Barbecued Skewered Chicken (Yakitori)

We have Suya in Nigeria and Satay in South-east Asia countries. Yakitori is the Japanese answer to it. I have a book, it's called Masterclass in Japanese Cooking by Emi Kazuko. It's been with me for ages and I have not even use it once. You could tell it is so new because when you flip some of the pages in between, they still stick together and smell very new too.

This book has Emi Kazuko assembling 20 leading chefs and food experts with each of them offering three of their favorite dishes. Hidden in page 104 is a recipe for Yakitori or in English, Barbecued Skewered Chicken.

While the recipe only calls for spring onion (and a lot of them) and okra, I have neither in fridge and resorted to using assorted vegetables to clear my fridge. It was a good move. I low how the tomato wedges and onions are charred and caramelized making them juicy and sweet.

Give it a go if you're looking for something easy. You can easily half the recipe if you think it't a lot. It's the Taré sauce that is the real star of the dish. You can use it for other meats as well if you like. Taré literally means 'dripping' and is a general term for thickened sauces, for example, Yakitori Sauce and Teriyaki Sauce.

Yakitori (Barbecued Skewered Chicken)
adapted from Masterclass in Japanese Cooking by Emi Kazuko

For the Taré sauce:

4 tbsp Sake
6 tbsp Shoyu (Japanese Soy Sauce)
1.5 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp castor sugar

Combine all the Taré ingredients in a pot and bring to boil over medium heat. Simmer for 5-6 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and set aside. I let mine cook down a bit before removing it from the heat.

For the chicken and vegetables skewers:

12 chicken thighs, with skin, boned
12-18 spring onion (scallions), white parts
24 pre-soaked bamboo skewers (15cm/6in)
24 small okra, trimmed
Lemon wedges to garnish
Sansho pepper and/or Shicimi (seven-spice chili) powder (optional)

Trim the fats from the chicken thighs and cut into 4cm square cubes. Cut the spring onions to about 4 cm or similar length to that of okra. Alternatively, chop all your assorted vegetables (I've used 1 tomato, 1/4 cucumber and 1 small onion) into roughly the same size as the chicken pieces.

Keep the bamboo skewers soaked in water until the last minute. This will prevent them from burning. Alternatively, wrap the ends of the bamboo skewers with foil pieces. It will not burn this way.

Thread 3 pieces of chicken meat on each skewer to make a total of 24 skewers. Thread 3 spring onions and 2 okras alternatively onto each skewer to make 12 skewers. I did a mixture of both, alternating chicken pieces with vegetable pieces. Grill or barbecue on high the chicken pieces for 3-4 minutes. Then turn over and grill 2-3 minutes until both sides are lightly browned. Remove from heat, one at a time, and baste with the Taré and return to the heat to dry the sauce. Repeat this process a few more times until all chicken skewers are golden brown.

Alternatively, half the skewers can be white-grilled ans sprinkled with seasalt instead of basting. Grill the vegetable skewers in the same way as chicken, but for a shorter time, 1-2 minutes on each side. Arrange skewers onto serving plate and serve hot, garnished with lemon wedge together with Sansho pepper.

I didn't use lemon wedge and serve the skewer over a bowl of piping hot steamed rice together with the remaining Taré sauce from basting.

makes 24 chicken and 12 vegetables skewers

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Sunday Roast

This is my version of Sunday Roast after having watched how Gary did his on one of the Masterclass shown on Masterchef. Sunday roast is typical of UK and is a traditional British main meal. Usually cooked up on Sunday, it consist of a main roasted meat served with plenty accompaniments such as roasted potatoes, gravy, Yorkshire pudding etc. Wikipedia has a darn good explanation on how you define a Sunday Roast.

Here, I've done a roast chicken served with roasted vegetables, individual Yorkshire puddings and a pan gravy. Though roast potatoes is kinda like a must-have in every roast, I don't have it here simply because I didn't have any in my pantry. I've thrown together all the leftover vegetables I have in my fridge and roast that with the chicken. Yes, I know....pretty unhealthy to have the vegetables catching the meat drippings but it also catches the juices. I don't do this often. You can choose to roast the vegetables in a hotter, separate oven but I only have one oven and I wanna do it all at one go just to save myself some hassle.

Talking about accompaniments, this is my first time making Yorkshire pudding and man....they were a success and they tasted great. Absolutely adore hand-me-down recipes or recipes that comes from someone's mum or grandma. Just in case some of you would like to know about the history of Yorkshire Pudding, again, Wikipedia has a darn good write-up about Yorkshire Pudding and it's origin. In a nutshell, the name itself, Yorkshire is derived and originated from a place in England, called Yorkshire. Yorshire pudding is made up of a batter consisting of egg, plain flour, milk and salt. It is chilled and poured into a hot and smoky lard-filled pan. It's the very hot and smoky and very cold batter that puff up the pudding.

Some tricks that I've learnt from watching Masterchef is that when making Yorkshire pudding, bake it at high temperature without opening the oven door because it will completely deflate the pudding. When time is up, quickly flip them over and pop it back into the oven to dry and crisp up the base for a few minutes. Yorkshire pudding done this way is absolutely gorgeous, holds its shape better and is very very puffy and stay crispy for a long time. Try to use lard if possible because it has a high smoking point compared to oil. The Yorkshire pudding is good in soaking up the gravy and deliciously wipe your plate clean towards the end of the meal. Neither butter nor lard are desperately good for you, so you might as well go with lard. I've rendered pork skin and use pork lard. So loving it.....

As for the roast chicken, I've opted to use a dry spice rub. After having seen it at Pei-Lin's blog and how she rave about Tony Chachere’s original Creole seasoning and how Christine braised chicken thigh with it, I figured this must be very very good. I trust food bloggers, they never lie. I did a thorough search on the Internet and it lead me back-to-back to Emeril Lagasse's Creole Essence. Call it what you like, Creole Blast, Creole Seasoning, Bayou Blast, Creole Essence and so forth. Whatever it is, it tasted awesome and I am loving it. I can't wait to try it with Tessa Kiros's buttermilk fried chicken and cook with it and season my dishes with Creole Seasoning in place of salt. I was so madly in love with it that I've used it quite heavily throughout the recipe. You need not follow really, this is just what I ate.

Here's what I've done for our Sunday Lunch....

Sunday Roast

(serves 4)

Creole Seasoning:
(This is Emeril Lagasse's recipe)

2.5 tsp paprika (I used a Hungarian Sweet one)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried oregano, bruised between your fingers
1 tsp dried thyme, bruised between your fingers

Combine the above in a small bowl and whisk until very well combined.

Roast Chicken:

One whole free-range chicken, approximately 1.3kg or 4 large Marylands
Softened butter to your liking (optional)
Creole Seasoning

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Wash the chicken thoroughly and pat it until very dry. Working gently but not too delicate, run your fingers and slide it under the skin to loosen it up. It doesn't really matter since nothing will leak out because you're using a dry rub. Of course if you choose to make it richer and would like to place softened butter in it as well, you might wanna be careful to not tear the skin just so the butter will not leak out during the roasting process. Rub it generously with Creole Seasoning. No specific amount, just until when it is evenly coated in a single layer like shown in the above picture. Yes, my marylands are gigantic! Set it aside for now.

Roasted Vegetables:

You can use anything and any amount you like but here's what I've used:

1 large head of broccoli, broken into small florets, chopped the stems smaller
3 carrots, chunked
1 large tomato, wedges
6 cloves of whole garlic, washed, left unpeeled and left whole

Sprinkle just a little creole seasoning over them and toss to coat well. If you find it hard to toss, add in a dash of EVOO. If you have potatoes, please please include them in, they go so well with any roast meat. Place them in a large roasting tray and pop the chicken on top of them so they are sitting on the vegetables. Gather them around (see below) to have them really roasted rather than just baking in their own fat and juices. Pop them into the oven for an hour, checking often.

Yorkshire Pudding: make the batter and chill it in the fridge for an hour or more
(adapted from Masterchef, Gary's mum recipe)

1/2 cup plain flour
1 egg,
150ml milk
30g lard, or more

Place the flour in a mixing bowl and make a well at the centre. Crack in the egg, milk and a pinch of salt. Whisk vigorously until well aerated and well combined. Chill it until needed. Meanwhile, dollop a generous teaspoon of lard into each muffin hole (approximately 1/3 cup capacity). I dolloped 5 holes and the batter was just nice.

Note: Towards the middle of roasting, I changed my roasting method a little. I really wanted a crisp skin so I need to render the fat completely. I place the chicken on a wire rack and place the wire rack over the roasted vegetable tray. I continue roasting it until it was evenly browned and cooked. To test for doneness, when you pierce the chicken on the meatiest part, the juices that ooze out should be white and not red. Remove from the oven completely and pop in the prepared muffin pan for Yorkshire pudding. Turn the heat up to 220°C and let it heat for 5 minute or so.

Meanwhile, remove the chicken to a large plate and let it rest. Remove the roasted vegetables from the roasting tray by straining it. Let it drain in a large wire sieve. Let the pan juices and pan dripping settle. Strain off as much fat as possible into another small bowl. The fat is an obvious red-coloured oil and the pan juices will have bits if broccoli floating in it.

Pan Gravy:

1 tbsp flour
3/4 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp pan fat
All pan juices
Chicken juices released during resting time
Creole Seasoning to taste

Heat up a pan and add in 2 tbsp of the pan fat. When smoky, add in the tablespoon of flour and whisk to form a roux. When combined, pour in the cup of chicken stock and cook until it thickens. Add in whatever juices that is released from the chicken during this resting period and thicken it further to your desired consistency. Season to taste with Creole Seasoning and pour it into a spouted gravy jug.

Now, bake the Yorkshire pudding. Add 2 tbsp of water into the batter and whisk one last time. Pour in the chilled batter into the hot muffin holes and pop it back into the oven. Bake it for 25 minutes and do not open the oven. While that is happening, plate up your chicken on a large serving plate and pop the roasted vegetable on the serving plate too along with the jug of gravy. Let the serving plate keep warm in a warm spot. My favourite spot is to place the whole serving plate on my stove top because I am not using the stove now and my oven right beneath the stove and it is giving it enough heat to just keep my food warm. This is a great time to do all the dishes that have been piling up in the sink!

When time is up, quickly drain off the fat and flip the Yorkshire pudding over so the bottom is up and pop it back into the oven for a few minutes to crisp it up. I used a 12 hole muffin tray because that was what I have in hand. I flipped the Yorkshire pudding onto another ungreased muffin hole. and continue baking. I never actually remove the muffin tray from the oven. I bent down, open the oven door, pull it out, pour batter in, push it in and close the oven door. Same goes to flipping and I believe this helps in achieving puffy and crispy-on-the-outside pudding. It's cold nowadays and the big temperature difference would definitely sink my pudding!

It was a great Sunday Roast and a great Sunday lunch. If I have friends over, I would have served them stuffs like that too. A little more work but when you're cooking for many, it's easy. Let the oven do the job. And it's great on cold, chilly winter nights where you might wanna crank up the oven just to keep warm.

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Monthly Mingle: South Africa BBQ Ribs

This is my contribution to Monthly Mingle, themed South Africa, a monthly event organized by Meeta of What's For Lunch Honey? This is the same recipe that I have used adapted from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros. You probably would know by now, I am crazy over Tessa and have all her cookbooks as collections. This migh not be very South African to those who are not living there, neither do I personaly think this is very authentic of South Africa but when I hear what Tessa has to say, it just blow my mind away! Here's what Tessa said about these wonderful ribs:

These are those wonderful sweet ribs that you find at the steak houses in South Africa. They bring you just a great big rack of spare ribs and perhaps some garlic bread and you eat with your fingers. I love making this type of thing from time to time. These need a bit of marinating beforehand.

I've made it once here but this time around, I tweaked the method of cooking and added a dash of this and that. I serve it up with seasoned steamed vegetables and a simple parsley mash. I've wrote down the tweaked recipe here and I like this one much better. It falls off bone, not tough at al l and very tender and juicy.

South Africa BBQ Ribs
(serves 4 as main meal)

50 g butter
2 tbsp EVOO
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced smallish
250ml (1 cup) tomato ketchup
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp (1/4 cup) brown sugar
80 ml (1/3 cup) lemon juice
80 ml (1/3 cup) runny honey
1 tsp fine seasalt
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp ground chili powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1.5 kg baby-back pork ribs, halved horizontally if large

Heat the butter and EVOO in a wide non-stick saucepan and saute the onion over gentle heat until softened but not browned. Add in the minced garlic and saute a minute. Add the rest of the ingredients except the ribs and 1 cup (250ml) of water to the pan and simmer for 10mins until the sauce has thickened. Immerse a stick blender in it and puree it to a fine sauce. Oh my gosh....absolutely love the wonderful zingy aroma from this. Homemade BBQ sauce, beat that!

Put the ribs in with the sauce and add enough water to completely cover the ribs. Crank up the heat and when it is boiling, turn down the heat to a low simmer, cover with a heavy glass lid and simmer it or rather, braise it for 90 minutes until it is tender when poked with a fork.

Uncover and reduce sauce until it is just coating the meat and probably a little extra for you to baste it later and use as sauce for dipping. Place the ribs in a large ovenproof dish and place them under a hot griller for 10 mins or so, basting often until just slightly charred here and there and that the ribs holds its shape and didn't fall apart.

Reduce the sauce in pan and serve along the ribs, a simple steamed vegetable and mashed potato. Enjoy with your hands and a large napkin.

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