: Chicken & Corn Curry.

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Recently, we visited Dempsey’s Corner Orchard,  just 5 minutes from our house.

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For just $2 per person, we could spend the day and “eat of any tree” we wanted. You might say we had more freedom than Adam and Eve did.

Sorry, that was corny.

Speaking of corn, have you ever eaten a cob fresh from the stalk? One that you picked yourself? If not, you really should try it! As if all the beautiful fruit wasn’t enough, Dempsey’s also had a corn field for the customers to pick all that they wanted. It was fantastic! So juicy and so much sweeter when it is fresh! After eating a couple of these, we decided to purchase some for our supper.

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There is nothing wrong with plain boiled corn on the cob but this time I wanted to do something different. This fresh and tasty corn was worthy of something else. After thinking about it, I decided to use it in Opor Ayam, which is an Indonesian style chicken curry. Opor is enveloped in this rich, spicy, coconutty sauce.

I could write poetry about this sauce.

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This Opor Ayam recipe is not authentic. Instead, it suits our preferences. Normally, a whole chicken is cut up to make this. Also, one traditional recipe calls for 15 dried chilies….nope, not a typo.  Fifteen!!

I’ve only made this a couple times before, and only in one pot. It is terrific and easy just like that. But this time I did it a bit different.I finished it off in my cast iron casserole, adding the corn from Dempsey’s.

The corn, after cooking in the sauce and soaking up the spices, tastes spectacular!

Using breasts make this healthier. Boneless also make it kid friendly.  Because I have omitted the bone and darker meat, I have sacrificed some of the flavour. I’m ok with that. Feel free to use bone-in chicken, and thighs also, if you want. Just add a few minutes to the initial cooking time.

Not authentic, but very delicious anyway. This would appeal to someone who can’t handle too much chili. This is spicy but not very hot. You can make this using 1 chili if you prefer, without losing much flavour. The chili does balance out the sweetness and richness of the dish.

Ingredients:

2 ½   lbs boneless and skinless chicken breasts  (aprox 5 breasts)

2 shallots

1 tbsp diced ginger

3 garlic cloves

1 bulb lemon grass, sliced

2 dried chilies

2 tbsp coriander

1 cinnamon stick

1 tsp curry powder

1 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp dried onion flakes

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp tomato paste

½ cup chicken stock

1 can coconut milk

3 or 4 Dried kaffir lime leaves (optional)

3 tbsp vegetable oil

4 large corn cobs, parboiled for 5 minutes and sliced (or 2 cups of vegetables of your choice)

Method:

Grind shallots, ginger, garlic, chili, and lemon grass into a paste. Cut chicken breasts into large chunks (cut each breast in 3 or 4 pieces).

Over medium heat, heat oil in a large pot and fry spice paste until fragrant. Add the coriander,cinnamon stick, curry, turmeric, and onion flakes. Stir. Add tomato paste and salt with a little water (just enough to keep spice paste from burning).

Add chicken to the pot and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Frequently scrape spices from bottom of pot, and toss chicken pieces around to brown them. Add a bit more water if things start to stick.

Pour in coconut milk, chicken stock, and add lime leaf to the pot.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes. * preheat oven to 370 degrees at this point * Uncover pot and reduce heat to medium-low setting.

Cook a further 15 minutes. The sauce should appear thicker by then and some of the red coloured oils will start to separate at the top. If this hasn’t happened, continue cooking until it does.

Now transfer this to a deep, 3 ½ to 4 quart casserole dish and add in vegetables.  Don’t waste 1 drop of the precious sauce, scrape it all into the casserole! Remove the cinnamon stick and discard.

I used 4 cobs of sweet corn that I previously parboiled and cut into slices. Sliced carrots would also work, or cubed sweet potato, or any sweet ‘ish’ vegetable.

Cover the casserole and cook in 370 oven for a half hour. Remove and give a gentle stir before serving.

Serve with rice or potatoes.  I recommend bread for sopping up the sauce!

Serves 6-8.

This is delicious just as it is, but if you wait one more day, it’s infinitely more yummy!

Just keep it sealed in the fridge (if you can delay digging in!)

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: Soto Ayam (Indonesian chicken noodle soup)

my soto ayam

This is the Indonesian version of chicken noodle soup. It’s packed full of ingredients that are great for fighting cold and flu symptoms. We’ve had our share of those this winter. This is actually an older photo of a batch of soto ayam I made a couple of years back. I thought it timely to post about it as we are all getting over the mother of all colds in our house.

I’ve toned it down, with slightly less spice. Also, instead of the traditional bean thread noodles (glass noodles), I used something a bit more substantial; egg noodles.

This is a hearty and social meal, because each person adds what they want to their own dish.

Half a sliced boiled egg is thrown in when serving. This is optional. It may seem a little odd, but is quite common in Indonesian and Malaysian soups. At least try it. You may find yourself adding a boiled egg in your future bowls of chicken soup!

(A) Spice Paste Ingredients:

4 garlic cloves

1/2 cup sliced shallots

thumb size of ginger

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 lemon grass, just the bulb, sliced

1 tbsp vegetable oil

(B) Soup Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs chicken, skin & fat trimmed

3 liters water

1 small onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 bay leaf

2 tsp salt

2 large carrots, peeled and sliced

6 oz. egg noodles

(C) Accompaniments Ingredients:

3 cups blanched and rinsed bean sprouts

1 cup green onion, sliced fine

2 cups finely shredded lettuce

1 cup chopped cilantro

1 lime, cut in wedges

1/4 cup chili sambal (if you like heat)

3 hard boiled eggs, halved

1/2 cup crispy fried shallots

Method:

First, trim your chicken and set aside. Prepare ingredients ‘A’ by grinding them into a paste.

In a large stock pot,over medium heat, add the ground ingredients. Fry until fragrant, then add the chicken. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the water. Cover and cook until chicken is completely cooked. Remove chicken into a large bowl with slotted spoon. Strain stock by pouring it over a large pot through a fine mesh strainer. Discard pulpy spice bits. You should now have a nice, clear broth. Return to heat and add the sliced carrots to the stock. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the egg noodles to the stock. Cook until noodles are done, then turn off heat.

Remove the chicken from the bones, shred, and set aside in a bowl. Prepare sprouts, lettuce, green onions, cilantro, limes, etc…basically, everything in ‘C’ ingredients. Each of these ingredients will be put into individual bowls.Cover with lids or plastic wrap, and set these bowls (along with the bowl of shredded chicken) on the dining table.

Gently reheat soup. Everyone will then add his or her own ingredients from the table, to their own bowl. Then, ladle over the hot soup, topping with garnishes.

Serves 6.

: Rendang Daging (tender beef in spicy coconut gravy)

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I do try to limit the amount of meat I eat. But this dish is the reason I could never ever give up red meat.

I present to you Rendang Daging. This dish is rooted in Indonesian cuisine, but it is enjoyed in Malaysia and Singapore and throughout that whole region.

To explain it to someone who has never had it I would say, firstly, don’t judge it by it’s looks. It is not the most appealing dish to look at. To the naked eye, it’s just a mess of meat (beef or lamb) and coconut gravy. You may be put off by how it appears. My eldest daughter took it to school once to have her friends scowl at it and declare she had “dog vomit in her lunch”. Kids are sweet.

Once you smell it however, you get the feeling like whoa!! there’s a bunch of layers of tastes and aromas coming from there! I don’t know how to explain the flavour except that it drop kicks every taste bud…salty, sweet, sour, bitter…it’s got it all. Add to that the complex richness of coconut gravy that has permeated every nook and cranny of that beef which was slowly cooked for hours. Done right, the tender beef will fall apart once your fork disturbs it,kind of resembling pulled meat.

This is the one dish from my husband’s heritage I can make from memory. This is my family’s recipe which I share with you. We make it 2 or 3 times a year. It is not 100% authentic because some of the ‘exotic’ ingredients, such as galangal and kaffir lime leaf, are difficult to get here in eastern Canada. Regardless, it is AMAZING. Rendang was voted as #1 most delicious dish in all  the world by CNN travel.

Nasi Goreng, also from Indonesia, was voted #2… But that will be another post.

Rendang is even better the next day. Also, don’t waste any of the gravy! Not even a drop. That stuff is liquid gold, and there’s nothing better than mopping it up with a crusty roll, or piece of naan bread. My husband once used the leftover sauce as a burger topping. That was a killer burger.

It’s my family’s go to dish for special occasions. We make it during holidays, birthdays, or to honour special guests at our table. It’s very decadent throughout those parts of Asia. If it’s served to you, consider yourself spoiled and honoured. They only make it for the most special occasions, such as weddings or home-coming dinners. The weddings in Indonesia are very opulent. The food must also reflect the importance of such a grand day.

Javanese wedding couple. Photo credit to Juergen's photostream, Flickr

Beautiful Javanese bride and groom. Photo credit to Flickr, Juergen’s photostream.

Please try this for yourself. I hope you enjoy it, and along with us, count it as one of your favourite meals!

Ingredients:

2 lb stewing beef, cut into small pieces

*Grind the following:

2 lemon grass, just the bulb ends, sliced
5 shallots, sliced
4 garlic cloves, sliced
thumb-size ginger, sliced
3 tbsp sambal oelek or 2 fresh red chili pepper (I remove seeds from one pepper)

4 tbsp coriander powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 can coconut milk

4 tbsp brown sugar

3 tbsp dark soya sauce 

2 kaffir lime leaves (if you can get them)

4 tbsp unsweetened, flaked coconut, lightly browned in dry skillet

                                                                                                              

Method:

Grind the wet spices. Heat oil in large wok or deep skillet and add the wet ground spices with the dry spices. Fry until fragrant. Add meat and fold into the spices in pan, mixing well. Cook, over medium heat,until meat no longer looks raw.

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Reduce heat to medium-low and add in the soy sauce,lime leaves, and brown sugar. Stir well.

sweet and salty comes in with addition of brown sugar and soy sauce

sweet and salty comes in with addition of brown sugar and soy sauce

Pour in coconut milk and reduce the heat to low (number 2 on the dial).

before the coconut gravy thickens...

before the coconut gravy thickens…

Cover and cook, stirring on occasion, for 2-3 hours, until gravy is dark and thick or almost entirely absorbed by the meat. It depends on personal preference. I like to turn off the heat at around the 2 and a half hours mark, thus retaining some gravy. However, traditionally the meat is cooked until nearly dry (this takes longer than 3 hours).

Traditional rendang, cooked until nearly dry

Traditional rendang, cooked until nearly dry. Photo courtesy Jasmin Kitchen.

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gravy is done when it’s thick and dark

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Sprinkle on the toasted coconut and serve with steamed rice such as basmati or jasmine. Serves 6.