Happy Heart - Recipe for Honeyed Cajun Chicken with Mexican Salsa - Spinach

Recipe for Honeyed Cajun Chicken with Mexican Salsa Recipe If it’s June it must be time for the Irish Heart Foundation’s annual Happy Heart Eat Out campaign: “For a Happy Heart, portion size matters” is the theme for this year’s campaign which focuses on portion size  - as it is not just the quality and variety of food that is important, but also how much we eat. According to Janis Morrissey, Irish Heart Foundation dietitian, ‘The Foundation aims to make people aware that by watching your portion size and filling up on more fruit and vegetables, you are eating healthier and looking after your heart. 11,000 Irish people die each year from heart disease and stroke and about one third of heart disease relates to poor diet.’

Happy Heart Eat Out encourages restaurants, hotels, pubs and workplaces to provide low-fat, low-salt healthier choices with lots of fruit and vegetables and over 750 dining establishments and many workplaces will be taking part – and, in a move to reach the  growing number of us who eat less ‘proper’ meals, O’Brien’s sandwich bars around the country will actively promote healthier sandwich and wrap options for the campaign.

The Irish Heart Foundation has joined forces with Euro-Toques Ireland and the Panel of Chefs of Ireland to provide seriously tempting and easy to cook recipes for a recipe booklet  - for Happy Heart Eat Out recipe ideas and more, check out the Irish Heart Foundation’s website or you can purchase a Happy Heart Cookbook (ISBN 0717130525) in any bookstore.

And, when eating out this June, look out for the Happy Heart Eat Out low-fat choices with lots of fruit and vegetables – and, if you don’t see what you want, ‘Just Ask’ for the healthy choice.

Recipe - Honeyed Cajun Chicken with Mexican Salsa

A spicy little number from Euro-Toques chef Feargal O’Donnell, at the stunning Wineport Lodge, Glasson, Athlone, Co. Westmeath. Serves 4

What you need:
4 x 100g/4oz chicken fillets, trimmed
15ml/1 tablespoon olive oil
A little salt and freshly ground black pepper
Marinade: 1 tablespoon Cajun spices
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons BBQ sauce
Salsa: 1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
1⁄ 2 cucumber, diced
4 tomatoes, deseeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, pureed
50g/2oz brown sugar
5 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
 To serve: Dressed rocket leaves and crispy garlic bread

What you do:

Season the chicken fillets.
Mix the marinade ingredients together and allow the chicken to soak in the marinade in a shallow dish in the fridge.
Leave for at least an hour, but preferably overnight, basting occasionally.
Cook the chicken by sealing the fillets in a little olive oil on a pan, then roasting in a moderate oven at 160°C/325”F/Gas Mark 3 for 35 minutes.
To make the salsa, saute all the salsa ingredients (except for the sugar and vinegar), in a little olive oil for 10 minutes. Reduce the liquid by half, remove from the heat and stir in the chopped coriander. Finally add the sugar and vinegar and heat gently to serving temperature, stirring consistently.
Serve the marinated chicken fillets with the salsa liberally poured over, along with some dressed rocket leaves and crispy garlic bread

‘The Irish Cookbook’ by Carla Blake (Mercier Press, EUR9.99)

The Irish Cookbook by Carla BlakeCarla Blake is one of our best known journalists and food writers, with a loyal following for her column in The Irish Examiner, and there should be queues in the bookshops for this new, expanded edition of her best-selling 1971 cookery book  – which will now be introducing her sound philosophy of food and down to earth recipes to a whole new generation of cooks. For Carla, good cooking is first and foremost a family thing – as indeed it has always been for the mother of modern Irish cooking, Myrtle Allen, who wrote a Foreword for this book, describing it as ‘The first book you need, and a book you will always need’.

Carla, who says that ‘I really believe that home-cooked food made from the best of ingredients is one of the pleasures and blessings of life’, has brought together a collection of dishes that many families will remember, often with a variation of her own, or an angle that relates this wholesome food  and ‘the tastes of long ago’ to the changing demands of life thirty five years on. 

Perhaps things haven’t changed as much as we may think, however: on hearing of her new project, a surprising number of people kept telling her that ‘nobody is cooking any more’; but, she replied ‘If nobody is cooking, who on earth is buying all those chickens lined up on supermarket shelves, the delicious Irish beef, lamb and pork from butchers, and all the fresh fish from the sea which is still in great demand? And why are customers flocking to Farmers’ Markets countrywide?’ Just so, Carla – and if all those non-existent people need help with deciding how to cook their purchases, this is just the book for them.


What Is It:  Carla Blake, who is well known as a keen gardener as well as a cook (she opened her garden in Conna, Co Cork, for charity for an annual ‘open day’ for many years), entitles her vegetable chapter in The Irish Cookbook ‘Culinary Heroes’, and describes annual spinach as ‘a good easy-to-grow green vegetable’. Perpetual spinach (Swiss Chard or spinach beet) is a hardy biennial plant which is even easier to grow (less inclined to bolt) and  has a wide mid-rib which can be cooked and eaten separately from the leaves, rather like asparagus. Highly nutritious, spinach (‘chenopodiaceae’) is regarded as one of the new ‘super-foods’ and is especially rich in iron, and anti-oxidants.

Where Does It Come From?  It shouldn’t have to come far -spinach on sale at this time of year should be Irish grown; sown in March, April or May, it is harvested from June to December.

Where Can I Get It? Spinach is very widely available from greengrocers, from farmers’ markets and in pre-packs from supermarkets. And of course, from your own garden: ‘The leaves are tender even after it has gone to seed’ says Carla.

What Can I do With It?  The young leaves can be used in salads, but it is usually cooked. ‘ Spinach cooks down (shrinks) in the most amazing way’; The Irish Cookbook advises allowing about 1.2 kg/21/2 lb for 4 people: Wash well in cold water, tear out the centre mid-rib, put the green leaves into a large saucepan – the water on the leaves is sufficient – and cook with a lid on for 10-12 minutes (or until just cooked).  Drain well, pressing out as much water as possible, chop very finely with a sharp knife... elegant served with a thin slice of ham, just big enough to cover each portion, or topped with 1 or 2 soft poached eggs and a dollop of Hollandaise Sauce.” (Recipe supplied in The Irish Cookbook).  Bags of pre-washed baby spinach leaves sold in supermarkets are a handy convenience food, as they can be microwaved in the bag.

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