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March 27, 2011 / amyjmcintosh

Chicken salad

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Too much of a good thing is never a good thing. Take Thai food, for example. Sydney is positively saturated with it. There’s more Pad Thai’s in this city than you can poke a stick at. Just close your eyes and a new local Thai takeaway joint is likely to appear before your eyes. What I would give for a good local Vietnamese, Turkish or Moroccan restaurant, but no, we have about 20 Thai restaurants instead.

To help salvage my jaded taste buds from Thai overkill, I treated them to something different this weekend – Israeli food. There’s this charming little cafe up at Bondi Junction that makes my heart swell with happiness. It’s called Savta and it dishes up the most delicious Israeli food you can imagine. Not that I’m an expert on Israeli food, but believe me, if this cafe is anything to go by, then it’s worth ditching your green chicken curry for.

Savta is one of those blink-and-you-miss-it cafes as it’s hidden at the back of a mall. What it lacks in location, it more than compensates with food and service. The owner is one of the friendliest and warmest guys around and always has a big smile on his face. And did I mention value for money? The servings at this place are huge and you’ll pay half of what you cough up on Campbell Parade.

The only issue you’ll have is deciding what to order. The brekky menu is equally as good as the lunch menu. They do a great mezze plate. Paul swears by the kefta sandwich with gherkins. Then there’s the awesome Israeli breakfast that is guaranteed to fix the worst hangovers – chopped tomato and cucumber salad, dark olives, labneh (a soft cheese made from yoghurt), omelette and pitta.

They also do the best Shakshuka in town (eggs cooked in tomatoes and spices). On this occasion, I went for the za’atar chicken and roasted pumpkin salad which I have crowned as Sydney’s best chicken salad. It was brimming with flavour and generous chunks of chicken mixed with diced avocado, red capsicum and red onion. My only disappointment was not being able to polish off the whole lot.

As for the za’atar, well it was amazing and I’m keen to try it at home. Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend of thyme leaves, sumac, sesame seeds and salt. You can use it to season meat or eat it with bread and olive oil. Yum! All up, the bill came to $32. Not bad for two meals and two really good coffees.

To experience Savta for yourself, you’ll need to go either during the week or on Saturday (not open on Sundays). Just be sure to order by around 2pm on Saturday as the kitchen closes around then.

Shop 5/ 4-12 Waverley St
Bondi Junction 2022
(02) 9369 4222

Meanwhile, here’s my version of their Za’atar chicken salad.

Ingredients (serves 2)
2 chicken breasts
2 tbs za’atar
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 pkt English spinach leaves
1 avocado, diced
400g butternut pumpkin, peeled, deseeded, cut into 3cm pieces
½ red onion, sliced
½ cup chickpeas
1 red capsicum, chopped

Za’atar (compliments of Mid East Food)
1/4 cup sumac
2 tablespoons thyme
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons marjoram
2 tablespoons oregano
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Place the chopped pumpkin in a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the pumpkin for about 30 minutes or until cooked through.

To make the za’atar, grind the roasted sesame seeds in food processor or with mortar and pestle. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Place in a glass or ceramic bowl.

Add chicken breasts to the za’atar mix, drizzle with olive oil and toss until combined. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Cook chicken on a hot grill, turning occasionally. Set chicken aside and allow it to cool before slicing it into bite-sized pieces.

Make the salad by mixing the baby spinach leaves, avocado, capsicum, red onion, pumpkin and chickpeas in a big bowl. Top with chicken, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cracked pepper.

In the mood for more salad recipes, check out my pumpkin, date and macadamia salad.

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