At last, cooking and internet… chicken Malaysian style – Ayam Golek

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…….


Sabrina’s Chicken

When I was much younger, I took it into my head to have an adventure and set off to Morocco. I travelled around on ordinary buses, with chickens in boxes on the racks and priests blessing both the journey and the travellers. I ate at roadside cafes and in back street restaurants.  I slept on rooftops of village houses in the Anti Atlas mountains and shared food with the people who lived there.

It was my first real adventure and it was so exciting. The food was so vibrant, so different to anything I had eaten at home – you have to remember this was twenty years or more ago and for a girl from the north of England it was an entirely new world.

Ever since then I have always been intrigued by Middle Eastern and North African food and adore the complex layers of flavours and spices, so whenever I see something new I am irresistably drawn towards it.  I was reading Sabrina Ghayour’s Persian recipes on Foodepedia and spotted Koreshteh Fesenjan and knew that this was going to be next on the agenda.

Koreshteh Fesenjan is chicken stew with walnuts and pomegranate molasses – and the way Sabrina described it made me long to eat it.

I wanted to do it so much that instead of waiting until I got boneless chicken thighs as she suggested, I just took the only pack of chicken I had in the freezer and sorted through the larder for walnuts and my pomegranate molasses.

It didn’t matter – it was delicious… so delicious I think you ought to make this, so get your ingredients ready – Sabrina’s recipe feeds 6 to 8… what I’m doing will feed half that. There was a reason for that – in my greed and eagerness, I knew I had all of the ingredients, just not enough of them to make as much as she did.

That was OK. though. There were only the two of us and while we routinely have a second helping the next day we might not be wanting to eat it the day after that as well.

Get some chicken thighs  – you can buy a packet of them,  already skinless and boneless, (which would have been a better bet than the chicken legs I found, but what the heck!)

Chop a couple of onions

250g of walnuts – that was the two and a half, nearly three bags of walnuts I had .

They need to be ground and as we normally buy them as walnut halves then I have to grind them.  My Bamix has a grinder attachment, so I did it with that, otherwise use a food processor, making sure the walnuts are finely ground.

You will need two big pans for this… in the first, put a tablespoon of flour in and, over a medium heat, let it cook abit until it changes colour slightly.

See? I know it’s not a good photograph, but you can see what I mean.

Meanwhile , in the other pan, start cooking the chopped onions in a tablespoon or so of olive oil.  You want the onions to become translucent, then add your chicken, after seasoning it with salt and pepper. Turn the heat up and turn the chicken in the onions until it is well sealed. Then turn the heat off and leave it. 

Now, back to the other pan…. add the walnuts and stir them in to the flour. You won’t need any oil as the walnuts have, as Sabrina says, a high fat content

After about 5 minutes, add a pint or so of cold water

Give it a good stir and bring it to a gentle boil then turn it down, cover it and let it bubble along for about an hour. I thought that seemed long but I was determined to get this right – it is necessary so you cook the walnuts until you see the walnut oil forming on the surface.

Then stir in a tablespoon of caster sugar and just over half a bottle of pomegranate molasses – oh, I love that. It is sweet but not sugary sweet and sharp in a tangy way. Stir it in and make sure it all dissolves properly and then….

… add the chicken and onion from the other pan and stir round.

Make sure there is enough of the sauce to cover the chicken – add some water if you ned to and then leave to cook, very slowly, for a couple of hours, stirring it occasionally to make sure those walnuts don’t stick to the pan and burn.

The smell of this is divine, it really is.

A sneaky taste every now and again (just to check, you understand) bears this out….the walnut and pomegranate sauce gets darker and the smell fills the room.

Serve with basmati rice, says Sabrina, so that’s what I do to serve with it….

And then?

Have you ever eaten anything that makes you whimper quietly with pleasure?

Oh, it was more than delicious – the texture of the walnuts, with their lovely deep flavour, mixed with the sweet sharpness of the pomegranate molasses and the softness and richness of the chicken …. it made me wonder why no one had told me about this before.

I’m making this again, I tell you. All I can say is thank you, Sabrina for writing about this in the first place.

It needs time to do it, so choose a Saturday or Sunday when the weather is bad. Lock yourself in and make this to cheer you and your loved ones and be very glad that this recipe exists.

Chicken in cider casserole with apple and chive dumplings

I was wondering what to make for supper and looking round to see what we had when I spotted the last  Bramley apple in the fruit dish. My aunt has a huge tree in her garden so whenever I go to see her, I come away with the cooking apples.

Chicken, I thought. Chicken casserole and I’ll add the apple… and make the gravy with a bottle of cider! And maybe dumplings to go on top…. just the thing for a blustery day. So off I went to the butcher’s and came back with legs and thighs (my favourite bits of the chicken – so juicy and flavoursome) I got a leek, some sweet onions and a couple of carrots, too.

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First thing to do was brown the chicken in the casserole dish. If you are using a slow cooker, just brown them off in a frying pan. It won’t take long and it does make a difference. Besides it melts out some of the fat which is a good thing.

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While they are browning chop your vegetables. You of course can add whatever you fancy. Onion and leek are good as they sweeten over the cooking time and I am going for a sweetly savoury, rich and delicious casserole here, a soothing meal rather than a spicy one. Carrots look pretty, so they can go in!

Take the chicken out and add your vegetables, stirring them round gently so they pick up some of the brown and caremelised bits of the chicken that are stuck on the dish.

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Then lay your chicken bits on top the vegetables. I sprinkled some Knorr Granulated Bouillon over the chicken (much easier than cubes) as I needed some stock in there

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Then, pour in the Bulmer’s apple cider!  Look at it froth beautifully. That is going to go perfectly with the apple and make the stock taste delicious. The smell as it hits the hot dish is incredible

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I peeled the Bramley, cored and cut it into pieces and quartered some mushrooms. They went in on top of everything.

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And that was it….into a preheated oven at 160 degrees so it could bubble away this afternoon. A couple of hours at the most and it would be ready.

But I wanted this to be the perfect casserole. Dumplings are always a good move… light and tasty, floating on top of delicious gravy….

For them you need flour – I used 40 g of self raising  – and 20 g of beef suet. This will make 6 lovely little  dumplings, perfect for the two of us and with two of them left over so that a certain person can take some casserole for his lunch the following day. Double the quantity, I think, for more people.

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When I make dumplings, I often chop into the mix some herbs – maybe lemon zest and some thyme, or chives… and there I was staring at the chopping board where the peel from my Bramley lay…. why not, I wondered? I nibbled a bit of the peel – definitely sharp flavoured and appley. If they added just a hint of appleness to the savoury dumplings… well, that might just be considered a triumph!

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So I chopped the apple peel finely and chopped up some chives


I added some salt to the suet and flour and a tablespoon or so of  cold water… then stirred in the chopped chives and apple peel

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Look how the colour changes slightly as it comes together

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Then I rolled the dumpling mix into 6 little balls.Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 032

Before you put the little morsels of dumpling loveliness into there, stir in, if you have any, a spoonful cream. Cream in a chicken gravy is perfect. The apple and cider sharpen it so it isn’t too rich and the mixture of it all together is just so delicious.

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Then, add the dumplings.   

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I pop them on top of the casserole (remembering to leave space for them to expand a bit) maybe half an hour before I am ready to serve it. If you are doing this in the slow cooker then just turn the heat up to high for the last half hour.

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Look at them… flecked with the green of the chives and the apple…

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And that, let me tell you, was delicious. The chicken was tender, the gravy was smooth, both sweet and savoury and the dumplings had a gorgeous taste of apple running through them. How inspired was I to think of adding the peel?

I think I am on to something with that!