Four thousand years is a fair old time for chickens to have been domesticated. And they sure are plentiful; for every human on the planet there are at least four chooks.
Delightful then that the Egyptian name for hen means the "bird that gives birth every day". More or less, given that Gallus gallus domesticus quite often goes off the lay.
But it did make me wonder, given the season now in full swing, whether there is any such thing as a true spring chicken. Er, no.
Birds meeting the definition are aged anywhere from two to 10 months, regardless of when they were born. Size can indicate age, with smaller being younger, and so can weight: a No 12 chicken weighs about 1.2kg, a No 16 about 1.6kg, and so on.
Best then to concentrate on recipes that suit spring, a time of long warm spells punctuated by short sharp snaps.
To make a moreish chicken-vegetable casserole, give it a kick with a dash of pesto. Heat oil in a large heavy pan and fry a finely chopped onion for 5 minutes, until soft. Add 500g halved chicken thighs and fry until lightly coloured, about eight minutes.
Add 300g new potatoes, 430ml chicken stock and plenty of freshly ground black pepper, then bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes until potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked.
Add 350g broccoli florets, 350g chopped bok choy, 150g new peas and a couple of finely chopped spring onions. Stir through, return to the boil, then cook for 5-6 minutes. Stir through 2-3 tablespoons of pesto and serve.
Parmesan-crusted chicken is always a winner. Heat grill to medium and line grill pan with foil. Beat 1-2 egg whites in a bowl with a little salt and pepper. Grate about 5-6 tablespoons of parmesan onto a plate.
Dip 8 chicken thighs or 4 chicken breasts in egg white, then coat with cheese. Grill chicken for 10-12 minutes, turning once, until browned and crisp.
Really good with warm spring vegetables - say new potatoes, fresh peas and baby spinach leaves - dressed with your favourite vinaigrette.
I love today's recipe and make it all year round, though its freshness really strikes a chord in spring. A citrus zester shreds the carrot and cucumber to perfection, producing super-thin strands with crunch. A shredding attachment in your food processor will also do the job. Failing that, cut the vegetables thinly lengthways with a knife, or use a grater.
THAI CHICKEN SALAD
2 large chicken breasts
1 carrot, shredded
1/4 telegraph cucumber, shredded
1/4- 1/2 shredded iceberg lettuce
1/2 cup chopped mint leaves
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2-3 Tbsp coconut milk
1 spring onion, finely sliced
Roughly chopped roasted peanuts
Chopped coriander leaves
Poach chicken breasts in simmering water (or, optionally, half water and half coconut milk) for 10 minutes or until cooked.
Allow to cool in the poaching liquid.
While chicken is cooking, combine all dressing ingredients and set aside.
Shred chicken with 2 forks and combine with remaining salad ingredients in a serving dish.
Pour dressing over salad, toss through, and scatter with peanuts and coriander.
- © Fairfax NZ News