When I'm home my life usually involves spending lots of time at the computer and spending time with family and friends. I am occasionally coaxed out by an event about once or twice a month. Events involving lots of media are not my favourite. For starters traditional media often travel in clusters according to the title or publishing house and once you have a cluster already engaged in deep conversation, a single person finds it difficult to penetrate.
Recently I went to a launch and I knew maybe two people out of the fifty that were there. One person was all the way across the other side of the room and in the middle of a conversation and I wanted to avoid the other person. One important thing at these events is not to be a) the person standing alone or b) the person that someone else is trying to extricate themselves from.
Sometimes you find someone else by themselves and you start chatting. You are just relieved to not be standing alone but you just know that you really must mingle. Indeed a gentleman interrupted our conversation, talked for two minutes very rapidly and then said, "Well I must be off mingling!" It was as if he had an inner timer that told him that our two minutes with him was up and he needed to circulate.
This woman and I looked at each other. "Well I'm going this way," she said and I responded "Okay I'm off that way" pointing in the opposite direction as if I were always going that way. The crowd dispersed and I eventually started talking to someone else. It was a food event with chicken and they asked me what I had cooked recently with chicken.
I described this Balinese chicken before realising that his eyes were glazing over and he was looking around me. A part of me was confused, was my two minutes up? So I let him off the hook and said gaily, "Well I'd better mingle!" and was off with a wave of my hand.
I know that he wasn't interested but this Balinese chicken is amazingly good. It is perfect for entertaining and it can actually be done mostly ahead of time with one final grill just before serving.
Iboe Soelastri on right
I originally learned how to make this chicken at the Iboe Soelastri cooking school at Tugu Hotel in Bali and we used a mortar and pestle to make the spice blend. But for those short on time, it is entirely possible to make the spice paste in a food processor and that actually cuts out so much of the work. I've got this down to 45 minutes from beginning to end using a food processor provided that the grill is preheated and that is a real 45 minutes, not fictional or hopeful I promise :).
First the chicken pieces are boiled in water and drained. Then the intriguing spice paste made with tomato, chilli, garlic and nuts is fried off and coconut cream and tamarind is added and the chicken gets its second cooking. Once the chicken is cooked through, it is then browned under a grill.
I initially thought that the chicken would be dry but it isn't in the slightest. The chicken is well cooked through (ideal for those people who like their chicken thoroughly cooked) and yet it is soft and juicy and the rich coconut sauce is begging for a pairing with a bowl of rice. The original name for this dish is "Ayam Panggang Bumbu Terik" and if anything I'd suggest doubling the recipe because it will be in high demand. Just like a social butterfly at a cocktail party!
So tell me Dear Reader, what is your tactic with the mingle? And what are your favourite cooking shortcuts at home? And do you prefer really well cooked chicken? That may seem like a strange question but a few friends of mine say that they will only eat really well cooked chicken.
Balinese Triple Cooked Chicken
Adapted from Iboe Soelastri
Preparation time: 5-15 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
- 750g/1.5lbs. chicken pieces, skin on
- 1 medium sized red or brown onion, peeled and chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 4 large red chillies, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste
- 150g/5ozs. tomato, chopped
- 1 teaspoon palm or white sugar
- 100g/3.5ozs. candlenuts (I used macadamia nuts)
- 1/2 cup tamarind paste
- Oil for frying
- 1 cup coconut cream
- 1 cup water
Step 1 - Place the chicken into a pot of boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain the chicken pieces (you can reserve the stock for some great chicken broth).
Step 2 - Blend the onion, garlic, chillies, shrimp paste, tomato, sugar and nuts and some of the tamarind paste until it becomes a smooth paste. Add a little oil to a skillet and fry the paste mixture until fragrant then add the reserved chicken, the rest of the tamarind paste, coconut cream and water. Simmer for 15 minutes or so until chicken is cooked through (it depends on the size of the pieces).
If you need to add more water, do so a little at a time. At this stage you can refrigerate or freeze the chicken and just bbq or grill it just before serving. I like to do it this way because the chicken is fully cooked and there's no risk of serving guests raw chicken.
Step 3 - Preheat bbq or grill onto high and slip the pieces under the grill to brown the skin. Serve with steamed rice, coconut rice or salad.