Mantua chicken salad

Matt Tebbutt's recipe from the city of Mantua in Italy's Po Valley was popular way back in renaissance times
By Matt Tebbutt
Mantua chicken salad
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes plus cooling and marinating time
  • Effort: easy

Ingredients

For the chicken

  • 1 large free-range chicken
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 1 bouquet garni

For the marinade

  • 200 ml red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 lemon, finely grated zest only
  • 1/2 orange, finely grated zest only
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp white peppercorns, crushed
  • 200 g pine nuts
  • 100 g raisins

To serve

  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked
  • 1 bunch basil, leaves picked

Tips and Suggestions

Use the stalks of your flat-leaf parsley to make the bouquet garni for poaching the chicken. Freshly made bouquets garni taste much better than ready-made pouches of dried herbs. Ingredients vary a little but typical are bay leaf, thyme, parsley stalks and a strip of leek or celery stalk, tied into a bundle with kitchen string.

You can strain the chicken poaching liquid and use it in place of stock in soups and stews.

Method

1. For the chicken: Put the chicken, carrots, celery, onion and bouquet garni in a pot and cover generously with water. Bring to simmering point then reduce the heat and poach very gently for about 45 minutes, skimming off any froth that accumulates on the surface of the liquid. As soon as the chicken is cooked, remove it from the poaching liquid and leave to cool, ideally overnight.

2. For the marinade: heat the vinegar in a small saucepan. Add the zests of the lemon and orange, the bay leaves, caster sugar, white pepper, a grinding of black pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan until golden and remove to a bowl to cool

3. Taste the marinade and add more sugar if it seems too sour. Add the raisins and toasted pine nuts and set aside in a warm place.

4. Pull the meat off the cooked bird in strips, discarding the fat and skin. Place in a serving bowl, pour over the warm marinade and leave to marinate at room temperature for a couple of hours.

5. Roughly tear the basil leaves and toss them with the parsley leaves. Mix the herbs into the marinated chicken and serve at room temperature.

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