason – or a season as the saying goes. But I for one get particularly annoyed when friends / family members break up with their partners before I had the chance to lay my grubby hands on a recipe of theirs I fancied.
ME: “Oh I am so sorry she left you! And she took Mittens the Cat!? … AND your Depeche Mode collection? How awful! …. OK, so … um …. did she by any chance leave the recipe of that pasta dish we all loved?”
You see, people enter our lives, and even though their culinary skills (albeit some rather unrefined) are long gone; I am still left with the unfinished business of having to figure out their dishes which were winners – all by myself. (This comes from my unrelenting obsession with food – not relationships).
Of course, nowadays I am so much more on-the-ball. If I met you at a party and you served a dip I couldn’t stop thinking about, you will more more than likely get stalked by me on Facebook until you have surrendered the secret. Just in case our paths never cross again.
I once went to a 21st and hounded the mother (who catered the event) so much about her delicious chicken pate (I was only 20 at the time) that she sent me home with a tupperware full of it. After a night of dancing, I walked happily to my car with my high heels in one hand and the Tupperware in the other!
So, back to the dish today > I have had to tweak it slightly to make it easy on our hips, but this recipe is my attempted recreation of a pasta I loved dearly by someone I once knew – who in turn dated someone I still know. Seasons-and-reasons aside – I am just glad I got it right. It’s marvellous. Enjoy!
Seasons-and-reasons Chicken Pasta – serves 4
4 Chicken Breasts (skinless, deboned … you know the drill) – sliced
1 packet Mushrooms (250g) – thickly sliced
1 Green Pepper – sliced
16 Sun-dried Tomatoes – chopped (about ½ packet of Ina Paarman SDT)
1 Red Onion – sliced
1 TB Crushed Garlic
1 TB Olive Oil
2 TB Mrs Balls Chutney – LITE (the sugar-free kind)
125ml Reduced Fat Cream
Salt and Pepper
Jalapenos to garnish – sliced (this is not optional, they ‘lift’ this dish incredibly)
2 Cups Wheat free Rye Pasta (or whatever Low GI option pasta you prefer)
Start by chopping all the goodies you need, and season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
This preparation is called MISE-EN-PLACE and it is a French term used in professional kitchens, which means ‘everything in its place’. Basically – it means you are ready to rock-and-roll and power up the heat on your frying pan because all your prep is done.
You can also get your pasta on the go – this you can cook according to packet instructions.
Heat only 1TB oil in a non-stick pan and fry the chicken pieces until crisp and brown, turning only once. It may not be cooked all the way through, but that is not an issue right now, as we will finish off the cooking later. At the moment, we are just getting some flavour on the chicken. It’s so easy to overcook and dry out chicken breasts – so take note of this great technique of cooking in two phases. Remove it from the pan, and make sure that the plate you place it in is not the same one the raw chicken was sitting in (or if it was – make sure it was washed)
NOTE: The reason we cook the meat and vegetables separately is simply because the onions, green peppers etc will take LONGER to soften than it will take the chicken to cook through. By doing it separately, you have an end product of succulent chicken and soft veg. Smart thinking, I know.
Now add the red onion and green peppers to the pan. These can adequately fry up in the juices remaining from the chicken – but they will start to burn through. The best thing to do in this situation is reduce the heat and add dashes of water every now and then. You want softened onions and green peppers and it is NOT necessary to fry them in oil… they can ‘steam-fry’ in a little water. I learnt this tip from Patrick Holford and it’s very clever.
You may even want to place a lid on while the onions and green peppers soften. Some people like the “crunchy, flash-fry” of green peppers and onions. I do NOT. In fact, it’s a miracle green peppers even made it onto this blog, but the truth is they ‘bulk’ up the dish and the green pepper flavour is actually very important. Keep stirring with your spatula, adding drops of water every time you think you may just be burning it. This deglazes your pan and ensures no flavour is lost. You can add the garlic now too.
NOTE: As I mentioned before on one of my earlier posts… garlic burns faster than onions, so it should be added a little while after the onions. In this case, they are ‘steam-frying’ but still important to stop the little bits from burning.
Once you are happy with the fact that your green peppers and onions are cooked nicely through and there is good fragrance coming from the garlic – add the mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and chutney.
Cook the mushrooms through, and then you can raise the heat slightly and add the chicken. Stir well for a few minutes to avoid it burning, remember you can add a dash of water every now and again to deglaze, if necessary, but adding the chicken will add some juices anyway. Test one thick chicken piece to see that it is cooked through ie. not pink.
And here is where it all comes together *drumroll* – Measure 125ml reduced-fat cream and pour into the pan, reducing the heat and stirring it all until the cream is warmed through. (You don’t want the cream boiling – it will split)
NOTE: Before you freak out about the fact that there is cream in this dish, let’s remember for a moment that ONE tablespoon of olive oil was rationed between 4 people when we fried up our skinless chicken. In addition, the reduced-fat-cream stands at 1063kJ per 125ml … this is then only 265kJ per person! Not bad at all, considering two dry rice cakes are approx. 300kJ. You see, it’s all about balance – and accurate measurements. Investing in measuring spoons and measuring cups is a great start!
Serve this over low GI pasta – with a green salad on the side. You can take one small spoonful of the reduced fat cream to drizzle over the pasta – and then top with a pile of delicious, sliced Jalapenos (I like the Goldcrest kind).