After a long and relaxing summer holiday, school has started again. While it’s nice to get back into the routine, one thing which can get a bit tiring is the daily task of figuring out what to put in my child’s lunchbox. I avoid processed lunch meats because of the preservatives and artificial ingredients in them, which means that I often rely on turning dinner leftovers into quick sandwich fillers. But then there are days when dinner just doesn’t translate into a sandwich filler.
Because of this, I often prepare my own sandwich spreads which last well in the refrigerator for three days. A simple homemade sandwich filler which I sometimes make is ‘Chicken and Cress Spread’. The chicken is gently poached in salted water with some aromatic spices and garlic cloves. Adding fresh cress (also called garden cress) brings a distinctive peppery taste to the sandwich spread. Don’t confuse it with watercress which has a larger leaf. Cress is usually sold in small pots or tubs and only the stem and leaf should be eaten raw, not the seeds. Cress will grow back again after cutting so simply use scissors to snip off as much cress as you intend to use, leaving the roots intact. New shoots should start growing for another harvest of cress (this can be repeated several times).
CHICKEN AND CRESS SALAD (SANDWICH SPREAD)
3 skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut in half
3 whole garlic cloves (peeled)
3 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs of thyme (optional)
Sea salt (to taste)
3 Tbsp mayonnaise
Cress/Garden Cress (to taste)
- Bring a medium-sized saucepan of water to the boil.
- Turn the heat down to a simmer and add 2 tsp of sea salt, 3 whole garlic cloves (peeled), 3 black peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, and 3 sprigs of thyme.
- Trim your chicken breast and cut it in half. Place it in the simmering water. Adjust the heat if necessary so that the water remains simmering.
- Simmer for around 8-10 minutes. You want to cook the chicken until it is white all the way through. Be careful not to overcook it or it may become tough.
- Once cooked, remove the chicken breasts and the garlic cloves from the water and put on a plate. Discard the cooking water and spices.
- Allow the chicken to cool so that it is not steaming.
- In a food processor, add the chicken, garlic cloves and 3 Tbsp mayonnaise. The garlic becomes very mellow and subtle after simmering in water, but if your child does not like garlic you can still save the garlic cloves and mash them into your own sandwiches.
- Pulse gently until you get the desired consistency (less pulsing for a chunky spread; more pulsing for a smoother spread).
- Remove from the food processor.
- Taste the chicken. If it needs more mayonnaise or salt, add it now and fold it through.
- Snip the desired amount of cress from its pot. Rinse and pat it dry before folding it into the chicken spread. If some people do not like cress, you can always add it to individual sandwiches rather than directly into the sandwich spread.
- Refrigerate and eat within 3 days.