Fennel and pear stir-fry with chicken tenderloins
Photo by Tamara West
I’ve really been enjoying sweet crispy pears recently and playing with new ways to use them. I started to wonder what their crunchy texture would be like hot and this led me to try them in a stir-fry, with very happy results. Their natural sweetness brings out the flavour of the other ingredients (especially the fennel) and I like the slight surprise factor they bring to the dish, that “what is this, oh really, it’s pear?” reaction. Pears seem to naturally suit being cut into long strips and for a stir-fry this shape serves an important purpose — it creates air gaps between the pieces. This lets steam evaporate from the pan, keeping everything crisp and crunchy instead of stewing. Chicken tenderloins also naturally work well as long strips, making them an ideal partner. I’ve chosen celery and capsicum for more colour and crunch but you could also use courgette or bok choy, they cook in the same short amount of time.
I enjoy this just as it is but it would also go well with cooked rice or quinoa. There’s very little oil used, just enough to get a sizzle going. Take care not to overcook the pear and vegetables by cooking in a heavy pan on a high heat. Ideally you want the pan to store up a good reservoir of heat, so that when you add the orange and lemon juice it evaporates quickly and thickens up into a tasty coating rather than a big puddle of warm liquid.
For the chicken
|400 g||Chicken tenderloins, or use chicken breasts|
|½ tsp||Fennel seeds|
|½ Tbsp||Olive oil|
For the stir-fry
- Get everything ready before you begin cooking. Cut the chicken tenderloins into two or three pieces (nicely chunky). Place in a bowl with salt, pepper, fennel seeds and olive oil, then mix around to coat evenly.
- Cut the fennel in half then into diagonal strips. Slice the pear into chip-sized strips. The celery and capsicum are good in bite-sized chunks.
- Add the chicken to a hot frying pan and letting it cook for a couple of minutes undisturbed before turning and stirring. Cook for around 5-8 minutes until lightly browned, checking that the thickest piece is just cooked inside. Remove from pan and rest in a warm bowl while you cook the veges.
- Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to the pan. When it is nice and hot add the fennel, celery and salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened. Add the pear and capsicum then cook for about 2 more minutes. Splash the orange and lemon juice on top and stir unti the liquid evaporates and coats on to the veges, gathering up the flavour from the pan as it does. If the liquid hasn’t thickened up after about a minute, remove the veges from the pan so they don’t overcook, then reduce the juices on high heat until they are thick enough to drizzle over the top as a sauce.
- Remove from heat and mix in the rested chicken along with the spring onions, then serve.