Here's a meal you can throw together during the week that's big on flavor and quick to put together. The use of store-bought puff pastry lends a nice crunch with each bite to the finished dish. Here's how it's made...
Serving Size: Feeds 6 sufficiently.
-Baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly sprinkled with corn flour OR semolina.
-Pizza cutter OR a pair of clean kitchen scissors.
-1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed slightly (it's called "water dough" in some parts of the world).
-2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs (if you're using chicken thighs, make sure the pieces are well trimmed).
-1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika.
-1 tablespoon sesame seeds for garnishing (optional).
-1 tablespoon ginger/ garlic paste.
-3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro ( coriander ).
-1 small onion, finely diced.
-2 cups broccoli florets, stems removed.
-1/2 bell pepper of your choice, diced (green, red, yellow or orange capsicum).
-1 teaspoon cumin seeds.
-1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and crushed.
-Salt to taste.
-Pepper to taste.
-1/2 teaspoon chicken base OR 1 chicken bouillon cube, crumbled.
-1/4 cup shredded cheese of your choice (optional). I used permesan cheese.
-2 tablespoons all-purpose flour.
-1 tablespoon cream cheese (optional).
-2 tablespoons of olive oil.
-1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
-2 tablespoons of green onions, chopped.
-1 sprig of rosemary, finely chopped (optional).
-4 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced (optional).
Instructions For Making The Filling:
-Wash your chicken pieces and cut them into bite-size pieces.
-Place the chicken pieces into a medium-sized pan,and pour in just enough water to cover the chicken. On medium heat, bring the chicken to a boil until it is cooked and is not pink anymore. Once cooked, completely drain the chicken and set aside.
-In a sauté pan or frying pan, heat the olive oil and butter on medium heat; add the cumin seeds and cook until they begin to spatter and you smell the aroma of the cumin seeds.
-Add the onions and cook until golden brown; add the green onions and stir.
-Add the rosemary, basil, ginger/garlic paste, flour, salt, black pepper, paprika and chicken base or crushed chicken bullion cube.
-Add the milk, stir and allow to simmer until the mixture thickens. Add in the chicken, broccoli, jalapeño pepper, bell peppers (capsicum) and cilantro (coriander leaves). Stir.
-Taste the filling and add salt and pepper to your taste.
-Add in the cream cheese (if using) and shredded cheese. Stir and simmer until the cheese melts. The mixture should be thick and creamy. Remove the filling from the heat and allow to completely cool.
Instructions For Assembling The Chicken Braid:
-Place the slightly thawed puff pastry sheet on a well floured surface. Pinch together the folds on the puff pastry sheet and use your lightly floured rolling pin to smooth out the folds and expand the puff pastry sheet (make sure to keep its rectangular shape).
-Use your rolling pin to transfer the rolled out puff pastry onto your prepared baking sheet. This is easier than transferring the uncooked loaf onto the baking tray after you have filled it as it tends to fall apart.
-Spoon the filling into the center third of the puff pastry as shown in the picture. Make sure to leave about 1/2 inch border around the width of the loaf so that your filling does not spill out when baking. Also make sure to smooth out the surface of the filling so that the finished loaf does not have a lumpy top.
-Using a pizza cutter or pair of clean kitchen scissors, make slits on either side of the filling. Make sure that the slits are exactly opposite each other as these will be the "strands" that you braid. This is important as it will help your "braids" look neat.
-Fold in the 1/2 inch border that you left out on the width of the puff-pastry. Now begin to fold the cuts on either side of the filling in a criss-cross fashion as shown in the picture. Make sure you pull the cuts/"strands" gently but firmly so that the filling stays put.
-In a small bowl, beat your egg and 1 tablespoon of water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the top and sides of the braided loaf with this mixture. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the loaf (however much or little you'd like).
-Place the baking sheet in the center rack of the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until the puff-pastry is a light golden brown and flaky.
-Using the perchment paper to pull the cooked chicken braid off of the baking sheet, place it on a cooling rack and allow it to cool for about 8 minutes. Transfer the baked chicken braid to your serving plate (minus the parchment paper) and serve warm. Enjoy!