Finally, we have a half decent internet connection. It’s still slow to load pages but we can cope now, after Unifi finally arrived to install our internet connection. For the last six weeks or so we have been trying to manage on a mobile router device, or going to sit down at the poolside, where there’s a free wifi zone.
That’s fine, you know, in fact, that is gorgeous, but as a place to try and work? Well, it was too hot in the daytime. We used to go down at night and try and catch up with things. Thing is… it took forever to upload any pictures. The other thing is that the mosquitoes caught up with me. The Bear, of course, wasn’t troubled at all but I ended up with huge, horrible bites. I suppose it says something about the tastiness of my blood….
In the end we went and bought the mobile router so we could at least sit in the apartment and use the internet.
Of course, our other problem was that the container hadn’t arrived and all of our pots and pans , cutlery and crockery, knives and tools were miles from us and weeks from delivery. I did go out and buy the bare minimum…and when I say the bare minimum, that’s what I mean. I wasn’t going to replace everything when I had boxes and boxes of kitchen stuff on its way to me, so I ended up with a chopping board; one knife for cutting and one for bread; a colander and a pan. It was fine. It worked and I kept to the simplest of dishes. I steamed fish by wrapping it in tinfoil and adding ginger and garlic, adding a few drops of water and putting it in the oven. In my pan, I cooked rice and stirred shredded coconut through it (oh, the bliss of finding fresh, shredded coconut in the local food market!) and then quickly sauteed baby kailan leaves… we ate on the balcony, sitting at the only table and chairs we had. Thank goodness for IKEA, otherwise we would have been sitting on the floor!
Eventually, after many excuses by the shipping company, we got our container and the kitchen was filled with all of my lovely things… time, I thought, for a decent meal to celebrate. I sat on the balcony at dawn and started to consider what I could cook. Isn’t that a fabulous view? I sit there every morning with my coffee and plan what I am going to do while the Bear is at work.
I had been out and bought a small Malaysian recipe book and I really wanted to try a recipe I had seen in there – Ayam Golek – chicken boiled in coconut milk and spices and then roasted in the oven so the skin crisps up beautifully.
Malaysians love chicken… there are stalls at the roadside cooking chicken and the hawker stalls at the back of most shopping areas always have a fried chicken stand. Everywhere you go you will find chicken cooked in various ways and this recipe sounded perfect.
First, get your chicken. That was easy. I went to the local food market and picked up a chicken and all the ingredients I needed to make ayam golek. I bought coconut milk ( it did say make it yourself from fresh coconut but there were no further instructions, so I ended up buying three cartons to make the 750ml I needed); some shallots; garlic; three stalks of lemon grass; a knob of galangal; a knob of ginger; some cumin seeds; white peppercorns and fennel seeds.
I came back and started to sort out the ingredients so I could prepare the meal ready for the Bear to get home from work…..
Oh dear. That will teach me to wear my specs when I go shopping….
What the heck was I going to do with that? There was nothing in the recipe book about chicken heads!
Nor feet! I know I had seen chicken feet for sale… but I’d never wanted to eat them. The horrible claws… like long fingernails…oh it made me shudder.
And the neck….it just stuck out horribly and I had to hack away at it. Just shows how sanitised everything is in the West. Our chickens come prepared and all we have to do is start cooking. Well, I got it ready but maybe next time I will look more carefully at what I am buying. Maybe I will wear my specs.
First of all, then, I rubbed the chicken with salt and put it to one side while I started on the rest of the recipe.
Malaysians set great store by grinding everything in a pestle and mortar, so I started off…
I peeled twelve small shallots
and then got the ginger out to start peeling that… and discovered I’d made my first mistake
Yellow ginger ISN’T ginger of an attractive hue…it’s tumeric. My fingers and nails were stained for days.
I decided that grinding the seeds and peppercorns would be easier if I did that first, so into the mortar went one teaspoon each of white peppercorns and cumin and one tablespoon of fennel seeds.
… and bashed away until I had a smooth mix. I don’t think I’m going to need a gym membership because that gives you one heck of a work out.
I’d got the other ingredients ready – the twelve shallots; three cloves of garlic; three stalks of lemon grass and the peeled ginger….and decided that I wouldn’t put that ‘yellow ginger’ in after all.
So everything else went in and I bashed away
That’s hard work, that is.. Maybe if you aren’t looking to create a truly authentic dish, you could give everything a whizz with a blender? I think I might do that next time….
Especially when this was the temperature in the kitchen. That’s our kitchen clock, which helpfully confirmed what I thought – it was hot in there.
Finally, I was ready… 750 ml of coconut milk was added to a wok…
…..and the ground spices and bashed lemongrass stalks were added and everything was heated to a slow boil before I added the chicken and a teaspoon of salt.
I was on Easy Street now… all I had to do was simmer that chicken for thirty minutes, turning it half way through so both sides got poached. The coconut milk and spices thickened at that point and it was time to put the chicken into a roasting dish and then into a preheated oven (175°C/350°F) for another thirty minutes……the skin crisps up and the chicken browns…
Ohhh… the smell was divine!
The chicken was moist and succulent and fell apart as I tried to serve it. Just the way it should be if it is cooked properly.
I made boiled rice and stirred a handful of fresh grated coconut through it, with a few bits of chopped coriander (or, as they call it here, Chinese Parsley. I spend lots of time in the food markets sticking my nose into things to work out what things are)
Was it worth it? Very definitely. I’d suggest that if you do it, you use a blender unless you want a real work out. That would be so quick and easy and if you were to get the ready prepared chopped garlic, ginger and lemongrass (because not everyone has access to the fresh ingredients) no one would blame you. Be as authentic as you like or as lazy as you like, but do try making it because the flavours are delicious. The simmering in coconut milk make for the most incredibly moist and juicy chicken while the roasting crisps the outside and adds a final layer of taste to it all.
Oh… and maybe don’t buy a chicken with its head and feet…….