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a yummy substitute for maccas: chicken tarragon pasta

I spend a lot of time thinking about food. Not just about what to eat and when to eat it (everything, and all the time) but the role food plays in people’s lives and more specifically the kind of relationships people forge with food. I feel a great concern for young women in particular and their attitudes toward food. Food is the enemy. Food is a tantalising temptress that will lead you to scoff yourself into a state of not thin-ness. Food should be consumed sparingly.

I’ve found that the healthiest relationships had by people with food are underpinned with this philosophy: “For the majority of your meals your food should be equal parts nutritious and tasty.” If you are not enjoying your meal, then there is no point. Food needs to nourish the mind AND body. One cannot do that with fast food, or with diets.

Food affects not only our physical well-being but our mental well-being also. For example, living on raw vegetables and low fat proteins would make my body happy and my mind absolutely miserable. It would also lead me to fantasise and eventually binge on delicious, fatty, creamy, fried food. I have seen this pattern in many of my female friends and have fallen prey to it myself; I mistook the concept of healthy eating to mean “boring”, cut out all my favourite foods from my diet and was left utterly uninspired by the idea of eating carrot sticks for dinner. I also started dreaming about cheeseburgers.

It’s all about balance. If you can’t stop thinking about delicious fatty sausages with a creamy garlic mash then have some. Don’t slap yourself with a massive guilt trip, enjoy it. Eat it slowly, relish every bite and intersperse it with sips of yummy wine. The next day, eat a breakfast comprised of fresh juicy fruit and glob some natural yoghurt over the top. Have a tuna salad for lunch, full of delicious protein and fresh produce. Eat in this manner and your body will be able to handle anything. This style of eating will make you happy.

The recipe below is definitely in keeping with this philosophy. When I was little I’d beg mum for Maccas. She almost never said yes, funnily enough. She would, however, respond with ‘nope, but how about some chicken pasta?’ I love her for this. She acquainted me with a whole world of culinary delights: leafy, creamy, spicy, garlicky, every kind you can think of. This meal, if eaten with a salad (such as the old faithful combination of roquette, shaved parmesan and a balsamic dressing) is scrumptious and will make you feel good.

Equally Yummy Substitute for Maccas: Chicken Tarragon Pasta


(Serves 4)

5 chicken thighs, chopped
1 bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked and roughly chopped
4 tsp tarragon (dried is fine) – liberal usage of tarragon in this recipe is desirable, don’t be afraid of the strong smell and flavour, it’s sensational
2/3 cup of white wine
3 -4 tins of diced tomatoes (the higher the quality the better, ‘Polpa’ is delicious, full of juicy pulp)
Olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed (or more depending on personal taste)
1 packet of spaghetti


1. Drizzle a good splash of olive oil into a sturdy pan and place over medium heat. Once warmed add the chicken pieces and sprinkle over with the tarragon. Cook for about 5 – 10 minutes. The idea is to cook the chicken until it is coloured (DEFINITELY not browned). Remove the chicken from the pan with a slotted spoon, so as to reserve the oil (where a large concentration of the flavour is) and set aside.

2. Lower the heat and add the garlic to the pan. Allow to sweat for two minutes to release the flavour. Add the wine and cook for 2 – 3 minutes until reduced by about half. Add the tinned tomatoes to the pan, bring to the boil, and then reduce to a simmer. (If you really enjoy the taste of tarragon you can add another sprinkling of it to the pan).

3. Meanwhile, put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the spaghetti. (It’s been said that adding olive oil to the water stops the strands from sticking together but I haven’t had much luck with this technique, the best way to guard against this is regular stirring and cooking your pasta in a large pot). When the water boils, add the spaghetti to the water and cook until al dente. At the same time add the chicken back to the pan along with the fresh basil (by the time the spaghetti is cooked the basil will be wilted but still chock-full of yummy basil flavour).

4. Before draining the spaghetti, check on your sauce. If it’s not runny enough you can add a couple of ladles of the pasta water to it, it’s full of salt and starch, so it will add to the cohesiveness to the pasta as well as the flavour. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Drain the spaghetti and divide into four bowls. Ladle over the sauce and tuck in. This dish goes really well with garlic bread.

Tip: Depending on the quality of the tinned tomatoes you may need to simmer off the liquid of the sauce for an extra 15 minutes or so.

By Emma Robinson

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