Healthy chicken Kiev. You can take the girl out of the ’80s…

I did much of my early experimentation with food in the eighties – Monster Munch,  Crispy Pancakes and Angel Delight.  There wasn’t quite the understanding then about the nasties lurking in processed food.  Luckily my Mum was an amazing cook so those foods in a box were infrequent treats.  She busied herself with expanding our tastes beyond the English food she’d grown up with, so chicken Kiev was one of the new additions to our dinners at home.  Back in the day, the chicken’s provenance was blissfully uncared about and it came swimming in delicious but bright green, napalm-hot, garlic butter encased in suspiciously orange breadcrumbs.

Fast forward to today and I am still craving those garlic flavors with the crunchy crumb but, in line with the way we eat now, I want to lighten it up and use good, organic chicken and real breadcrumbs.  I am not a fat-phobe and I do love a traditional chicken kiev recipe like this one, but it is a tricky one to get right.  Many a try has resulted in a pool of burnt garlic butter coming out of the oven alongside the dry chicken it has escaped from.  No fun indeed.  I’m not a quitter but I found new inspiration when I was flicking through Sophie Dahl‘s cook book and found this. I love her idea of using houmus inside in place of butter.  Not only is it a healthier option but it doesn’t turn too liquid as it cooks meaning it stays within the chicken and keeps it moist from within.  A purist would scoff but I think we’ve already established that I’m no purist.

I reckon you could make this ahead of time (probably a day before) and just do the frying and oven part just before serving.

I served this with roasted baby carrots and potatoes, cauliflower mash, and a lemon-dressed arugula (rocket) salad.

Serves 4
4 tablespoons houmous
1 tablespoon olive oil
A small handful chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons flour (I used spelt)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs (I made mine in the food processor from 2 wholewheat pittas and froze what I didn’t use ready for another day)
Salt and Pepper

Optional – make roast baby carrots and potatoes at the same time by chopping them then tossing them in a little oil and putting the in the oven at the same time as the chicken

To make
1. Mix the houmous and chopped parsley together with half a tablespoon olive oil.
2. Using a sharp knife, cut a slit in the side of each chicken breast. Don’t cut all the way through, leave around 1cm (half an inch) un cut so that you can open the chicken like a book and can sandwich the filling inside the ‘pages’
3. Put a quarter of the houmous mixture in each pocket then fold the flap closed and push the chicken back together. A little bit of houmous showing is fine. Then put the chicken in the fridge for half an hour or longer to firm up.
4. Get three plates or shallow bowls and put the egg, beaten and seasoned well with salt and pepper in one. In another put the breadcrumbs, again seasoned and in the third put the flour, seasoned with salt and pepper. Seasoning all the elements will give the chicken a depth of flavour. You could play around with the breadcrumbs and add chili flakes or lemon zest too.
5. Take the chicken out of the fridge then dip both sides of each breast into the flour (hold with your right hand) then the egg (using your left hand) then the breadcrumbs (right hand).  Swapping hands and using one for the dry and one for the wet dips means you don’t end up with a hand full of sticky breadcrumbs.
6. Heat a large frying pan with a glug of olive oil and preheat your oven to 200c/400f.
7. Lay the chicken into the pan and cook on a medium heat for around 5 minutes each side so that the crumb outside is golden then put into the oven. If you are using a metal handled pan just put the whole thing in otherwise transfer to a lined cookie sheet.
8. Cook for around 20 minutes until cooked through (just lift one of the flaps up and see if there is any pink inside to know if they are ready. Then rest for a couple of minutes before serving.
9. I threw some baby carrots and small potatoes tossed in oil in the oven at the same time as the chicken to serve alongside it.

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