This is inspired by the dressing recipe I made regularly in HRH’s kitchen, developed by Chris Barber when he was head chef. Originally flavoured only with tarragon, this will work with many different soft herbs or a mixture of herbs. Chervil, celery leaves, flat leaf parsley and tarragon work well and if you can find Lovage that adds a delicious flavour to this dish. Poaching the chicken in this way produces delicious moist meat, but you could use up left over roast chicken instead.
For the chicken:
1 tbsp fine salt
The stems left over from the sauce below
2 spring onions, roughly chopped
1 tsp black peppercorns
4 skinless breast fillets
For the sauce:
75g good quality mayonnaise (or make it fresh if you have time)
½ tsp English Mustard
¼ tsp finely grated lemon zest
25ml very strong cold chicken stock (if using fresh, reduce it to twice the strength. If using stock powder or cube dilute with half the amount of water recommended on the pack).
1 tbsp of chopped tarragon
1tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
For the pickled cucumber:
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp cider vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
For the salad:
4 spring onions, finely chopped
1 bunch watercress
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Tarragon and flat leaf parsley leaves to decorate
- Put the salt, herb stems, spring onions and peppercorns in a saucepan or frying pan large enough for the chicken breasts to be laid out in a single layer.
- Add enough water that it will easily cover the chicken breasts and bring to the boil.
- Add the chicken breasts, turn off the heat, cover and leave to poach for 20 minutes. (if large chicken breasts turn the heat down to low for 5mins then turn off the heat for remaining time) Remove from the pan and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate until needed.
To make the quick pickled cucumber:
- Cut the ½ cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.
- Slice into ½ cm pieces and place in a sieve.
- Sprinkle with the ¼ tsp salt and leave for 15 minutes.
- Squeeze the cucumber to allow the excess liquid to drain away.
- Toss the cucumber slices in the vinegar and sugar and set aside.
To make the dressing:
- Place the mayonnaise in a bowl and stir in the mustard and zest.
- Gradually whisk in the chicken stock until you have a creamy sauce that will lightly dress the salad.
- Stir in the herbs and season well with salt and pepper.
To assemble the salad:
- Slice or tear the chicken into a large bowl.
- Add the spring onions, drained pickled cucumber and add enough of the dressing to coat the salad. Toss well and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
- Pick the watercress into sprigs and stir lightly through the salad (save a few sprigs to decorate the dish).
- Spoon the salad onto a serving dish and decorate with the herb and watercress leaves.
- Serve with new potatoes, tossed in a little olive oil, lemon juice and chopped flat leaf parsley, or a grain salad.