As I’ve said before most of the food I cook is the result of advance planning, prior experience and random moments of inspiration. Michael loves to lovingly tease me about my food planner – mainly because it lists our our weekday meals up to 5 weeks in advance – but it rarely fails us and has made our trips to the supermarket both quicker and cheaper. The obvious downside being that when plans change at the last minute it can throw the whole planner into chaos and it takes me several days to get things back into sync. Those days can be when some of the best and worst food happens. This recipe for Sweet and Sour Chicken came from one of those days…
The only certain ingredient we had in the house was the chicken. It was sitting in the fridge and needed to be used – but there were no plans for what to do with it. Desperate for inspiration to strike we went for a nice early evening stroll – to our local pub. Although beer isn’t always the solution to a problem, in this case it was and we left the pub desperate for some sort of Chinese food…
We’ve stopped having Chinese take away food when it’s just the two of us, as it’s impossible to get the portions right. We either end up eating way too much or throwing away a horrifying amount of leftovers a few days later. I stupidly suggested that I could make dinner instead – using up the chicken that was calling to me from the fridge at home.
I knew how to make crunchy and healthy chicken balls in the oven, as I’ve used what is essentially the same method for my Coconut Prawns and Glazed Crispy Chicken in the past. I admit that it doesn’t quite retain the same crunch as a batter coating but it’s still damn tasty. All I needed to double check is that my mental recipe for Sweet and Sour sauce wasn’t too far off piste and then bring it all together with some peppers, onions and pineapple.
I have to say for a dinner that came together from idea to plate in a couple of hours (including a pint or two in the middle) this Sweet and Sour Chicken has to be one of the recipes of which I’m most proud. The flavours are exactly what you get from a take away – whether that is vaguely authentic or not – with a thickly sweet glaze tempered by the sharp sourness of the vinegar.
Served here with my homemade Egg Fried Rice this truly is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach – with the bonus of being both portion controlled and leftover free! Perfect.
Sweet and Sour Chicken
In a bit of a twist, the chicken is coated in breadcrumbs and oven-baked rather than being fried, before being mixed into a flavour-packed sweet and sour sauce.
for the Chicken
- 300 g Skinless and Boneless Chicken Breast cut into bite-sized pieces
- 25 g Plain Flour
- 1 tsp Sea Salt
- 1 large Free Range Egg beaten
- 30 g Panko Breadcrumbs
- Cooking Spray / Spray Oil
for the Sauce
- 120 ml Pineapple Juice
- 120 ml Tomato Ketchup
- 5 tbsp Cider Vinegar
- 3 tbsp Light Soy Sauce
- 3 tbsp Light Brown Sugar
- 1 tbsp Cornflour slaked in an equal amount of cold water
- 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
- ½ Onion peeled and chopped
- ½ Red Pepper deseeded and chopped
- ½ Green Pepper deseeded and chopped
- 100 g Pineapple Chunks
Prepare the Chicken
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Prepare a baking sheet with non-stick parchment.
Mix the flour and seasoning together and put onto a shallow plate. Put the beaten egg and panko on two further, separate plates.
Cut the chicken breast into 2cm (bite-sized) chunks. Dip each piece of chicken into the flour mixture, making sure it's well coated, before tapping off any excess. Then dip into the egg, again coating well, before allowing any excess to drop off. Finally, coat in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing the mix on to make sure it holds itself in place.
Lay the chicken pieces out onto the baking sheet and mist with the oil (or cooking spray). Put into the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking, until the coating is golden brown and the chicken is cooked through.
Make the Sauce
Whilst the chicken is cooking put the pineapple juice, ketchup, cider vinegar, soy sauce and light brown sugar into a saucepan. Mix well then bring to the boil, stirring regularly to stop it sticking.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for 5 minutes or so until slightly reduced and thickened. Add in the cornflour and water mixture, whilst stirring constantly, and cook for a further couple of minutes until you have a thick and glossy sauce.
Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan then add the onions and peppers. Cook for 5-10 minutes until slightly softened, then add the pineapple and heat through.
Mix the sauce and vegetables together, before adding in the cooked chicken pieces. Serve immediately with steamed or egg fried rice.