This dish has become a firm family favourite! It was originally inspired by Jamie Oliver’s San Fran Quinoa Salad, but not being a fan of quinoa, I made several changes and lightened it up significantly till it’s just right (if I do say so myself!) I’ve cooked it for weekday suppers, dinner parties, picnics, BBQs, pot-luck dinners, and even a teacher appreciation lunch! It has never failed to impress, yet is easy to prepare. Don’t let the ingredients list put you off, it looks a lot, but is really quite easy. Please do try it, promise you won’t be disappointed… you’ll get a really large dinner portion for less than 600 calories!
Assembling this dish is made so much easier if you prepare all your ingredients first. Put the baby spinach, fresh coriander/cilantro, mint and chilli flakes into a food processor ready to be chopped. Then dice the mango and cut up the red pepper into largish chunks. Weigh out the orzo, crumble the feta, and get the limes ready to be juiced.
Next prepare your chicken. Slice the chicken breasts lengthwise into two thinner filets. Dust the filets with paprika, all spice and cajun spice (if using). If the fillets are still thick, bash them with a rolling pin between parchment paper so they flatten and the spices dig in to the meat.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan, add two sprays of oil, and pan-fry the chicken on a medium-high heat, turning occasionally, till the spices on both sides have “blackened” and the chicken is cooked through. By putting a lid over the frying pan, you’ll keep the chicken juicy and help speed up the cooking time. Alternatively, you can cook the chicken under an oven’s grill, but you won’t get as much of the ‘blackened’ look and less of a char-grilled flavour – but it’ll still be delicious.
While the chicken is cooking, boil the orzo in plenty of water, till al dente. Then drain off the cooking water through a sieve, rinse with cold water to prevent further cooking, and return to the saucepan. Add a teaspoon of olive oil and stir it through the cooked orzo.
Now blitz the spinach, mint, fresh coriander/cilantro, and chilli flakes till finely chopped but not blended to a mush. If you don’t have a processor, just chop by hand will fairly small. Add the greens to the orzo pan, and mix thoroughly.
Transfer the orzo and greens onto a large platter and squeeze the juice of one of the limes over everything.
(By the way – this is a huge serving platter; the one I use for my christmas turkey! This recipe makes enough for two hearty dinners, and two smaller lunch portions for the next day)
Once your chicken is cooked through, transfer it to a covered dish to rest. Put the red peppers into the same pan (don’t clean it out, you want the cooking juices and spice residue to stay). Flip the peppers so that they’re mostly skin-side-down, you want the red skin to char with black bits. Once they’re starting to char, flip them a couple of times till they’re slightly softened, but still retain some crunch. Scatter the peppers onto the orzo platter. Then add the mango chunks as well, pushing them into the orzo.
Now slice the chicken and scatter it onto the platter. Squeeze the remaining lime over the top, and finish with the crumbled feta. This really is a huge amount of food, serving two hungry adults a satisfying dinner, and leaving enough for lunch the next day.
This recipe will stretch to more people simply by cooking more orzo, or by increasing the peppers and mango, or adding more chicken. However, if you’re calorie counting, you’d need to recalculate your numbers to account for the increases. As shown here, you get a hearty dinner for 3 people for 573 calories person.
RECIPE: BLACKENED CHICKEN ORZO PASTA SALAD 573CALS
(Inspired by Jamie Oliver’s San Fran Quinoa Salad)
Serves 3 generous dinner portions (or 2 dinners and 2 lunches the next day)
- 475g / 3 small uncooked boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced lengthwise for 6 flat filets
- 3 tsp paprika
- 3 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp Cajun spice (optional)
- 2 sprays of olive oil for the frying pan
- 4 cups fresh baby spinach (1 box, 142g, 5oz)
- 2 cups (1 bunch) fresh cilantro (1 small box, 28g)
- 1 cup (½ bunch) fresh mint leaves
- ½ medium red chili, or chilli flakes to taste
- 1 medium fresh mango, cut into large cubes
- 2 medium sweet red peppers, cut into large chunks
- ¼ cup reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled
- 2 fresh limes for juicing
- 250g (1¼ cups) uncooked orzo, cooked per instructions
- 1 tsp olive oil to dress the cooked orzo
You will need a large non-stick frying pan, a food processor (or you can manually chop the salad leaves), and a large serving platter.
- Prepare the ingredients first: Put the baby spinach, fresh coriander/cilantro, mint and chilli flakes into a food processor ready to be chopped. Then dice the mango and cut up the red pepper into largish chunks. Weigh out the orzo, crumble the feta, and get the limes ready to be juiced.
- Slice the chicken breasts lengthwise into thinner fillets. Dust filets on both sides with paprika, all spice and Cajun seasoning (if using). Place between 2 sheets of greaseproof and bash flat with a rolling pin. (It’s not necessary to flatten them if they’re already thin enough.)
- Blitz the spinach, mint leaves, cilantro and chilli in the food processor and finely chop (but be careful not to blend them to a mush). Chop by hand if you don’t have a processor, it just makes it quicker if you do!
- Cook orzo per instructions till al dente. Rinse with cold water. Drain and return to the saucepan, stirring in 1tsp Olive oil. Add blitzed greens and mix thoroughly. Transfer to a large serving platter. Dot with chunks of mango. Squeeze juice of one lime over everything.
- Heat a large non-stick frying pan. Add 2 sprays of Olive oil and cook chicken on both sides till spices have “blackened” and it’s cooked through. (Alternatively, you can cook the chicken under the grill, but you won’t get as much of the ‘blackened’ effect or the chargrilled flavour, but it’ll still be tasty!) Remove to rest. Put red pepper in the same pan and cook till charred. Add peppers to the platter.
- Now that it has rested, slice the cooked chicken across the grain and put on top of the salad. Squeeze the juice of the 2nd lime over everything. Sprinkle with crumbled feta.