Laksa with fried chicken and tofu puffs

Laksa is traditionally made using candlenuts in the paste, but there are macadamias lining the streets up here so I’ve oft subbed them in very successfully.

Also, in another development in the world of substitutions, the paste section of the recipe could be subbed out for a store bought paste if you are time-poor. Please note though; the store bought paste will not come off the bench to a standing applause like the macadamias would. Don’t get me wrong, Mr store paste will still get a couple of cheers from a few drunkards down the front, it’s just not going to be the full John Farnham coming onto stage at his third “final goodbyes” tour standing ovation.

Anything you can’t find at a supermarket is no doubt at your local asian grocery store. While you’re there you should grab yourself something else you have never seen before and work out how to use it.

One thing I love about Asian cooking is the big ol’ pile of colour that you start with
Look at those tofu puffs just waiting to soak up so much flavour
Just bloody delicious

LAKSA WITH FRIED CHICKEN & TOFU PUFFS

(serves 4 – 6)

PASTE

1 onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, peeled
8 dried long red chilli, rehydrated in enough hot water to cover
1 thumb sized knob tumeric, roughly chopped
1 thumb sized knob galangal, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
5 coriander root, roughly chopped
4 stalks lemon grass, white part only, roughly chopped
¼ cup candle nuts or macadamias, lightly toasted
¼ cup oil to blitz

TO COOK

Paste above
8 kaffir lime leaves
1 tablespoon dried shrimp
3x 400 ml tins coconut milk
750 ml chook stock
1 tablespoon castor sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce, plus extra if necessary
2 tablespoon lime juice

TO SERVE

500 g fresh rice noodles or dried rice noodle equivalent, cooked as per instructions of chef packet
300 g chicken thigh fillet, poached or fried, kept warm in low oven
100 g fried tofu puffs, cut in half
200 g bean shoots
Extra lime and chilli
Coriander, sliced fresh shallots and crisp eshallots
A chilli condiment of your choosing

Blitz all paste ingredients in a food processor or pound with mortar and pestle until coarse pasty consistency.
The paste goes into a pot over medium heat. Cook out for 5 minutes or until it’s starting to smell delicious.
Add all “to cook” ingredients except lime juice and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
Add lime juice and curry puffs and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Check seasoning and adjust if necessary. Fish sauce for more salt, sugar for more sweet.
Chop chicken into bite sized pieces.
Now it’s time to assemble.
Noodles go into a bowl, soup and tofu get ladled over them, add the chopped chicken and then garnish with bean shoots, coriander, sliced shallots, crisp shallots, fresh chilli and chilli condiment, with extra lime on the side.
You know you will be patting yourself on the back for this one.

And here is an almost-instructional video to help you too

Troppo fried chicken burger


In Australia when we add pineapple to a dish we are automatically granted permission to rename name the dish with tropical as the prefix. For example; a pork chop that has a pineapple ring added to it may now be a tropical pork chop, a pineapple sorbet is now tropical sorbet and fast food joints are champing at the bit for their yearly tropical chicken box or tropical burger special.

If you had come from an upper middle class 80s Australian upbringing you may have also used tropical in post-title context eg. Fried chicken tropicale or something else equally as 80sesque.

Now, because we are Australians we can also be excused for abbreviating the word tropical to troppo as, well, that’s just what we do. We abbreviate the heck out of whatever the heck we want and we don’t even apologise about it.

Friendly tip #42. Season your chips* with a little of your favourite chicken rub too


TROPPO FRIED CHICKEN BURGER

(Serves 4)

4 burger buns
2 x 250 g (9 oz) chicken breasts or 4 x 120 g (4 ¼ oz) chicken thigh fillets, breasts sliced along the length into 2 thinner fillets, thighs left whole
2 eggs, beaten
150 g (5 ½ oz) potato flour
2 tbls your favourite chicken rub, plus a little extra to season
Oil to deep fry
4 slices smoked bacon, grilled
4 slices cheddar cheese
4 slices pineapple, fresh if you can, core removed and then grilled until slightly caramelized
Shredded iceberg lettuce
Mayonnaise

Marinate the chicken in the rub for an hour or two.
Roll the chicken through the egg mix and then the potato flour.
Give the chicken a little tap to remove excess flour.
Heat your oil in your deep fryer to 160°C (325°F).
Now fry the chicken for 4—5 minutes, until cooked.
Season the chicken with extra chicken rub and a little salt.
Need instructions about how to layer this bad boy? Let’s start with mayonnaise on the top followed by lettuce. Now from the bottom we go bun, chicken, cheese, bacon and then pineapple.

*burgers are pretty much always accompanied with chips (fries) and a tasty beverage (beverage).

Grilled chicken with Thai flavours and sweet & sour sauce


This dinner was cooked up with a pile of things from our home garden. One of the really good things about living in a sub-tropical region is that a whole heap of the ingredients that might be grown and eaten in South East Asia can also be grown here. Also, to complete the experience, children’s plastic dining tables and chairs are available from large retailers and possibly toy stores.

So, the aromats all came from our garden, as did the bok choy.

The chicken came from a super market who assured me it had led a happy and sustainable life. I wish I could say that we had grown and slaughtered the chicken ourselves but that is just not the case. It is something we have certainly done in the past and something I would like to do again, but not this time.

I am cooking the chicken over coals because I find this method to be tasty and certainly pleases my palate. Failing the presence of a grill, or the ability to use it, this chook can be oven roasted at 200 C for a similar amount of time.

This meal also contains a few of my current favourite* garnishes – sticky rice, steamed greens with oyster sauce and a sweet and sour dipping sauce.

So, in conclusion, this is my version of a Thai grilled chicken


GRILLED CHICKEN WITH THAI FLAVOURS AND SWEET & SOUR SAUCE

Serves 4 – 6

1x 1.6 – 1.8 kg chicken, spatchcocked (butterflied, splayed, busted open)
4 cloves garlic
1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, roughly chopped
1 thumb sized piece galangal, roughly chopped
1 thumb sized piece ginger, roughly chopped
3 kafir lime leaves
1 long red chilli, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon castor sugar
Salt and white pepper to season
Coriander and sweet and sour sauce (recipe follows), to serve

Everything except the chicken and salt and pepper can go into a food processor where it can be blitzed into a coarse paste which you shall use to marinate your chicken. You could also use a mortar and pestle for this purpose, as would be the way in the old country.

Massage marinade into the chicken and leave for 30 – 60 minutes for the flavours to really get to know that chook.

Grill chicken over medium-hot coals for 45 or so minutes or until chicken is cooked (you may need to move your chicken away from direct heat if it starts to get a little too crispy or charred). Turn and rotate chicken every 10 – 15 minutes to ensure a fairly even cooking process.

Once chicken is cooked remove from heat and rest for 10 minutes. Chop into pieces with a cleaver and a crazy look in your eye. Season with salt and pepper and serve with sweet and sour sauce and sides of your choosing.

SWEET & SOUR SAUCE

2 – 3 long red chilli
2 cloves garlic
½ cup lime juice
½ cup sugar
1 ½ tbls fish sauce
1 ½ tbls water

Chop chilli and garlic finely. Combine with all other ingredients and stir/whisk until sugar is dissolved.

It is worthy of note that this is also a very nice salad dressing and will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge.

*Yes. My favourites do change. I certainly did no marry into a life of being a “one side only” man.

Smoky chicken wings


Now, I know that I harp on about the same shit on a regular basis – the glory of the cheaper cuts of meats for example – and this little spiel shall be conforming with the norm.

Today it is all about the chicken wing.

These things are the multi-lingual, bisexual, transgender, three-boobied alien who accepts cash, card, food stamps or a prize-winning root vegetable as preferred forms of payment.

You can do so many different things with chicken wings.

These things are about maximizing your dollar to flavour ratio.

These things are a decent meal from your last few bucks.

These things are not chicken breast.

These things will not help you soar like an eagle*.

These things are you feeding the crowd at your next swingers party and looking like you are directly descendant from the holiest of holies him/herself.

This is going to work well in a smoker or kettle BBQ with indirect heat.

The around the rim wing job

Wings and sauces – good times

SMOKY CHICKEN WINGS

As many or as few wings as you think you require
Your favourite chicken rub
Your favourite saucy good times

Fire up your smoker/grill and get the temp up to 160C-ish (320F). Place a couple of small chunks of smoky flavour wood on the coals to make those wings taste extra sexy.
Season wings with a little BBQ rub that makes you happy.
Place the wings on the grill however you see fit… a nice little around-the-rim pattern seems to be quite vogue right now.
The lid goes on.
Let the wings have a little smoky loving; 30-ish minutes for full wings and 20-ish minutes for wing segments, or until cooked. It is totally legit to cut one open and check that they are done though, so don’t be afraid to do that just to be sure.
Give them another little sprinkle with your BBQ rub of choice to freshen up those flavours.
Serve with BBQ sauce and hot sauce and… and… and… yeah, you get it, right?
Once you get these little babies sorted it’s time to start experimenting with different rubs and glazes and sauces and even wood flavours.
Go now, soar like an eagle with the down trodden, funny looking, little chicky wings.

* In fact, if you try to fly from a tall building after eating a bowl of these things, it is almost certain that you will fall to your death. With a little extra cash you could possibly purchase a “herbal wing substitute” that will surely help you fly**.

**Once again, may not actually help you fly.

Smoky grilled chicken


I really do like a good yard bird.

This is a good yardbird type experience.

A smoking hot bronzed bird splayed out in front of you… so moist and ready for the taking… it’s good times.

Euphemisms aside, if they should really ever be put aside, this is some damn tasty bird.

If you can split a whole bird down the backbone you can win this one, because the rest of it is keeping a few coals glowing and you can do that, right? Right?

This isn’t even so much a recipe as it is a little anecdote about what I made for dinner. I feel the time I am spending typing right now would be better spent explaining to you how to butterfly (spatchcock) a bird or even how to make a good chicken stock for the chicken gravy… but you know what? Yeah you know what. You know I am not going to do that because quite frankly, that is just not my style. No, I’m more of a don’t-really-care-about-what-you-reckon, unkept face hair and trucker cap kinda of guy, with maybe a bit of an air of a slight acquired brain injury from one too many stacks on my skateboard when I was younger… or was it from when attempted to form myself into a human snowball while snowboarding last month? Who knows, maybe I’m one of the lucky ones and I scored myself two ABIs… Lucky guy indeed.

Season the bird, inside and out, with your favourite bird seasoning type BBQ rub. I mix a few things together and call it “Big Red Rub”. There is a recipe for it right here. It works for me.

Let the bird hang out in the seasoning for half an hour or so while you get your BBQ fired up.

Get some coals going in your BBQ (pro Q or Weber are the sort of thing you’ll need for this job, or a grill plate over a fire with an old wok over the chicken to keep a little heat in will even do the job. I’m not even joking) exactly like you would normally get some coals going in your BBQ, and get it up to 150C (300F) ish.

Place the chicken skin side up over indirect heat and cover for 1 hour. The chicken should be looking pretty good at this stage… hopefully… I don’t know how I’m going to help you if it isn’t…

Brush the skin of the chicken with a little melted butter or olive oil and then, using two sets of tongs, carefully turn the chicken over, your goal now being to crisp up the skin a little.

The chicken can handle a little direct heat now, but it may need some turning so it doesn’t get “extra crispy” (AKA burnt), so get your comfy chair out, crack another tinny and keep a closer eye on it from here on in. Cook for another 15-20 minutes or until chicken is sexy as and juices from the leg run clear.

Carve it up and drizzle (yes, I know I would normally punch myself in the face for using the word “drizzle”, but I feel it has a place here) with smoked honey to gild the lily. Gilding the lily. Heck yeah, kid!

We served it with roasted carrot and sweet potato, braised kale, cornbread and homemade chicken gravy and I must say, it was damn well delicious.

Herby roast chicken with a really good warm salad and salsa verde


This one is a pretty good looking little dinner that would probably impress that love of your life/person of sexuality of your choosing that you are trying to convince that you would be a good sort to shack up with, and it is still easy enough for some one of your skill-set to put together… maybe… maybe not…

I made this with the love of my life in mind but the fact of the matter is that my Jennee is at work and it is just me and the smallish humans tonight, and let’s face it – they probably would’ve been heaps more impressed if I had made them burgers again.

I didn’t really think this one through properly, did I?

Not to worry.

This certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

No one ever accused me of being a smart man… or good looking… or a good lover even…

Every one always comments that I do have nice hand writing for a boy, though. They’ve always said that. That’s pretty nice, isn’t it?

Getting that salsa verde going. If you have never tried salsa verde before you are about to loose your shit

Salsa verde, apple cider vinaigrette and some other things in jars

A really nice looking chicken about to get a heap of love from the oven

That chook fresh from the chooky solarium

Those salad vegetables getting ready to join the party

It was reals good

HERBY ROAST CHICKEN WITH A PRETTY FUCKING GOOD WARMISH SALAD AND SALSA VERDE

(serves 4 – 6)

1 nicely grown chicken. You know, a chook that got to eat grass and grubs and shit
100g butter
1 handful fresh herbs – thyme, lemon thyme (you should try it), rosemary, sage and parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
Salsa verde to serve

For the salad
4 medium kipflers or Dutch cream potatoes, boiled or steamed for 15-20 minutes until just cooked, cooled and then sliced into 1cm disks (you could defo use a cooked grain, sweet potato or some extra green vegetables if you don’t do potatoes)
200g green beans, halved
1 small head of broccoli cut into florets or 1 bunch of broccolini cut in half
50g (2 handfuls) leaf and/or herb mix
50g (1 handful) sunflower sprouts or whatever sprouts you can get hold of
2-3 radish, sliced thinly
A good splash of apple cider vinaigrette to dress
Salt and pepper

Rub chicken down with butter. Sprinkle with herbs and season with salt and pepper, ensuring that you put a little in its bot bot* too.
Roast in pre heated 180C (350F) oven for 1 hour or until cooked, basting with sexy-buttery-chickeny juices (I think I just drooled a little) every 15 minutes. Remove chicken from roasting pan and rest in a warm spot, loosely covered in foil for 10-15 minutes.
Add potatoes to oven pan and return to oven for 10 minutes. Add beans and broccoli to oven pan and return to oven for another 5 minutes. Chuck (place gently) all of the roasted vegetables into a large mixing bowl, add apple cider vinaigrette, leaves, sprouts and radish and toss gently until combined.
Now is a pretty good time to carve that chicken. Or, if you’re heaps slow at carving the chicken, maybe get someone else to do that while you sort the salad.
Get a handful of the salad-y stuff onto a plate, put a bit of chicken on the side, dress that chicken with a little salsa verde and eat it the heck in your face.
That’s some damn fine chicken.

*Bot bot; bottom. Anal cavity.