Savouring the season

This week in the second instalment of the Amateur Chef series we suggest a meat dish which could be considered as part of a main meal. Bon Appetit !

The chicken you see before you was born of strife. My husband, an accomplished cook himself, is not known for his patience with adventurous amateurs. Having promised you something christmasy last week, I decided this must mean roasted meat of some kind and sought his advice. (Somewhere, I was nurturing the hazy conviction that there should also be cranberries, but I abandoned that soon enough.)
I was going to attempt a German pot roast, but aforementioned spouse squashed that plan.

In no particular order, here were the other plans that were dismissed: whole roast chicken with a basic bread stuffing (boring), Sri Lankan turkey curry (like the curry you eat everyday but with a less tasty bird), spicy marmalade grilled chicken (‘yuck’ says the wife) and jalapeno cream cheese stuffed chicken breast (‘yuck’ says the husband). This is the only one we both felt like eating. It’s another variation on an established recipe.

So here you have it – pretty marinade, delicious grilled chicken, and the end product. The un-fun parts of this recipe are concentrated around cleaning the chicken, but it’s otherwise remarkably simple, relying for most part on a thorough marination.

What did I learn this week? Beware of sputtering oil.

Wok Grilled Chicken in Basil Wine Sauce (serves 4)

1 Kg Chicken (skinless breasts)
15 small onions
2 pods of garlic
1 teaspoon mustard powder
2 teaspoons dried basil powder
1 teaspoon whole black pepper
4 dried red chillies (shredded)
2 cloves
1 bay leaf (shredded)
Small piece cinnamon
Small piece ginger
1 large tomato
1 tablespoon curd
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon butter/margarine
Vegetable oil
200ml white wine

Clean and wash chicken. Cut each breast in half, making 2 or 3 deep slits to allow the marinade to soak in. To make the marinade, grind onions, garlic, mustard, dried basil, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, tomato, curd, salt and butter until a smooth paste. Apply liberally onto meat, pressing marinade into slits and coating both sides. Cover and place in fridge for three hours.

When you’re ready to begin cooking, begin by using your fingers to clean as much marinade off the meat as you can. Set marinade aside for later.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok or large vessel. When smoking hot, slide in the in the chicken. The very hot oil will seal in the marinade. Making sure that the meat doesn’t stick to the pan, allow the chicken to cook until golden brown – some bits will get lightly charred.

Pour 200ml of water and wine into the wok. Add the marinade and cook over high flame. Once your chicken is cooked and tender (about 10 minutes should do the trick), fish the pieces out and set aside. Allow the mix in the pot to thicken until it is the right consistency for a sauce. (Apparently you can also use 1-2 tablespoons of flour thicken the mixture, though I didn’t.)

Serve with roasted whole or halved parsley butter potatoes. Surround the potatoes with steamed/boiled vegetables- choose broccoli, carrots, peas, and beans to make the platter colourful. Sit back and look smug as your guests offer you praise and adulation.

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