Friday, July 16, 2004

Chicken & Mango Focaccia

As a young PR consultant I used to spend my lunchtimes scouring the various shops of Paddington, looking for something delicious but cheap to eat. 

George in the corner shop on Underwood Street used to make a top tuna and onion sandwich for my very pedantic boss.  "Is it for her?" he used to asked in his gruff, heavily accented English.  I'd nod and he'd say "I know what she likes!".  He also sold extremely good caramel fudge, made by an old lady who brought it in fresh every Friday.  I used to line up for that stuff.  She died seven or so years later and I heard she bequeathed the fudge recipe along with her bowl and wooden spoon to the gay guys who ran to bread shop on the main drag.  I don't think they ever made the fudge though - they sold the shop not long after so I never got to ask them.

One of my favourite splurges for lunch was the chicken and mango focaccia at Anastasia's.  focaccia has not even peaked in popularity at that stage - it was still 'special' bread.  Thick, fresh, they'd pile a heap of chicken swimming in seriously fattening sauce with strips of mango onto one side of the bread, warming in the grill, then toasting it on either side, slicing it and handing it over in exchange for five bucks.  Pricey!  For those days anyway.  I would race back to my office and scoff that sandwich, all the while fighting off Kevin the snow white samoid, who reckoned what was mine was his!

Last year I sat down to recreate that sandwich.  What I came up with was pretty close to the original.  I did try to exclude some of the calories.  I don't think I succeeded that well though!

400g chicken breast fillet
3 mangoes
2 tblsp olive oil
1 brown onion
1-2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
3 tblsp mango chutney
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup low fat plain yoghurt (choose a smooth one!)
1/2 cup sour cream

1. Slice chicken breast fillets in thin strips no more than 2 inches long.

2. Peel mangoes and cut all flesh off seed, then slice into thin strips about 6mm wide.  Set aside.

3. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a deep fry pan or wok and stir-fry chicken pieces until nicely browned.  You might want to do this in two or three lots so as not to overcrowd the pan.  Use a little extra olive oil if necessary.  Set chicken aside. 

4. Peel onion, cut in half then slice into thin crescents.  Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in the
pan and cook onions until just transparent. Add spices and continue to cook for one minute on a medium heat.   Make sure you have the windows open for this part as cooking spices can often create a bit of smoke!  Be care not to allow your spice to burn! 

5. Return chicken to pan and blend with spices and onions.  Add yoghurt and sour cream to pan.  Stir until all ingredients are combined. 

6. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add mango chutney and stir through. 

7. Finally, remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Gently fold through fresh mango slices.  Be very careful not to over mix as this will mash the ripe mango and turn it to mush.

8. Slice four inch square pieces of focaccia bread in half.  Lightly toast crusty sides in griller.  Remove and arrange on a plate.  Spoon chicken and mango mixture onto one half of focaccia.  Sandwich together with other half and cut on the diagonal.  Garnish with fresh coriander leaf.

Note: there are many types of mango chutney on the market - choose one that's thick, has large pieces of fruit in it and is translucent in appearance.  Avoid ones that are cloudy and overly sweet.

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