Recipe: Sticky Spiced Chicken Wings

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Chicken wings, along with marylands, are my favourite part of the chicken. With their high ratio of skin to fat, wings are especially delicious when coated in this spicy Asian marinade and roasted to golden brown perfection.

Twice in one day, while out shopping, I overheard people being afraid of fat. A woman next to me at the butcher was asking if they had soup bones with less fat. Another woman, to whom the butcher was recommending his range of inhouse-made smallgoods, declined them as she said they were too fatty. The two women were of different ages and ethnicities but were united in their fear of fat.

I can understand why they feel this way. When I was around 12, I went on a totally orthorexic phase and removed the chunks of fat from lup cheong (chinese sausage) and ate my toast without any butter or margarine. Fortunately that phase didn’t last for long, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that I have allowed myself to revel in eating fat, and – even better – with the knowledge that the healthy fats now turn out to be actually good for us (such as animal fats, coconut oil, lard, tallow, butter, ghee, macadamia oil, avocado oil, olive oil). I won’t bore you with the scientific details (if you are interested, check out the Further Reading references below), just to mention that fat is necessary for hormone production, improves brain function, nerve signaling and immunity.

I never used to cook chicken wings until I came this recipe and now it makes a regular appearance at dinner, plus leftovers for breakfast the next day.

Sticky Spiced Chicken Wings

16 chicken wings (including wing tips and drumettes)
Lemon juice, to serve

Marinade:

  • 10 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 4 tbsp macadamia oil or extra light olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 1-2 tsp chilli flakes (to taste)
  • 1 tsp five spice powder
  • ⅛ tsp ground star anise (optional)
  • 2 tsp dry sherry or chinese rice wine (Shao Xing)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp (or 1 stalk) chopped lemongrass
  • ½ tsp sumac (optional)
  • Salt, pepper (to taste)
  1. Combine marinade ingredients and mix with chicken wings. Marinate for at least 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 180°C.
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  4. Line an oven tray with foil and set a baking rack on top. (If the wings are in direct contact with the foil, the skin tends to stick.) Place the marinated wings on the rack (top side down). Baste with any leftover marinade. Bake for 15 mins, then turn over and bake for a further 15 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown. Squeeze over some lemon juice before serving.

Further Reading

Rainbow Trout & Prawns in a Coconut Cream, Chilli & Lime Bisque

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Occasionally something will happen which makes me realise how extremely unfit I am for a life in the wild. Not too long ago, I was bushwalking in the National Park and took a wrong turn, which ended up in us still being out in the bush well after sunset without food, shelter or a torch. What started out as a jaunty rumble in the forest looked like turning into a forced overnight stay with only leeches for company, and we started staking out possible sites for shelter. The main thing keeping me going, trying to find my way out, was that I didn’t want to become one of those bushwalkers who appear on the nightly news, walking sheepishly out of the park after being rescued by emergency services. In the park, I thought about what I would do for food, and wondered what my ancestors would have done. If it came down to hunting or gathering, I fall firmly in the gathering camp, and if I were forced to hunt, I think I’d prefer to try my hand at fishing rather than killing mammals.

For years, the only way I cooked fish was how I remembered it from my childhood: whole, steamed (though I cooked it en papillote in the microwave), with ginger, shallot and soy sauce. Lately I’ve been experimenting with different ways of cooking fish and this recipe is a keeper. First you make a quick creamy, zesty broth infused with Thai flavours. This stage can be done the day before, for an even quicker weekday dinner. Then just add the seafood and simmer until just cooked. I keep an eagle-eye on it as it is cooking as I don’t fancy overcooked seafood, and keeping the heat low will help.

Any type of fish would work in this recipe – salmon, monkfish, barra would all be perfect. However if your fillets are thick, cut into 1-1.5cm thick pieces so that they will cook in around the same time as the prawns.

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Rainbow Trout & Prawns in a Coconut Cream, Chilli & Lime Bisque

Serves 2

  • 2 rainbow trout fillets, de-boned (around 130g each)
  • 8 raw prawns, peeled and deveined (keep the heads)
  • 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small red chilli (bullet), de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 7cm length of lemongrass, smashed (optional)
  • 200ml coconut cream (coconut milk would work too)
  • Zest and juice from half a lime
  • 100ml chicken or fish stock
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 Tbsp chopped coriander

Method

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a medium saucepan, add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until the onion has softened. I find that adding a tablespoon of water at the beginning helps the onions to soften without burning.
  2. Add garlic, coconut cream, stock, chilli, lemongrass, fish sauce and prawn heads. Simmer for 6-8 minutes to allow the flavours to meld and infuse, and to reduce a little. The bisque will turn a pretty pale coral colour from the prawn heads. Add the trout, prawns and lime zest and simmer for several minutes until the seafood is cooked. Remove the prawn heads and discard.
  3. Garnish with the chopped coriander.

Pork, Eggplant & Bitter Melon Hotpot

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Recently Mark Sisson blogged about 4 foods that have medicinal benefits, and I was surprised to discover bitter melon among them. Growing up, bitter melon made an occasional appearance at dinner and it was not one of my favourite dishes, although it did have an astringent quality to it which was interesting and peculiar. After my recent attempt I must say it wasn’t so bad was delicious and I couldn’t detect any bitterness.

According to some studies, bitter melon has anti-diabetic properties and can help improve insulin sensitivity. Given that bitter melon is in season now, do you need any other reason to throw some in your basket and give it a try.

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Pork, Eggplant and Bitter Melon Hotpot

  • 2 tsp macadamia oil or coconut oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 500g pork mince
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small eggplant or half large eggplant, chopped
  • 1 bitter melon (or 2 if you are really keen), seeds and inner pith remove, sliced 5mm thick
  • 1 ½ tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp tamari sauce or coconut aminos
  • ½ tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp Paleo XO sauce, optional
  • 1 cup chicken stock or bone broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp tapioca starch mixed with 2 tbsp water
  • Chopped fresh coriander for garnish

Method
Fry onion in oil until softened. Add mince, garlic, eggplant, bitter melon, fish sauce, tamari, sesame oil, XO sauce and stock and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes or until eggplant is soft and completely cooked. Taste for seasoning and add salt if required, and pepper. Add tapioca roux and stir well. Bring to boil, then turn off heat. Sprinkle with chopped coriander. Serve with white rice or cauliflower rice.

I found there was no need to blanche or salt the bitter melon as some recipes suggest, as there was very little bitterness remaining after the braising.

Paleo XO Sauce

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One of the things I found after going paleo was that most asian sauces and condiments are decidedly non-paleo, which was tricky and not very convenient. Most store-bought asian sauces contain one or more of the following non-paleo ingredients: sugar, soybean oil, vegetable oil, soy, wheat and MSG. The top ingredient in hoisin sauce is sugar, which is also found in every oyster sauce and some soy and fish sauces. Don’t despair though, there are a few goodies to be found. Mae Ploy thai curry pastes are generally ok and don’t contain sugar or vegetable oils. Red Boat Fish Sauce is sugar-free, though hard to find (I bought a bottle from the fruit shop at Rhodes Shopping Centre), and I also found a thai chilli sauce which is paleo-friendly.

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So what to do? Make your own! Like this XO sauce, the original recipe for which comes from Adam Liaw, the Masterchef winner. I have amended the original recipe to make it more paleo and also adapted it to my tastes. It is not 100% paleo because the lup yook – chinese bacon – is made with non-paleo seasonings like sugar and soy sauce, but you can leave it out or substitute with prosciutto if preferred. Leftover lup yook can be frozen.

I don’t like to have a lot of oil floating at the top of my XO sauce so I reduced the quantity of oil and tweaked the seasonings to ramp it up a bit. XO sauce is named after XO cognac, the ‘XO’ designating a prestige product. XO sauce doesn’t actually contain alcohol and has nothing to do with cognac. Adding XO sauce to simply stir-fried or steamed asian greens will take it to another level. Imagine the difference between playing slot machines in your local pub and being invited to the VIP room at Caesar’s. Actually neither of those appeals to me … but you get the idea. It is great with steamed seafood, or add a few generous dollops to stir-fried snow peas and prawns. I like to spoon off the oil and use it to stir-fry asian greens, makes the dish very tasty indeed.

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Ingredients

  • 50g dried scallops, soaked in water overnight
  • 50g dried shrimp, soaked for 1 hour
  • 290g extra light olive oil
  • 4 large red or golden shallots (or 1 large red or brown onion), peeled and finely chopped (I process in food processor)
  • 5 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped (I process in food processor)
  • 60g lup yook (Chinese bacon, available from asian grocers, found near the chinese dried sausages), or chinese sausage ‘lup cheong’ or prosciutto, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp chilli powder (cayenne)
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce (or gluten-free soy, tamari or coconut aminos)
  • 1 ½ tsp fish sauce
  1. Drain the scallops and shrimp. (The soaking liquid is not used in this recipe but is tasty and can be reserved for using wherever stock or a bit of umami is called for.) Shred the scallops using your fingers to separate the strands. I find this highly tedious but if you have access to child labour, their nimble little fingers would be perfect for this task. Roughly chop the shrimp in a food processor (or mince using a knife).
  2. Heat 1 cup of the oil in a wok or large saucepan over medium heat and fry the onion/shallots, chilli flakes and garlic for 10 minutes. Add scallops, shrimp, lup yook/lup cheong/prosciutto, salt, chilli powder, soy sauce and fish sauce and fry for a further 10 minutes.
  3. Add remaining oil and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes or until the sauce is oily and jammy. Place into sterilised jars and screw on lid whilst hot so it will form a vacuum. It will keep for months in the fridge.

For another condiment recipe, check out NomNom Paleo’s Paleo Sriracha.