Breaking bad: chicken that’s addictive

Crispy, sticky, oven-roasted joints, without adding loads of brown sugar. We’ve cracked it

Sticky chicken with pomegranate and fennel salad. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Sticky chicken with pomegranate and fennel salad. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

When I relaunched this column a few months back, I promised that my commitment to healthier food would not be a hair-shirt regime of steamed vegetables and overcooked virtue, and that instead it might serve as gentle inspiration to be good (or better) rather more often.

Of course, opting for more nutritious food does ratchet up the smug/feelgood factor a bit, which at the end of your day, might just be the added motivation you need to get dinner on the table without slumping into something approaching resentment.

Tasty, nutritious food – if prepared well, with a bit of love and attention – should feel like sound indulgence rather than deprivation.

I want people to come to the table at the very least willing to eat what is put in front of them, and at best excited or curious. If they come away satisfied, that’s great, but it’s even better if they leave the table with their determination to cook and eat better even the tiniest bit stronger.

Call it aspirational, perhaps, but isn’t it normal to want the best for ourselves and our families?

But back to food that feels indulgent. And what could be more indulgent than gooey, sticky, oven-cooked chicken joints that simply demand to be eaten with your fingers.

The original recipe for this dish previously featured on these pages and used to have lots of brown sugar, butter and a little fish sauce in it, so the resulting sticky, fatty, salty deliciousness was assured. I also used to suggest using skinless chicken thighs, so aghast I was at the thought of eating chicken skin.

I have changed my stance on chicken skin as many nutritionists are now telling us it’s OK to have a little more saturated fat than we previously thought was good for us to eat.

The original recipe was a real favourite, so the task nowadays is to get a similar result, but with a lot less sugar. It may not be as “good” as the original – in its badness – but it is “gooder” for you, as George Bush might say.

And to go with it there is a crisp, crunchy salad of fennel, celery and pomegranate seeds that just screams summer-is-round-the-corner.

This is one of those salads where you can practically feel the goodness going into your body. It’s rich in vitamin C for starters, but there is also manganese and potassium in the fennel, and the sprouted beans that are the final flourish are alive with powerful enzymes, as well as even more vitamin C.

dkemp@irishtimes.com

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