Superb healthy (quick) midweek meal
This is a great Thai-style chicken and basil with egg fried rice is perfect for a post-Christmas-January-pick-me-up midweek meal.
- SERVES: 4
- PREP TIME: 15 mins
- COOK TIME: 40 mins
- DIFFICULTY: easy
- IDEAL FOR: healthy, midweek meal
January is always a tricky month.
It’s cold, still dark early, and there are no fun ‘lets-catch-up’ drinks or dinners with friends.
Oh, and you’re back at work or the kids are back at school.
No wonder we get the ‘January Blues’.
But not to worry, we can beat this gloom with some simple, tasty (and healthy) meals.
And of course, quick to whip up.
Before long, we’ll be reclaiming longer days and dreaming of a not-to-distant Spring.
Thai-style chicken and basil with egg-fried rice
This is an easy recipe. (I picked it up off Modern Proper)
Now, if you want to be a bit more authentic and get fried rice the way it’s intended i.e. dry before cooking.
Then you may need to do a little pre-cooking – see below.
However, I wouldn’t feel too stressed about it, especially for a midweek meal.
I often use left-over rice or I always have those pre-cooked packets of rice which speed things up hugely!
How to make fried rice
1. Cook the rice ahead of time. At least six hours, if you can. The rice needs to cool and dry a bit after cooking. You could use leftover rice.
2. When you first add the rice to the pan to fry it, spread it out evenly in the hot pan and then let it fry undisturbed for a full minute. Stir it, then let it sit again.
You want some of those crispy rice bits to develop and letting it fry undisturbed is the key.
Buying quality produce
I know, you’re feeling a little skint after Christmas.
But as we know, buying quality produce means better-tasting meals and healthier meals.
It also importantly, means the animals were treated well.
We have cut back on meat so now can afford really good quality organic chicken.
And grass-fed beef and lamb.
The difference is huge.
So try and buy the best quality chicken you can afford for your Thai-style chicken and basil with egg fried rice dish.
The reality of farming chickens & different methods
We know that depending on what they are fed and the living conditions they are in, impacts the taste of the chicken.
So, it all comes back to quality.
Quality of life equals the quality of meat.
Stress can make the meat taste dry and acidic.
And then there is the breed of poultry.
Some are bred to grow rapidly and others, like the Hubbard, are slow growers.
So, let’s take a look at the different terms used and what they really mean.
Organic, free-range, indoor, corn-fed chicken
These chickens spend all their life indoors.
They are farmed on an industrial scale with the highest density of chickens (19 – 20 per m2)
They are killed at a young age to produce more tender meat that lacks flavour.
Sadly, 94% of the chickens raised in the UK are still intensively farmed.
These chickens live longer.
And get access to the outdoors which means they have more protein.
But… although it sounds great, they only have limited time outside.
And sometimes many of them don’t even get outside due to the small ‘popholes’ they use to access it.
This means their stress levels can still be high as they spend a lot of time indoors and still have more chickens per m2 (13 – 15 per m2)
In the UK, only 5% of chickens are raised free-range.
This is the best way to raise chickens for their welfare and for overall flavour.
These chickens are usually bred on smallholdings.
They access the outdoors and have more space than any other farmed chicken (5 -12 birds per sq m).
And are slow-growing breeds and are fed a range of food.
Organic chickens have to be grown for at least 70 days which is more in line with how nature intended.
This means the chickens are healthier to eat, containing less saturated fat but higher omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart.
Plus, they are only given antibiotics if really necessary.
In a nutshell, ‘organic’ is the highest rating for welfare standards.
The bad news… in the UK only 1% of chickens raised are organic.
This means nothing in relation to animal welfare.
Chickens are omnivorous, so they scratch around to eat plants, seeds, insects and worms.
So feeding them corn doesn’t mean better quality (that’s a bit of marketing spin), it usually means they are being fattened up faster.
Injected with water
Large-scale producers often bulk up meat with water.
They say it’s to improve the meat but it adds weight which is how we pay for it.
Over a third of the weight of poultry can be due to water added.
That’s why buying locally sourced or knowing how your chicken was reared is so important.
It benefits the animals’ welfare and it benefits the flavour.
The cost of organic, free-range, indoor, corn-fed chicken
It’s become a bit of a minefield buying chicken.
There’s a lot to think about and unstitch especially because marketers work very hard at convincing the consumer that their product is ticking all the right boxes.
And let’s not forget that price does come into our spending.
We may all want to buy organic and know the bird has had a good life.
But due to the extra costs, the farmers have to outlay in raising these birds, we pay more which can seem expensive when feeding your family.
So, perhaps instead of compromising on quality, we eat less and buy better.
After all, less is more.
So, what’s the answer to the question ‘organic, free-range, indoor, corn-fed chicken… what do I buy? ‘
In a nutshell, here are a few questions you should remember to ask when buying poultry:
- What bird is it? (Hubbard is the best)
- How old was it when it was killed? (70 days are the slow-grow birds)
- How many birds are there per house? (100’s of birds per house, not 1000’s)
Ultimately, you want to buy organic.
Failing that, free-range.
It’s never easy but if we look after the farmers raising their animals in happy, stress-free environments.
Then we will encourage more farmers to go organic.
And as they say, it’s the consumers’ wallet that can lead to change.
If you want to learn more about sustainable farming and climate change, check out my post, here
Thai-style chicken and basil with egg fried rice
- 1.5 cups long grain white or jasmine rice Top cheat: buy pre-cooked rice from the supermarket
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 500 g chicken, thinly sliced and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 tbsp corn starch
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari (do this to taste as you don't want it too salty)
- 2.5 tsp toasted sesame seed oil
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into strips (or if you can get Thai basil)
- fresh coriander for garnish
- 1 line, cut into quarters
- Cook the rice: (if possible do an hour or more earlier so it can dry out and cool or use leftover rice from the night before).TIP: use left-over rice OR cheat and buy pre-cooked rice from the supermarket – this just makes cooking a midweek meal a lot easier)Pour the raw rice into a fine mesh sieve and rinse it under cold water until the water runs clear. Cook to the packets instructions.Once the rice is cooked, spread it out on a parchment lined baking sheet or two large plates to cool. You should have roughly 4 ½ cup of cooked rice.
- In a pot of boiling water with a teaspoon of salt, blanch the broccoli and onion slices until softened with a slight bite left in them, about 2 – 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the broccoli and onions and set them aside.Leaving the seasoned water in the pot.
- In a bowl, add the chicken pieces and toss in cornstarch until evenly coated.Bring the water you used to blanch the broccoli back to a boil and add the cornstarch-coated chicken. Poach the chicken for 4 minutes. Remove the chicken and pat dry. Then in a large frying pan, add 2 tsp of sesame seed oil and vegetable oil. Add the garlic, then the chicken and cook to get a little browning on the chicken. Transfer them to a plate.
- In a small bowl, beat the two eggs with ½ teaspoon of the sesame oil, and a teaspoon of soy sauce.Add 1 tbsp vegetable oil and 1 tsp sesame oil to the pan. Add the (dry) rice to the pan and spread it out into a thin, even layer. Let the rice cook, undisturbed for 1 min before tossing it and then frying it for another minute. Do this for a total of 5 minutes. You will begin to see some crispy edges start to form.Using a spoon, move the rice to the side of the frying pan, pour the egg mix into the pan and keep moving the egg until it starts to cook. Then mix in with the rice.Add the chicken, vegetables, and basil to the pan with the egg rice and season with soy sauce (do this a little at a time so you don't over-salt it). Stir over medium heat until it is all fully combined.Top with coriander leaves, and a squeeze of lime juice.