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Chicken with lemongrass

About this recipe: A cross between a soup and stew, this dish captures the exciting spicy and sour flavours of South-east Asia. Lemongrass gives a citrus touch, and creamed coconut – using just the minimum for flavour – adds richness without excessive fat. Using the poaching liquid as the broth preserves the water-soluble vitamins.

Norma MacMillan

Ingredients
Serves: 4 

  • 1 small fresh red chilli, such as bird's-eye, split open lengthways but left whole
  • 1 garlic clove, cut in half
  • 1 cm (½ in) piece fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into 4 slices
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, bruised and cut in half
  • 4 chicken joints, such as breasts or thighs, about 170 g (6 oz) each, skinned
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 250 g (9 oz) fine French beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 courgette, sliced lengthways with a vegetable peeler into thin strips
  • 75 g (2½ oz) creamed coconut, crumbled
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • salt and pepper

Method
Prep:55min  ›  Cook:25min  ›  Ready in:1hr20min 

  1. Place 1 litre (1 3/4 pints) water in a saucepan over a high heat. Spear the chilli, garlic and ginger on a wooden cocktail stick (this makes them easy to remove later) and add to the pan together with the lemongrass. Bring to the boil and boil for 1 minute, then remove from the heat, cover and set aside to infuse for 30 minutes.
  2. Return the liquid to the boil, then reduce the heat to low. Add the chicken joints, shallot and French beans, and poach for 12–15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked (test with the tip of a knife: the juices should run clear). Add the courgette slices for the last 2 minutes of cooking.
  3. Using a draining spoon, transfer the chicken, beans and courgettes to a warmed bowl. Add a little of the poaching liquid to keep them moist, then cover tightly and keep warm.
  4. Return the liquid to the boil and add the creamed coconut, stirring until it dissolves. Continue boiling for 5–6 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by about one-third.
  5. Remove the chicken meat from the bones and shred it roughly. Return the chicken meat, beans and courgettes to the soup and stir, then reheat briefly. Stir in the grated lime zest and juice. Season to taste.
  6. Divide the chicken and vegetables among 4 soup plates. Spoon over the liquid, discarding the lemongrass and stick of chilli, garlic and ginger. Sprinkle with the coriander and serve.

Some more ideas

To turn this into a more filling dish, add some noodles. Soak 100 g (3½ oz) Chinese egg noodles in boiling water for 3 minutes, or according to the packet instructions, then drain. Stir into the reduced cooking liquid with the chicken and vegetables in step 5. * Replace the green beans with asparagus tips, adding them with the courgettes. Also add 225 g (8 oz) frozen peas, straight from the freezer, after dissolving the creamed coconut. * Tiny red bird's-eye chilli is fiery-hot. To reduce the heat in this dish, seed the chilli, remove it after the liquid infuses, or replace it with a milder red chilli or a green one.

Plus points

French beans are a good source of the B vitamin folate, essential for a healthy pregnancy. It is important to ensure a good intake of folate in the early stages of pregnancy to prevent spina bifida. Folate may also have a role in helping to protect against heart disease.

Each serving provides

B6, B1, B2, C, folate, niacin, copper, iron, potassium, zinc

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