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Chicken Salad in Phyllo Baskets

Crispy phyllo baskets are filled with Thai-spiced chicken, tossed in a peanut dressing and mixed with noodles. Prepare ingredients several hours before but fry and assemble close to serving time. The salad baskets are garnished with crisp and colourful salad ingredients to compliment the filling.

Seasoning mix for chicken
2 tsp (10 ml) ground coriander
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
½ tsp (2.5 ml) garlic and herb seasoning
½ tsp (2.5 ml) ground cumin
½ tsp (2.5 ml) dried lemon grass or 1 tsp (5ml) finely chopped fresh
¼ tsp (1 ml) ground ginger
½ tsp (2.5 ml) ground black pepper
¼ tsp (1 ml) cayenne pepper or chilli powder

Dressing
¼ cup (60 ml) olive or sunflower oil or ½ of each
¼ cup (60 ml) white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
good pinch white pepper
1 tsp (5 ml) prepared mustard
2 tsp (10 ml) brown sugar or honey
2 tsp (10 ml) soy sauce
¼ cup (60 ml) peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
1 tsp (5 ml) crushed or chopped garlic (1 clove)

Noodles
2 cups (500 ml) water
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
1 tsp (5 ml) oil
¼ cup (60 ml) small noodle shapes or vermicelli
a little extra vegetable oil

Chicken
500 g chicken breast fillets
2 Tbsp (30 ml) vegetable oil (see ingredients above)

To serve
12 jumbo muffin tin size phyllo baskets (see recipe below)
mixed varieties of lettuce
sprigs of mixed greenery such as coriander, parsley or celery or chives 

Additional garnish to select from
– finely julienne cut fresh pineapple
– shredded baby cabbage
– red and green capsicum cut into strips
– fine strips of celery
– carrot curls or fine strips
– spring onion, diagonally snipped
– bean sprouts
– ± ½ cup (125 ml) chopped cashews, peanuts, mixed or pecan nuts

  1. Combine the ingredients for the spice mixture and set aside. Combine the ingredients for the dressing in a suitable container, seal and shake well to combine evenly.
  2. Bring the water, salt and oil to the boil and add the noodles. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender. Drain in a colander and toss in a little oil to separate noodles.
  3. Flatten the chicken breast fillets with a mallet to 1 cm thick and sprinkle the seasoning over the breasts. Set aside to cool. Then cover and refrigerate until ready to fry and serve in the salad.
  4. Heat the oil and fry the breasts gently until tender and cooked through.
  5. Cool slightly and slice diagonally into thin strips. Toss the noodles with enough of the dressing to moisten it well and toss in the chicken strips as well.  Set it aside.
  6. Line the filo baskets with a little lettuce and divide the chicken and noodle mixture between the baskets.
  7. Scatter half of the greenery over the chicken and drizzle with a little extra dressing.
  8. Sprinkle the additional garnish over all, then lastly the rest of the greenery and nuts and dressing and serve at room temperature, preferably before refrigerating for best texture and flavour.

Sufficient salad for 12 jumbo muffin tin sized phyllo pastry baskets.

Phyllo Pastry Baskets
Light and flaky pastry cases are made perfectly in jumbo muffin tins or ramekin dishes to support and mould the pastry while baking. Made with 4 squares they will be firm enough to the salad. For 12 x jumbo muffin tin size pastry cases, each made with four squares, you will need 48 squares. From 6 sheets of filo pastry, cut as explained below, you will get 6 x 9 squares = 54 – sufficient squares for 12 muffin cups and a few extra..) 

6 sheets filo pastry
125 ml g butter, melted

  1. Brush the jumbo muffin cups well with melted butter. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Fold the 6 sheets of filo pastry into thirds, unfold and cut through the sheets on the fold line to make 18 strips. Stack the strips and fold into thirds again. Unfold and cut on the fold lines again – you will now have 54 squares.
  3. Brush the first square with melted butter and cover with a second square, the points protruding star-shaped over the straight edges of the first. Repeat twice more to have a star shaped, 4 layered stack and press down neatly into the muffin tins. Repeat until all have been made.
  4. Bake about 5 minutes or until very pale golden. Take care while baking and check constantly for the pastry cases brown quickly and if over baked taste and appearance will be impaired. The pastry cases may be stored up to a month in an airtight container.

Note

  • Serve the salad on a lettuce line salad platter instead of a basket and garnish as above.
  • Serve the hot chicken on pasta or rice with vegetable accompaniments as above.
  • Replace the chicken with fish, pork or beef fillet.

Recipe by Carolié de Koster.  There is a whole chapter on Phyllo pastry in the Art Of Cooking recipe book which includes hints for shaping and baking phyllo pastry, a variety of sweet and savoury recipes, etc. (page 761 to 800).