Saturday 25 January 2020

The Domestic: How to satisfy Appalling Appetites

This healthy chicken fried rice, Sophie White admits, is a long way from the snacks of slices of cheese smeared with pate of her youth, but it's just as delicious

Healthy chicken fried rice.
Healthy chicken fried rice.
Sophie White

I don't usually take requests for recipes featured in this column, but a friend of mine asked me to do more healthy versions of takeaway faves such as the 
Pad Thai that I featured a few weeks ago. This got me thinking about how much we all care about diets these days.

Nearly everyone I know has a pretty dysfunctional relationship with food. I'm not talking about people with actual mental illnesses but the middle-ground folk who resolve week after week to eat better and fail repeatedly. More often than not consoling themselves with a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and a slab of Delice de Bourgogne (I'm very specific in my consolatory treats).

Regarding my own dysfunctional relationship with food, I'm all or nothing. I'm either binging on deep-fried Mars bars or weighing pieces of ham before consuming with a few dry Ryvitas.

I thought that I really envied people who could eat whatever they like without gaining an ounce but I actually think if I were to develop a high-speed metabolism I would probably lose the will to do anything in life aside from eating.

It's really only the fact that I can't eat 24 hours a day that means I can get anything else done. Pursuing my goals, maintaining inter-personal relationships, creating meaningful memories would all fall by the wayside 
if I could just lie around eating 
lime-flavoured Doritos with tzatziki 
all day and still get into my jeans.

I'm just one of those people who is never too full for dessert, can finish a large popcorn in the cinema and still go for a meal after and is genuinely baffled when someone describes a meal as "too rich". How could it be too rich? Surely that's like saying it was "too delicious".

Unsurprisingly, I once had gout - 
a bizarre Dickensian ailment associated with port-guzzling, goose-fat swilling Uncle Montys and that ilk. Herself was mortified and told me to say it was cellulitis. In my teenage wisdom I thought that something containing the word cellulite was far more embarrassing and stuck to the truth.

Fat Tits puts it down to the fact that as teenagers foraging for food in my parents' house - the house of condiments, you might recall - we were often short a vehicle to purvey their fabulous condiments to our mouths.

Necessity is the mother of invention and before long we had pioneered the cheese cracker. This is where one uses a thick slice of cheese in place of a traditional cracker and leads to such atrocities as cheese smeared with pate - oh, and gout, of course.

Guilt-free Chicken Fried Rice

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side.

You will need:

2 chicken breasts

2 tablespoons soy sauce, plus some for frying

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce

1 tablespoon 5-spice powder

2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger

1 clove garlic, finely sliced

2 carrots

4 spring onions

2 eggs

400g (14oz or 1 small head) cauliflower

a little oil for frying

80g (3oz) frozen peas

200g cooked rice

Small bunch of fresh coriander

Slice each chicken breast into five strips and place in a small oven tray - I used an 8in (21cm) square tin. Add the soy sauce, the rice wine vinegar, the mustard, the honey, the sweet chilli sauce and the 5-spice powder, along with the chopped ginger and sliced garlic. Combine, coating the chicken well.

Cover with cling film and marinate for at least 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4, and cook the tray of chicken, in the marinade, for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Prepare the vegetables - peel and finely dice the carrots, finely slice the spring onions, beat the eggs in a bowl and grate the cauliflower, leaving out the stalks. Arrange each element on plates within easy reach of the stove.

When the chicken is ready, using two forks, pull the meat apart leaving it in what remains of the marinade - this gives the meat loads of flavour and keeps it nice and moist. Heat a little oil in a large non-stick pan over a high heat and add the carrots. Stir-fry these for a couple of minutes to soften slightly, and then add the peas, the spring onions and beaten eggs.

Using a spatula, quickly scramble the eggs among the veg. Throw in the chicken, remaining marinade and the cauliflower and rice. Stir-fry over the heat, adding in a bit more soy sauce. Ensure everything is well combined, then divide between bowls and top with a bit of fresh coriander.

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