Back to school: It's nearly one-tray easy meal season

Salsa fresca is perfect with tacos, Tex-Mex and barbecued chicken or steak

Pico de gallo chicken

Pico de gallo chicken

 

Pico de gallo, or salsa fresca, is a traditional Mexican salsa that is usually made from finely diced tomato, onion, coriander and sometimes jalapeños with plenty of fresh lime juice to help bring it all together. It’s really delicious and couldn’t be simpler. Keep it in the fridge for a fresh salsa that you’ll find yourself dipping into with almost every meal. It’s perfect with tacos, almost all Tex-Mex food and even with barbecued chicken or steak. With its Mexican flag colours, this salsa couldn’t be more patriotic.

Pico de gallo literally translates as “rooster’s beak”, as it was picked up and eaten by pinching the salsa between the thumb and forefinger. Red onions can also be used for a sweeter result. I sometimes add even more substance to this by adding some black beans and sweetcorn to the salsa before I place it on the chicken.

This is the perfect thing to make with the last of those home-grown tomatoes. I’ve butterflied open some chicken breasts and then topped them with the gorgeous salsa. I’ve topped mine with mozzarella but most cheeses will do. Smoked Gubbeen is particularly good with this. Whatever you do, don’t use low-fat mozzarella as it becomes tasteless rubber once it comes in contact with any heat.

We’re fast approaching “one-tray easy midweek meal season” when the kids go back to school and routine resumes. Everyone loves chicken, so this is an easy way to get some extra vegetables to the table too. I’ve whipped up a nice avocado cream to go with it. Bursting with healthy fats and calcium from the yogurt, this is equally delicious on sourdough toast for breakfast.

This chicken dish is delicious with boiled rice or black beans, but I’ve served it here with some smoked paprika potatoes. Simply coat some cubed potatoes with olive oil and smoked sweet paprika, then roast. Before serving, add a tablespoon of butter and a generous pinch of sea salt and toss it all together. They taste amazing dipped in the avocado. If any of this chicken is left over, it tastes great sliced and heated the next day served in warm corn tortillas.

PICO DE GALLO CHICKEN

Serves 4-6
3-4 free range chicken breasts
250g tomatoes
1 small onion
25g Coriander
2 perfectly ripe avocados
2 limes
2 balls mozzarella
1 small onion, finely diced
2tbs natural or Greek yogurt

Method
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Finely dice the tomatoes and place in a sieve over the sink. Dice the onion also and place in a bowl. Add the drained tomatoes, a generous pinch of salt and the juice of half a lime. Pick the leaves from the coriander and chop finely. Set the stalks aside. Mix the salsa and taste for seasoning. Add more lime juice or salt if necessary.

Drizzle olive oil on a shallow roasting tin. Butterfly the chicken breasts open using a sharp knife, with your palm firmly flat on each piece as you cut horizontally. Lay the chicken in the roasting tray in one layer. Spoon the tomato salsa over the chicken, then top with thick slices of mozzarella. Bake uncovered in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Baste every so often with the pan juices.

Place the roughly chopped coriander stalks in a food processor or blender with the two peeled  avocados, yogurt and juice of one lime. Add a pinch of salt and blitz until smooth and creamy.

Once the chicken is cooked, place dollops of the avocado crew around it and scatter with fresh coriander leaves.

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