Grilled chicken with lemony courgette and black olive quinoa

3 Aug

Although food is way up there on my ‘The Things I Love’ list, exercise is one which gives it a bit of tough competition (which I suppose is good really, as the two make very compatible lovers!). Last year I completed my first half marathon, raising money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust (a charity very close to my heart). When I was training I had to spend a lot of time trying to figure out the best foods to eat to maximise my performance without leaving me feeling too full and weighed down. It’s important for any sportswomen and men to get a good mix of protein and carbohydrates both pre and post training; in a nutshell, protein is essential for muscle recovery and repair, and carbohydrates are important to ensure adequate glycogen stores, supplying energy to the muscles. Slow releasing carbohydrates like whole-grains and brown rice are great for endurance, whilst more simple carbohydrates like bananas and white pasta are good for quick boosts of energy. I try to keep my general staple food choices to slow releasing carbohydrates, as it prevents the quick increases in energy and often inevitable slump which occurs soon after many quick release carbohydrate foods, and helps to keep blood sugar levels under control (and consequently, appetite).

A few months ago I was introduced to ‘quinoa’. Although it looks very similar to couscous, quinoa is actually a seed. It has pretty much achieved superfood status amongst the majority – it may be small but it is mighty. Quinoa contains all essential amino acids (fundamental in the production of proteins within the body, humans must consume the right foods to get hold of these bad boys as we’re unable to make them from scratch), high protein content, slow releasing carbohydrate, loads of fibre and a load of vitamins and minerals. In short, it’s a great option for anyone who’s a bit fussy about food and looking for a good body fuel. For anyone who’s gluten-intolerant, you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s gluten-free too.

PD is coming to the end of his Aussie Rules season, and with training last night we wanted a quick healthy meal, easy to digest and which would give him enough energy to make the most of training. I also wanted to use up a bunch of left overs in the fridge, so I have made up my own recipe. It’s super quick (~25 mins total to make, if that), very filling, incredibly healthy and I like to think it’s pretty tasty too.

Recipe (serves 2 generously, with left overs for lunch)

  • 150g quinoa
  • 50-60g black olives
  • 4 spring onions
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 large courgette
  • 1 large lemon
  • Handful parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • 400-450ml vegetable or chicken stock

1. Preheat the grill to a med-high heat.

2. Rinse quinoa well in cold water, and put in a pan with the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes, or according to pack instructions. Take off the heat and cover, allowing the quinoa to soak up the rest of the stock. Add a little more if it is looking a bit too dry.

3. Cut the courgette in half and slice. Slice the spring onions, separating the white parts from the green.

4. Slice the chicken in half horizontally and place on a baking tray with a little olive oil and a splash of lemon juice. Season well and place under the grill. Cook for about 20 minutes or until cooked through, turning half way through cooking.

5. Fry the courgettes and white parts of the spring onions in a little bit of oil until soft, and slightly crisp at the edges.

6. Fluff up the quinoa and add a generous splash of lemon juice and the green part of the spring onions. Slice the olives thinly and mix into the quinoa. Season well, and mix in the courgettes and the rest of the spring onions. Note: Add the lemon juice a little at a time, it is quite a strong flavour and some may prefer more lemon than others. Make sure you’ve added enough seasoning too, the pepper really makes a difference here. If you find it a little too bland add a few more black olives – the saltiness of the black olive really complements the lemony flavours, and adds a nice taste bite to the dish.  

7. Chop the parsley and add to the mix before putting the quinoa mix onto the plate. Slice the chicken and serve over the quinoa with lemon wedges.

The left overs are still lovely as a cold lunch the next day! Spruce it up with a small handful of pine nuts to add a bit of a crunch (not only that, but they contain a hefty amount of nutritional awesomeness, including vitamins E – a type of antioxidant, especially important for skin, and K – important for blood clotting, minerals such as manganese, magnesium, iron, phosphorous and zinc, all important for different reasons like keeping bones, tissues, cholesterol, immunity and nerves healthy, and keeping our metabolism working efficiently. Double yum!).


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