Spiced chicken & asparagus with a fresh courgette & carrot salad

These are two very simple and quick dishes that go so well together: a spicy chicken stir-fry with a refreshing, full-flavoured vegetable salad. They are also very low-fat, as well as being gluten-free.

Now I love indulgent food (in moderation) and I really loathe the sort of healthier food that is in any way boring, tasteless and/or insubstantial. It really need not be. So as with my normal style of bakes, it has to be flavour all the way: you really do not want to feel in any way short-changed!

Pre-cooking the chicken?

It is really not essential to pre-cook the chicken before stir-frying but I find you get the most incredibly moist chicken in the finished dish if you cook it first very gently until mostly cooked.

If you are fortunate to have a sous-vide machine then I cannot urge you strongly enough to use that to cook the chicken breasts to get the very best texture imaginable: 57C for 45 minutes gives a beautifully moist chicken. (If you want to cook it fully I would normally go for an hour at 60C).

Alternatively, poach the chicken very gently in either water or stock for about 10-15 minutes until it is nearly cooked.

Very simple & speedy

Both the salad and the chicken component can then be made in moments if the chicken has been pre-cooked.

There might seem to be a lot of ingredients, but many are cupboard or fridge staples that last for ages once opened eg) soy sauce, fish sauce, chilli sauce, sesame seeds…

The ingredients in the salad dressing are similar to the ingredients in the sauce with the chicken and asparagus, but in the raw salad the dressing gives a sharp fresh flavour, whereas the ingredients that make the sauce for the hot chicken and asparagus gives a lovely sticky sauce with bags of flavour.

Recipe: carrot & courgette salad – serves 2

The very refreshing salad is simply courgettes and carrots that have been peeled and then sliced thinly with a vegetable peeler, and mixed with a near-instant spicy dressing.

The dressing is sharp, hot, a touch sour and just a little sweetness, using ingredients that are mainly lurking in the fridge.

  • 1 large courgette, peeled
  • 1 large carrot, peeled
  • a few slices of peeled red onion (use the rest in the chicken dish)


  • tablespoon of sesame seeds (toasted is ideal!)
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (or any wine/cider vinegar)
  • about 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • about 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • a little fresh chilli, any type, finely chopped
  • a few fresh coriander leaves and stalks, roughly chopped
  • a few fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons sweet chilli sauce (or use sugar): this is optional but I do think a light touch of sweetness lifts the salad

Recipe: spiced chicken & asparagus – serves 2

I love hoisin sauce and always have a jar of it in the fridge to add to all manner of bakes and other dishes. Cooking chicken, prawns or vegetables in a little bit of it gives a wonderfully sticky coating with bags of flavour. You don’t need much to give that lovely flavour throughout.

Alternatively, use any other sauces that are to hand: sweet and sour; sweet chilli; barbeque…………

You can add extras to the pan: grated ginger, mangetout, baby sweetcorn, fish sauce, a little toasted sesame seed oil………

Key ingredients:

  • 2 free-range chicken breasts, skinned and cooked sous-vide for 45 minutes at 57C or poached very gently in either water or stock for about 10-15 minutes (this can be done a day or so ahead and chilled until needed).
  • a few asparagus spears, steamed for a few minutes until just turning soft or griddled
  • the rest of the red onion, sliced or chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and either finely chopped or crushed
  • 1-2 tablespoons hoisin sauce (or sauce of choice)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • a little finely chopped fresh chilli
  • juice of half a lime
  • a tablespoon or so of sesame seeds (toasted seeds gives an even better flavour)

(1) Slice the cooked chicken and cut the asparagus in half. Heat a large non-stick frying pan or wok until very hot.

(2) Add the chicken to the pan and cook for a few minutes until it starts to take on some colour: if poached or cooked sous-vide, the chicken really doesn’t need any oil at all for this to happen.

(3) Add the asparagus and onion and cook for a minute or so, stirring from time to time.

(4) Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring well to coat the chicken and asparagus, and simmer for a few minutes to thicken. Serve.




Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking, teaching and eating good food.

2 thoughts on “Spiced chicken & asparagus with a fresh courgette & carrot salad”

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