It’s been a while – we have been intensely busy. But we need to eat, and I usually cook in bulk. The recipe below will make four or five dinners for two people. This recipe freezes beautifully. I usually eat one meal with Miss O when it is first cooked, and leave overnight on the stove in the pot, covered. Then I remove another meal’s worth (for us, that’s five legs plus veggies and stock) and there are three meals left over, which I ‘decant’ and freeze in meal serve-sized containers.
4 trays skinned chicken thighs. We use “Lovely Legs” (Macro organic brand); in Australia, the trays are about 400g each, and contain ~5 LLs).
10–20 Asian eggplants (these look like pale green speckled balls, about the size of a lime)
two large onions, brown or red
one whole head garlic
two medium-sized limes
1 x 400ml can coconut milk
big handful shredded dried coconut
handful fresh coriander
3 tbls. coconut oil
Green ingredients to be macerated (I use a 250W Braun hand blender):
all the garlic
1–2 green chili (how hot do you want the end product? I usually only use one or two)
the cut-up white ends of two pieces of lemon grass; save tops
6–8 kaffir lime leaves
one tsp. belachan (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrimp_paste) or 1 tbls fish sauce (if you use fish sauce, reduce the amount of salt you add)
zest from 1–2 limes, depending on taste
juice from limes and lemon
mix down to liquid
Spices (lightly fry before grinding)
1 tbls white peppercorns
2–3 whole star anise
1 tbls. coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
1 tbls. cumin seeds
1 tsp. fennel seeds
6 allspice pimento ‘balls’
Put all the fried spices into grinder, add 1 level tbls. rock or sea salt, and grind finely
Spices cont’d (to be added once lovely legs are resting in the stock)
one whole vanilla bean
1 cinnamon quill
Once cooking starts (details below):
grate 1 whole nutmeg over pot
1 tsp. cayenne pepper, or chili flakes
1 tbls. ground turmeric
2 tbls. karamel makasan (cooking caramel; heavy and dark; mmmm) to taste (also makes the stock darker)
Put coconut oil in heavy-bottomed pot. Cut onions and add the coconut milk and heat. Section eggplants and put aside. I usually cut lime-sized eggplants into thirds, then halve again crosswise, all cuts made vertically. Macerate the wet ingredients (taking great care to not let any of the belachan escape; I wrap cling wrap around the top of the blender to make sure!) and add to pot.
Heat all the unground spices in a small frying pan until one of them just starts to smoke, then put in grinder. Grind finely after adding the salt and stir mixture into pot. Add turmeric, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Omit the cayenne p. if you are using green chillies.
Cook the basic stock until onions are translucent. Add karamel makasan and stir well until consistent colour is achieved. Thin stock to suit; I usually add 1/4–1/2 litre of boiling water to get the consistency I want. Slowly add the Lovely Legs, submerging them. Add the vanilla bean, cinnamon quill, and the top sections of the lemon grass.
Bring to boil and immediately reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, then add the eggplants. Simmer until the chicken and vegetables are cooked to your taste (about 15 minutes more is about right). If you cook the chicken too long, it will fall completely off the bone.
If you want to thicken stock, add one tbsp. finely ground brown rice (use the same spice grinder; this will clean it, too) and stir well before adding eggplants.
Serve with rice on plates with raised edges (to contain the stock). Place rice first, use tongs to place the lovely legs, use ladle to place stock and veggies. Garnish with small handful of chopped coriander leaves and fresh ground black pepper.
Eat with your favourite white wine!