Chicken and avocado salad with basil and parmesan dressing

You can bulk up this fabulous spring salad with other veggies, such as blanched broccoli florets or sliced cucumber. It also demonstrates the best way to cook a chicken breast to keep it nice and juicy – seared in a hot pan and then finished in a low oven. Skin-on chicken breasts make all the difference.

chicken and avocado salad
Maja Smend


2 large skin-on chicken breasts (about 200g each)
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
1⁄4 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 little gem lettuces, leaves separated
1 avocado, sliced

4 tbsp Greek strained yogurt
Zest of 1⁄2 lemon
15 basil leaves, plus extra leaves to serve
10g finely grated parmesan, plus extra shavings to serve

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2. Place the chicken breasts in a resealable food bag with the oil, lemon juice, paprika and garlic. Season with salt and pepper then massage the marinade into the chicken. Set aside for at least 15 minutes, or up to 12 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, place the pumpkin seeds on a small baking tray and roast for 15 minutes until turning golden and starting to pop. Set aside until ready to serve.
  3. Heat a medium, ovenproof frying pan over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the chicken breasts to the pan, skin-side down, and fry for 5 minutes, pressing them down from time to time to help brown the skin evenly all over. Turn and fry on the flesh side for 2 minutes, then transfer the pan to the oven for 12 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and leave to rest for 10 minutes on a chopping board.
  4. Meanwhile, make the dressing by whizzing 2 tbsp yogurt, the lemon zest, basil and parmesan with a pinch of salt and pepper in a small blender or food processor until smooth. Stir in the remaining 2 tbsp yogurt.
  5. Arrange the lettuce and avocado on plates. Slice the chicken and arrange over the top, spooning over any cooking juices from the frying pan (warm them through if needed).
  6. Spoon over the basil and parmesan dressing and scatter with the roasted pumpkin seeds, parmesan shavings and extra basil leaves to serve.

TIP Zest the lemon into the blender or food processor before you squeeze out the juice to use in the chicken marinade.

Recipes: Eleanor Maidment. Food styling: Sunil Vijayakar. Styling: Lydia Mcpherson