|Tender, mint-infused chicken breasts with a sticky-sweet honey and soy glaze|
I was stumped by this week’s mystery-box ingredients (see the list at the bottom of this page). The spices in the list hinted loudly at a home-made Chinese five-spice powder, while coconut and soy sauce confirmed the Asian theme. But, oddly, there was no acidifying agent (such as lime or rice vinegar) in the ingredients list, and my first three recipe attempts were disappointing flops.
|These are some of the ingredients I had to work with.
Picture courtesy of Woolworths.
In the end, I decided to focus on my favourite flavours in the list, and to combine them in a simple dish of succulent chicken breasts infused with fresh mint and chilli, and coated with rainbow peppercorns and a honey/soy sauce glaze. Mint, peppercorns and chicken are an unusual combination – but why not?
The only tricky part about this recipe is making sure the chicken is perfectly cooked. This is not as easy as it sounds, because the one end of a bone-in chicken breast is considerably thicker than the other. How long your chicken will take to cook depends, of course, on the size of the pieces. I always cut a deep slit into the thickest part of the breast, then prise it open to check that it’s cooked to the bone. Any sign of pinkness in the juices, and I put it back in the oven for another few minutes.
Finally, this year, it’s not just bloggers getting the chance to get creative in the kitchen along with MasterChef and Woolies. Create a recipe with the same ingredients used each week by the Woolworths Masterchef Competition bloggers and you could win one of fourteen R1000 Woolies gift cards, or the (very!) grand prize of a R10 000 gift card. Head over to the Woolworths Masterchef Hub for more info and T&Cs.
My first recipe for Woolies/Masterchef: Slow-Roasted Leg of Lamb with a Basil Walnut Sauce
Peppercorn Chicken with Chilli & Mint
4 large free-range chicken breasts, on the bone
flaky sea salt
20g (half a cup, closely packed) fresh mint leaves
2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
4 Tbsp (60 ml) olive oil
4 Tbsp (60 ml) honey
2 Tbsp (30 ml) light soy sauce
2 tsp (10 ml) rainbow peppercorns, coarsely crushed
Heat the oven to 180 ºC. Put the mint leaves, chillies and olive oil in the jug attachment of a stick blender and whizz to a fairly fine pesto.
Season the breasts lightly with salt. Slide your fingertips under the skin on top of the breasts, breaking the fine membrane as you go to create a pouch. Take half the mint paste and spread it evenly under the breast skin (reserve the remaining mixture). Pull the breast skin back into place.
Cut a deep horizontal slash into the fleshiest part of each breast, and rub the remaining paste into the slashes. Set aside for an hour, or until you’re ready to cook the breasts.
Place the breasts skin-side up in a roasting pan, cover them lightly with tin foil or baking paper and roast for 25-30 minutes, or until they are just cooked through. Drain any excess fat from the pan.
Warm the honey until it’s runny, then stir in the soy sauce. Drizzle this mixture all over the chicken breasts – and don’t worry if it slides off into the pan. Press the crushed peppercorns onto the skin of the breast.
|Drizzle the glaze over the partly cooked breasts before returning them to the oven.|
Turn the oven grill on to its highest setting and place the roasting pan on a middle shelf, not too close to the element. Grill the breasts for 5-8 minutes, basting them every few minutes with the honey-soy glaze. Watch them like a hawk, as the honey burns quickly.
When the skin is golden and beginning to blister, remove the chicken breasts from oven and let them rest for 5 minutes.
Cut the breasts into pieces and drizzle over any pan juices.
Serve hot, with wedges of lemon.
Here is the list of ingredients I was given to work with (I was also allowed to add salt, pepper and oil to my ‘mystery box’):
Light soy sauce
Three colour peppercorns