Two good salads this week for the warm weather we have been enjoying.

This Vietnamese salad is one that has gone down well in the cookery school.

It is great to be open again for people who are interested in food. I have only been to Vietnam once.

I loved it - and the food - and hope to get back again some day. Chicken thighs are good value and, cooking this way, you end up with crispy skin and succulent flesh.

This marinade is great with fish or steaks.

The duck salad is a great, quick salad with a warm and crispy duck I’m a big fan of the authentic Chinese aromatic duck that is readily available in all major supermarkets.

All you have to do is toss the other ingredients together and you are ready to serve.

Coriander is a herb that is easy to grow and you will get great use from it.

We are very fortunate that Kevin, or gardener in MacNean, has a great range of herbs and vegetables growing for us to use in the restaurant. It is hard to beat growing you own.

Happy cooking,


Crunchy Vietnamese Chicken Salad

Serves four

  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large shallot, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh root ginger
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
  • ½ tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • 8 boneless chicken thighs, with skin
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 100g (4oz) green beans, trimmed and sliced into 2cm (1in) lengths
  • 275g (10oz) mixed baby salad leaves
  • 225g (8oz) cherry plum tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 small red pepper, halved, seeded and diced
  • 1 large carrot, julienned into fine shreds
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • For the dressing:

  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1. To make the marinade, place the garlic in a mini blender or pestle and mortar along with the shallot, ginger and maple syrup, then work to a paste. Transfer to a small bowl and whisk in the soy sauce, Thai fish sauce, five-spice powder and several grinds of pepper.

    2. Arrange the chicken thighs in a shallow, non-metallic dish and pour over the marinade, turning until well coated. Cover and chill for at least two hours or overnight is best. Bring back to room temperature before cooking and wipe off any excess marinade with kitchen paper. Reserve any remaining marinade.

    3. Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat. Pour in the rapeseed oil, then add the chicken thighs, skin side down. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until the skin is golden and crispy. Don’t be tempted to touch them while they are cooking or shake the pan ?– just leave them alone and you will produce the most fantastic crisp skin and succulent flesh.

    4. If you think that they are starting to catch and burn a little around the edges, add a couple tablespoons of the reserved marinade.

    5. When you can see that they are nicely browned and that the flesh is almost but not quite cooked through, turn them over and cook for another five to six minutes, until completely cooked through and tender. Remove from the heat and leave to rest in a warm place for five minutes.

    6. Plunge the green beans into a pan of boiling salted water for three to four minutes, until just tender, then drain and refresh under cold running water.

    7. Place the salad leaves in a large bowl with the blanched beans, tomatoes, red pepper and carrot. Season to taste.

    8. Make the dressing: put the lime juice and oil in a screw-topped jar and season to taste. To serve, give the dressing a good shake and then use to lightly dress the salad, tossing well to combine. Divide among plates, then carve the chicken thighs into slices and place on top.

    Fragrant Duck Salad

    Serves four to six

  • 1 whole aromatic cooked duck
  • ½ head of iceberg lettuce, core discarded and leaves shredded
  • 4 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 firm, ripe mango, peeled, stone removed and sliced
  • 1 mild red chilli, halved, seeded and cut into rings
  • 50g (2oz) roasted cashew nuts, roughly chopped
  • good handful of fresh coriander leaves

  • For the dressing:

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp finely minced root ginger
  • Few drops of toasted sesame oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6).

    2. Remove the packaging from the duck and place the duck on a rack over a roasting tin. Roast for 90 minutes, or according to the instructions on the packet, until the skin is crisp and the duck is completely heated through.

    3. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for at least 20 minutes, but up to a couple of hours is fine. Carve the meat from the duck and shred or cut into bite-sized pieces, discarding the bones and skin.

    4. Place in a large bowl with the lettuce, spring onions, mango, chilli, cashew nuts and coriander.

    5. To make the dressing, place the oil in a screw-topped jar with the vinegar, hoisin sauce, ginger and sesame oil. Season to taste.

    6. When ready to serve, shake the dressing gently and use to lightly dress the duck salad. Divide among plates and serve straight away.

    Read more

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