What is your signature dish? If you’re anything like me, tireless cook and food fanatic, you’ll have a whole list of recipes to choose from. Narrowing it down to just one answer is no easy job; I bet that a lot of things are going through your mind, as you reflect on what “signature dish” means to you.
Of course, your signature dish is the one you’re an undisputed master at; a lot of the time, though, it’s more than just a show-stopper. Chances are it’s also your comfort food: the one that brings back your fondest memories, and never fails to make you happy. The one you resort to at the end of a long, dreary day – or simply when it’s raining outside, and you want to celebrate the reassuring pleasure of being in shelter.
Your signature dish can be your loved ones’ comfort food, too. Think of the dish they always ask for when you’re cooking for them, or the one they would miss if you were a million miles apart. My grandmother’s meatballs and my mum’s lasagne will always have a special place in my heart, as the quintessence of home and happiness shared. Sometimes, I wonder what they miss about my cooking – but I think I know already. Why else would they ask me to make granola every time I’m home?
Sometimes, your signature recipe is also your life-saver. If you ever experienced inviting friends over for dinner, and forgetting about it until the very same afternoon, you’ll know what I mean. Some avert disaster by ordering takeaway, and picking up a few beers at the corner shop; others turn into kitchen ninjas, and devote the little time they have left to quickly whipping up something homemade. This is when you need a life-saver: a dish you know you can’t screw up, because you’ve mastered it to perfection a hundred times before.
While I can think of at least three recipes that tick all the boxes, almond chicken is firmly at the top of my list. It was my first signature dish, before I even knew what a signature dish was. The first dinner I cooked for my partner, and the one we made the day we moved in together. The reason why my friends come to dinner hungry, and leave with a smile. And finally, the home-cooked meal that makes me the happiest: little can beat the taste of chicken smothered with soy sauce, paired with crunchy almonds and fluffy rice. But don’t just take my word for it: go on, give it a try. I promise you’ll fall in love with it, and never order almond chicken at the Chinese restaurant again.
(serves 2 – 3)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 100g blanched almonds (or 50g per person)
- 1/4 onion, chopped
- 25g plain flour
- A pinch of salt
- 400 – 500 g diced chicken breast (use 400g for two hungry diners, 500g for three people)
- 500ml vegetable stock
- Soy sauce, to your taste
- Basmati rice (about 1 – 1 1/2 fistfuls per person)
- Heat the oil in a wok. Add the almonds, and cook until golden.
- Remove the almonds from the pan. Set them aside on a piece of kitchen paper, to absorb the oil.
- Put the onion in the wok, and cook until soft, using the same oil you cooked the almonds in.
- Meanwhile, mix the flour with a pinch of salt, and lightly coat the chicken pieces with it.
- Set aside until the onion’s ready, then add to the pan. Pour enough vegetable stock to cover the chicken, and leave on the hob until it’s well cooked through (about 10 – 15 minutes). Stir from time to time.
- Watch the pan quite closely. The combination of vegetable stock and flour will form a thick sauce; make sure you add more stock every time you notice it’s drying out.
- While the chicken’s on the hob, prepare the basmati rice, as per cooking instructions on the pack.
- When the chicken is almost ready, add the almonds and soy sauce to the wok. Stir well, and keep cooking until you obtain a thick sauce (about 3 – 5 minutes).
- Divide into portions, and serve with rice on the side.
- Store any leftovers in an airtight container, where they will keep well for a couple of days. When re-heating, cook them in a pan for 5 – 10 minutes; add a little vegetable stock to prevent the chicken and sauce from getting too dry.
So, do you like my signature dish? And what does yours look like?