LETS take a trip down memory lane today! How many migrants growing up in Australia remember being in this situation:
You’re in primary school and the lunch bell rings. Everyone around you rushes to grab their colourful lunch boxes and skip outside to sit on the lawn. Some of your friends have to sit at the canteen area because it is shaded and they forgot to bring a hat. You look at your lunch box…and isn’t even a lunch box – it’s a Japanese animal shaped container. You sit and watch nervously as everyone around you pull out juice boxes, weird yoghurt toothpaste looking things (I still have no idea what these are or what they tastes like), rollups, rice crispies, and sandwiches. Nutella sandwiches, Vegemite sandwiches, peanut butter sandwiches (not anymore it seems), ham and cheese, cheese and tomato, egg and mayo – endless varieties of random food you could put between two slices of TipTop. Sometimes, your friends get fish fingers or chicken nuggets.
You open up your animal shaped container, but you can already tell from the smell of the food what you will be eating for lunch. Everyone else smells your exotic lunch too and crowds around you curiously. Some tease you about the unfamiliar smell. You’re probably also the only other person around you who needs to eat your lunch with cutlery.
“Why are you eating with a fork and spoon? Where’s your knife?”
“Is it hard to use chopsticks?”
All the attention makes you feel embarrassed. You envy everyone who gets to squish their nutella sandwiches down to thin strips of chocolatey white bread, or eat the cheese that they can peel like a banana, or get their teeth stuck in fruit roll ups. Why can’t your parents feed you like that?
Fast forward twenty or so years later and you come home late from work some nights. You need to go to the gym, you also need to check your emails and make a few phone calls. Dinner starts to resemble the lunch boxes your friends used to bring to school. Fish fingers and a glass of wine. A quick ham and cheese toastie. Peanut butter out of a spoon (or is this just me?). You crave your mum or dad’s home cooking – some exotic dish from your childhood.
I started my routine Sunday meal prep because I grew up to be mindful of what goes in my body from the food I consume. I didn’t want to spend money on wasteful fast food that lacked nutrition or made me feel sick, and I didn’t want to stuff my face with just anything lying around the house when I didn’t have time to cook during the week. At the time I started cooking and preparing meals for myself, I was also experimenting on different lifestyles such as vegetarianism. It was simply far more convenient for me to prepare my own food.
My absolute favourite dish to create whenever I get one of those nostalgic cravings for mum’s food is Balinese chicken. The flavours of this dish just takes me back to a time where I didn’t have to think about what to pick up from the market, how many calories to burn off at the gym, how to best approach my client with bad news etc, etc. It’s punchy, spicy, full of umami and melts in your mouth.
Happy feasting, and do mind your table manners.
Balinese Chicken & Sambal Terong
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Difficulty: Medium (capable cooks only)
- 10 medium cloves garlic, peeled and halved
- One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped shallots
- 3 small red Thai chillies, chopped
- 2 teaspoons of ground turmeric
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 4 organic chicken thighs
- 4 organic chicken drumsticks
- 4 medium limes, quartered
- 6 kaffir lime leaves
- fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 stalks of spring onions, chopped
- Combine the garlic, ginger, shallots, chillies, and turmeric in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles a paste. Add a tablespoon of water if you feel the mixture isn’t combining.
- Melt the coconut oil in a heavy bottom frying pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, cook the spice paste by stirring frequently until fragrant and softened, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and let cool completely.
- Place the chicken pieces in a shallow baking tray. Squeeze the limes over the chicken and toss to coat. Add the cooked spice paste, the whole lime leaves, and salt and pepper.
- Using your hands, rub the mixture into the chicken until well coated. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight.
- When ready to cook, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Arrange a rack in the top third of the oven and preaheat the oven at 180C.
- Bake the chicken, uncovered for roughly 45 minutes until the chicken is tender.
- Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Garnish with spring onions before serving.
- When shopping for organic chicken, don’t be put off if it looks less plump than their supermarket counterparts and the price per kilo. Supermarket chicken can be injected full of water, so you end up actually paying more money for less meat. I buy my meat from various markets. Prahran in Melbourne has a good selection of quality organic butchers, as does South Melbourne.
- It’s hard to get fresh organic ingredients that are required for traditional Indonesian cuisine. We grow our own shallots but I’ve had to purchase my kaffir lime leaves from the Asian grocery. They’re so hard to find! If anyone out there knows organic kaffir limes are grown in Victoria do let me know please!