Remember how I wrote about Italians being massive pussies when it comes to being ill? And how they have all these weird ailments that the North of Europe has never even heard of? Turns out both are contagious – being a pussy, and these imaginary conditions.
A couple of weeks ago I went to Italy for a dear friend’s birthday. Of course it was a weekend filled with booze, food and partying. After the weekend, I was suddenly confronted with a couple of deadlines that I had sort of, you know, forgotten about completely. So I stressed. I went on a coffee-fuelled power diet, determined to stay up as long as it took for as many days as it took until I got all of my work done. After a couple of days of that, I felt… Somewhat poorly, as a proper Northerner would put it. But my symptoms (terrible stomach ache, loss of appetite, acidity) sounded awfully like something the Italians call gastrite, and which the Queen of the Nights Out sometimes had after a particularly boozy weekend. I tried asking people here if they knew what the best cure was, but no-one had even heard of it. People simply didn’t know what it was.
I decided to ask the Queen herself what I should do. The verdict was not a pleasant one. “You can’t have anything that’s fatty, acid, sweet, or caffeinated. No tomatoes, nothing fried in oil, no butter. You need lots of green vegetables, preferably cooked. Lots of grains, and everything wholemeal. Eat slowly and small portions. Oh, and Ditta? Strictly no alcohol.”
Screw that. I’m not going to eat boiled broccoli for a week. I can live with cutting down on the booze and coffee for a few days, provided that I can still eat normal people food. No oil and no tomatoes is a tricky one, but surely I’ve had to deal with worse restrictions in my life. Nothing fried in oil, that means everything from the oven. No fatty foods, so lean chicken breast should be doable. Green vegetables, so spinach and lettuce are probably OK. Wholegrain bread with extra seeds, check. Cheat a little bit and have some raw onion, and there you go, healthiest, leanest, most dietary-aware chicken burger you’ve ever seen. Oven-baked chicken burger with spinach and nut pesto, awesome!
And just for the record: after a couple of days of eating super healthily I decided that I’m not Italian and that gastritis doesn’t exist up here. I went for a careful pint and realised that it stayed down just fine. Gastritis will only get you if you let it. Never surrender!
For one, and then you can just multiply the ingredients by however many people you’re feeding, use:
- one chicken breast
- some flour
- some breadcrumbs
- one egg
- some lettuce
- half a red onion
- a roll of your choice
And for the spinach and walnut pesto:
- a small handful of fresh basil
- two small handfuls of fresh spinach
- half a handful of mixed nuts (in my mixed nuts bag there were walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts)
- some freshly grated parmesan (I don’t know, like, three spoonfuls or something)
- a small clove of garlic
- some olive oil
- couple of spoonfuls of water, for easier mixing purposes
- a pinch of salt
Also get some
for the chips!
So the first thing you probably want to do is cut up your potatoes in nice chip-shaped strips. Chuck them in a bowl of cold water, then rinse and leave them to drain. You want to put your chips in the oven (220°C) about 20 minutes before you put in your chicken. If you’re on a diet, sprinkle them with salt and nothing else. Otherwise, add some olive oil.
Now take your chicken. Put it on a chopping board on some cling film, then cover it with some more cling film. Now grab a rolling pin (or, if you’re a drunk who doesn’t own a rolling pin, an empty wine bottle), and smash the shit out of it. You want to flatten it out so that it cooks properly without turning into some godawful piece of dry, stringy I don’t even know. So nice and flat, don’t be afraid.
After that, slap it about in the flour, dip it in the egg, then bread it. Now put it in an oven dish on some baking paper, then pop in the oven for as long as it takes. Remember my oven? I don’t know how hot it gets exactly, but I think it’s about 180°C, so my chicken takes just over half an hour. You might get yours done in about 20 minutes on 220.
While you wait for your chicken, chuck all the ingredients for the pesto in a jug and just stick the hand blender in. Taste for any of the ingredients, and add more of what you feel is missing.
Wash and dry your lettuce, and slice your onion into the thinnest rings you can manage.
Assembly time! Cut open your roll, put in some lettuce, shove the chicken in there (check it’s cooked beforehand, but you should be fine, really), top with some onion and the pesto. If you’re a tough northerner, enjoy this one with a pint.