I have a long list of cafes and restaurants that I’d like to visit for breakfast, brunch, or lunch that I’m continuously adding more venues to but never getting the chance to tick any off. Healthy juice bars and raw food style cafes are slowly opening up round town which can only show that they must be doing something right and the market is hungry.
I had the opportunity to visit ‘Hally’s’ in Parsons Green whilst I was on maternity leave although you’re always a little distracted trying to keep a little one entertained whilst holding a conversation to really appreciate just what a great ethos they’ve got going on.
Last week I decided to take the office out for the day aka. me and the Mac and had some lunch at ‘Hally’s’ younger sibling ‘Little H’ which sits just across the road. It’s a smaller place, set up for the passer-by rather than someone settling in for a long lunch. The décor transports you across the ocean to Mission Beach in San Diego with that unpretentious, cool, chilled out vibe that’s so often lacking from other dining establishments. It’s just a great place to hang out and puts you in that feel good kind of mood.
With a fantastic juice offering and huge bowls of delicious salads and tempting cakes and cookies sitting on the counter top, it’s a real feast for the eyes. Everyone that passes by the huge open fronted windows looks in eyeing up the counter, I bet secretly wishing they had the time to stop in or noting it down to come back to when they have the chance.
On my visit I opted for a mixture of the three salads on display due to the total inability to pick between them with a KPM juice (kale, pineapple, cucumber, lemon, apple and mint) on the side. There is no menu, what you see is what you get, which I love. It means they are using ingredients that are in season and therefore tasting at their best.
The salads were just fantastic, full of flavor and all the more enticing due to the delicious dressings and the juice was just knock-out good.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about opening a café and what it would look like and offer and this is basically it. Nothing too fancy, nothing too complicated, but simple fresh food, cooked and put together well but makes you feel like you’ve just had a bowl full of sunshine.
I think this sort of style of café particularly appeals to me because most of my evenings are spent putting together a salad with some sort of fish or meat on the side. Salads today aren’t what they used to be. Instead of them being made up of lettuce, tomato and cucumber as a side to the meat, they are now central to the dish with the meat being the accompaniment to the plate. Salads now are the star of the show.
The options really are so endless that there is no need to think you’re not going to be full from eating this type of food. Quite the contrary with lentils, grains and roast vegetable providing the bulk but with a lighter less lethargic edge, you feel totally satisfied but full of only goodness. (And possibly some room for some pudding… one can only be so good.)
I rarely post savory recipes, which is kind of strange when it’s what I cook 90% of the time and what I’m really passionate about. I’ve noticed how much I’ve grown in confidence and used to follow a recipe to the letter, I’ll often now read a recipe through and then adapt it to what suits our tastes and just use the recipe as inspiration or as a starting theme to the meal.
So this week is a change from the norm but I hope you still like it. It’s a salad that I developed for a casual week night dinner, which you just throw in a in a big bowl, drizzle it with a dressing and spoon it out onto generous plates.
Nothing complicated, nothing too fancy, just quality fresh ingredients put together to compliment each other into an appetising nutritious dinner.
Roast chicken salad with summer green vegetables and crispy polenta croutons
Serves 2 (generously)
For the salad
1.5kg roast chicken, can be cooked the day before and shredded ready
large bunch of rosemary (6-7 sprigs)
1 onion, sliced into large quarters
2 leeks chopped into circles 1/2 cm wide
6 baby courgettes, sliced ½ cm circles
2 baby gem lettuce, pulled apart and washed
1 avocado, cut into chunks
6 radishes, thinly sliced
50g walnut halves, lightly toasted
50g polenta, cooked as per instructions and spread out evenly into a baking dish lined with foil or grease proof paper and left to set
Rapeseed Oil (can be substituted for olive oil)
For the dressing:
Balsamic Syrup (can be substituted for a balsamic vinegar if your prefer although I like the syrup on this salad)
Turn your oven on to 180 degrees
Begin by preparing your chicken – this can be done the day before if you prefer to save on time on the evening and kept in the fridge over night. Slice your onions and place in the bottom of a roasting tin along with your rosemary. Place your chicken on top of your onions so that it’s not sitting directly on the bottom of the roast tin. Drizzle with rapeseed oil, and season well with salt and pepper, rubbing it into the chicken.
Place your chicken in the oven and leave for an hour and a half / one hour 45 minutes – the juices should run clear and your chicken shouldn’t be pink at all. Cover with foil and leave to rest before shredding. I would suggest just using the chicken breasts and keep the remaining meat for lunch the next day.
Cut your set polenta into crouton size cubes.
Heat 2 tbsp of rapeseed oil in a large frying pan and fry your polenta croutons. Keep them turning every few minutes so that you get all sides a lovely golden colour. Remove from the frying pan onto some kitchen towel so that you remove any excess oil.
Using the same frying pan, drizzle in a further 2 tbsp rapeseed oil and turn up to a medium to high heat. Add your baby courgettes and leeks. Keep an eye on them, you want the courgettes to gain some colour and the leeks to soften slightly but not fall apart. This should take about 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and set aside. They should have a nice colour to them but still have some texture.
On a medium heat in a separate dry frying pan, toast your walnuts. Keep them moving as they can suddenly burn very quickly. As soon as they start to omit an aroma and darken slightly in colour they are done. This should take about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, begin with layering your gem lettuce at the bottom of the bowl followed by ¾ of your courgettes and leeks. Add your shredded chicken breasts, followed by the remaining courgettes and leeks. Sprinkle on your croutons, avocado, walnuts and radishes. Season your salad with salt and pepper. Finally drizzle on a good amount of rapeseed oil and balsamic syrup.
Serve with a chilled glass or rose and enjoy in the sunshine.