chicken

Barbecue Spatchcock Chicken with Charred Lime

Barbecue Spatchcock Chicken with Charred Lime

Also known colloquially as flatties, spatchcock chickens have long been a feature of the traditional South African braai. Of course, strictly speaking spatchcock chickens are not exclusively South African, but they have nevertheless earned their place on the grill along side other local favourites like braaiwors and skilpadjies. Delicious and, most importantly, practical, flatties remain a true braai stalwart!

Whether it be marinated in spicy peri-peri, chutney and ginger beer or simply with some lemon and herbs, you can usually find a flattie to meet your family’s tastes. Personally, my favourite flattie is marinated in a simple braai sauce and then doused in the juice of a couple of charred limes.

Now I must confess that I’m not a natural braaier. Generally speaking, I have an annoying propensity for cremating everything I place on a braai and my Weber has been collecting dust in the garage for years. This particular recipe is, however, just so damn tasty I just can’t resist the urge to wheel out my long forgotten braai! I can’t get enough of the combination of the lime and braai sauce, so much so, I could happily eat the whole chicken on my own – burnt or not! This simple recipe is my very own barbecue-bliss. Enjoy.

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Cape Malay Chicken Curry

I’ve always thought of Cape Malay food as being the ultimate manifestation of ‘cuisine by circumstance’.

Finding themselves at the tip of Africa, and a world away from their native produce, the Malaysians and Indonesians of the time must have felt they were faced with a bleak culinary future. Devoid of South East Asian staples like coconuts and pandan leaves, the bountiful (but unfamiliar) fruits of the Cape must have been an ironic bitter pill to shallow.

Thankfully, the Cape’s prominence along the spice route meant there was an abundance of spices and combined with a mingling of cultures and a reliance on local produce, resulted in the creation of something quintessentially South African – Cape Malay cuisine. With dishes like koe’sisters, pickled fish and denningvleis, Cape Malay food is as unique as the culture it feeds.

Bobotie aside, arguably one of its most famous dishes has to be Cape Malay Chicken Curry. A dish that never seems to fade in its popularity, this simple curry is a perfect example of great Asian food made without staple Asian ingredients. In the absence of coconut milk or candlenuts, this curry is enriched with tomatoes, but is still royally flavoured with exotic spices. As with almost all Cape Malay dishes, chicken curry is always served with an array of sambals or condiments.

Simply delicious, no matter where you are in the world.

For more great South African recipes from The Muddled Pantry please click here

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Thai Green Chicken Curry (Kaeng Khiao Wan Gai)

Arguably the most famous curry in the world, Green Curry is, for many of us, the poster-child of Thai cuisine. Disarmingly unintimidating, delicious and rewarding to make, it is hardly surprising that Green Curry has the equivocal honour of being as synonymous with Thailand as Spaghetti Bolognese is to Italy.

Thai Green Chicken Curry (Kaeng Khiao Wan Gai)In spite of the fact that it is a true Thai classic, Green Curry is actually remarkably easy to make at home. The first thing to consider is your curry paste and the eternal debate between homemade or store-bought. Whilst there are a wide range of fantastic ready-made pastes available, many recipes and chefs wax-lyrical about the absolute necessity of making your own, insisting, “that’s how its done in Asia”. Poppycock!

Now I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t make your own, I’m just saying you mustn’t get too hung up on doing so. The truth is that the only Asians making their own curry pastes are those who’s job it is to do so.

Okay, so whilst I do concede that a homemade curry paste is almost always nicer than store-bought, they invariably require a long list of ingredients that are difficult to source and often impossible to substitute. As part of this recipe I have included a homemade curry paste and the final dish is all the more rewarding for it, but if you can’t be bothered making it or you don’t have the ingredients, don’t despair – there is no shame in using a store-bought paste instead (as I often do). Thankfully, as with most curries, the success of the dish actually relies more on technique than ingredients; so rather focus on how you make the curry and less on the provenance of your paste. The chances are your curry will still turn out great!

For more delicious Thai recipes please click here, or if you need tips on stocking your Thai Pantry please click here.

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Hainanese Chicken Rice 海南雞飯

As macabre as it may sound, the sight of cooked chickens and ducks dangling from gruesome hooks typifies the South East Asian food experience for many of us; often eliciting sympathy and hunger in equal measure. For me though, it gives me pangs of nostalgia for what is, perhaps, one of my favourite Malaysian dishes – Hainanese Chicken Rice. Unsurprisingly, I’m not alone in my love for this dish either, as it appeared at number 45 on CNN’s World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods. Hainanese Chicken Rice’s enduring popularity is testament to the appeal of its uncomplicated nuances and its surprising depth of flavour.

IMG_6853 (600x800)Typically there are two types of chicken on offer at any given Chicken Rice stall in South East Asia; poached (white) or roasted (brown). Growing up, I always preferred the latter, as I was a bit put off by the opaque appearance of the poached variety – if only I’d been a more adventurous child! Whilst the roasted version is undoubtedly very tasty, the poached version is in fact superior in both flavour and texture. Not only does the poaching process have a transformative effect on the meat and skin of the chicken (making it impossibly silky), it also imparts a subtle depth of flavour that enhances the chicken, rather than overpowering it. In addition to being tastier than its roasted counterpart, the white version is also much easier to make!

With a name like Chicken Rice, it should come as no surprise that the rice plays an equally important role in the dish! The good news is that the chicken’s poaching broth doubles-up as the stock used in making the rice. So getting the rice just right isn’t much of a chore – simply use the stock instead of water when making your rice. The stock can also be frozen and reused indefinitely, creating a depth of flavour that only gets better with each chicken poached.

A third, and equally important, element to Chicken Rice is its unique chilli sauce. This light, zesty sauce is both fragrant and hot – the prefect accompaniment to the “clean-tasting” chicken; it is an absolute must!

For more delicious Malaysian recipes, please click here

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Khao Phad Gai (Thai Chicken Fried Rice)

Khao Phad Gai (Chicken Fried Rice)A perennial takeaway favourite in our household, Thai-style Chicken Fried Rice (Khao Phad Gai) is one of the few dishes that both my partner and I enjoy eating, albeit with a few differences in our taste preferences. Naturally I like mine hot and spicy, whereas my partner’s is a somewhat more muted affair without any chilli or garlic. To my mind, the lack either of these elements seems like an affront to Thai cooking, but each to their own, I guess.

Along with an obligatory side order of Tom Yum Goong, Khao Phad Gai has a special place in my recent food history. It may be a simple meal, but this takeaway (along with a lot of red wine) was an absolute Godsend during a particularly stressful house-move – something I will forever be grateful for. Ordered almost every other night, we would sit, wine in hand, in amongst our half-packed boxes watching episodes of “Orange is the New Black”, tucking into our Khao Phad. None of it may have been very classy, but for a short while at least, this became our new normal.

Almost a year later, we don’t order Khao Phad as often as we did back then, but we still enjoy eating it now and again. After a rather disappointing order, though, I decided to try my hand at making it myself. Personally I prefer my own efforts, but my partner thinks otherwise. Apparently my version is “too flavoursome” for his delicate tastes – in my book that can never be a bad thing! As I said before, each to their own.

imageAs with most Asian food, the key to success is preparation…and a hot wok. Typically, 90% of any Asian stir-fry is prep-work, as the actual cooking usually takes just a few minutes – so make sure you have all you ingredients chopped and ready to go. Stir-frying can be fast and furious, and you don’t want to be faffing around with a carrot while your onions burn!

For more delicious Thai recipes please click here, or if you need tips on stocking your Thai Pantry please click here.

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Chikenkatsu チキンカツ (Crumbed Chicken Cutlet)

Almost identical to its porkier cousin, chikenkatsu is, rather unsurprisingly, a chicken version of the Japanese deep-fried delight that is tonkatsu. As part of youshoku cuisine (Japanese-style Western cuisine), chikenkatsu literally means “chicken cutlet”, and is the Japanese interpretation of the chicken schnitzel.

As with tonkatsu, there are a number of ways chikenkatsu can be eaten. It can be served with just rice, shredded cabbage, mustard and the ubiquitous Tonkatsu Sauce, it can be added to Japanese Curry Sauce to make katsu-karē or it can be used as a chicken alternative to the donburi classic, Katsudon.

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Chicken Katsu with Warm Fennel & Almond Salad and Sichuan Chilli Oil

Chicken Katsu with Warm Fennel Salad and Sichuan Chilli OilInspiration is occasionally born out of apathy and the origins of this tasty meal were no different.

Feeling particularly uninspired one evening, I decided to forgo my usual practice of preparing two completely separate meals for dinner and instead decided to do the unthinkable – eat the same dinner as my partner! Now please bear in mind that this dining-convergence doesn’t happen often in my kitchen, very rarely in fact. We have wildly different tastes and normally I’m happy to make us different dinners every night, but there are occasions when I justifiably just think, “sod it” and we end up with the same meal. At least almost exactly the same, I always have to tart my own meal up, just a little!

So, “Chicken Schnitzel with mash” for two it was then! Now I must confess that the very first time I made this dish it was with some horrendous ready-made Chicken Schnitzels, wrestled from the frozen depths of my freezer. Indeed I had sunk so low, but like I said, “apathy = inspiration”.

But even in this heightened state of disinterest, I still needed something to spruce up this dire meal, so I set about rummaging through the fridge. I was looking for quick fixes and I found some; leftover pickled fennel that I had made for Kimchi Tacos – sorted! Things were starting to look up. It was only then that the inspiration started to kick-in; some toasted almond flakes were added to the fennel and Sichuan Chilli Oil, leftover from when I last made Dan-Dan Noodles, found its way onto the plate! Whilst this was fast turning into an inspired concoction, the addition of these two ingredients turned out to be culinary-dynamite! With just a few simple twists this meal went from turgid to terrific!

Note: The chicken in this dish has since morphed into Japanese Chicken Katsu, but there is nothing wrong with using good old chicken schnitzel instead (homemade or otherwise). For all extents and purposes Chicken Katsu and schnitzel are pretty much the same thing, but my need to complicate things for myself is, sadly, inherent and overwhelming.

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Kari Kapitan (Nyonya Chicken Curry Kapitan)

Kari Kapitan (Nyonya Chicken Curry)This Malaysian Classic was my late father’s favourite curry and with good reason, it is simply delectable!

The überkind of Nyonya cuisine, Kari Kapitan is the prefect confluence of traditional Malay and Chinese flavours. My version of this curry is a loose adaptation of that of the reigning queen of Nyonya food, Pearly Kee. Nyonya cuisine is the epitome of what makes Malaysian food great; inclusivity, and Pearly is a true vanguard of this culinary heritage. The result of a marriage of Malay and Chinese ingredients and flavours, Nyonya style cooking is unique to Malaysia and is, perhaps, one of the most underrated cuisines in the World.

A Malaysian take on a traditional Indian Chicken Curry, Kari Kapitan is the result of a thorough Nyonya makeover. Along with the classic additions of lemongrass, lime and galangal, the chief Nyonya element is belachan. Ubiquitous to Malaysian cuisine, belachan is a fermented shrimp paste and is one of the hallmarks of Nyonya cooking. Whilst best described as ‘pungent’, belachan mellows when added to a curry, imparting a depth of flavour to the finished dish like no other.

One of my happiest childhood memories is going on a family outing to the local waterfalls; virtually the entire Clan was there – grandparents, aunts, uncles and a full gaggle of cousins. After hours of slip-sliding through the falls, it was finally lunchtime! As we gathered for our picnic, my grandmother presented us with a massive white Tupperware, filled to the brim with leftover Kari Kapitan. Armed with anticipation and slices of fresh white bread, we all tucked in; what bliss! Perched on those boulders, surrounded by my army of screaming cousins, with the cool waters rushing between my toes and my fingers stained yellow from the Kari Kapitan; it was the perfect childhood memory, matched with the perfect meal.

Universally, all curries benefit from a day of rest before being served, but this is especially true of Kari Kapitan. Whilst still delicious when eaten on the day of cooking, a bit of patience reaps its own reward. Such is its plethora of flavours, Kari Kapitan needs time to find its balance, to develop and mature. As a result, Kari Kapitan makes for amazing leftovers…and memories.

To discover other delicious Malaysian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

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Kadhai Murgh (Chicken Kadhai)

One of my staple Indian curries, Chicken Kadhai regularly features in almost all Indian meals I make; big or small.

Kadhai ChickenThe key ingredient in this curry is the kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) as it adds a distinct flavour that is both delicious and alluring. Although widely available from spice markets, kasoori methi isn’t a flavour many are accustomed to and makes a nice change from the typical curry flavours most people normally encounter.

A personal favourite, to my mind this curry tastes and smells of India herself; a heady blend of fragrant spices, the earthy tones of the kasoori methi – all marry into a potent assault on the senses. Just like India this curry will charm you, its flavours will linger and it will invariably leave you wanting more.

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Classic Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken

The first time I ordered a Caesar Salad I was completely overwhelmed, but not in a good way. It was just too salty, too greasy, too cheesy – it was just too much of everything and yet tasted of nothing in particular. Undeterred by this travesty of a salad, I decided to try making it at home. I told myself that such an iconic salad couldn’t possibly be so bad and I was right, it’s actually tastes bloody incredible! Done right, a Caesar Salad is salty, it is cheesy and yes, it is greasy but it is all a question of balance. The salad should be light but robust, subtle but punchy. In my opinion, the key is the lettuce-to-dressing ratio – get that right and it will make all the difference.

Admittedly the addition of the grilled chicken is an aberration but hey-ho, I’m no Caesar purist! I find the chicken lightens the overall dish and turns the salad into a substantial meal…and whilst I’m owning up to culinary aberrations, I also prefer using baby gem lettuce over the traditional cos! Scandalous I know, but I’m just muddled that way.

For more salad ideas from the Muddled Pantry, please click here

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