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.

Potatoes rejoin the paleo fold

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The latest news in the paleo world is that white potatoes are now permitted under The Whole30. (The Whole30 is basically a 30 day introduction to paleo in the form of an elimination diet, and represents a type of strict paleo which excludes, among other things, all dairy, sweeteners, paleo treats and paleo-ised versions of junk food.)

For the white potato to be welcomed back into the Whole30 fold represents an official stamp of approval (well, as official as you can get in the paleosphere) for the beloved spud, which many primal followers were eating anyway, and is confirmation that the nutrient-dense tuber can be a healthy part of your diet (provided you are not intolerant of nightshades). The proviso is that white potatoes in the form of chips/fries or deep-fried are not permitted under the Whole30.

One food which is unlikely to ever make it on the Whole30-approved list is pasta. Many paleo recipe writers extol the delights of a vegetable known as ‘spaghetti squash’ which is reputed to be as, or more, delicious than the real thing (if you can believe it). Unfortunately this mystical vegetable is rarely seen in Australia so I’ve yet to try it. I suspect that it is as similar to real spaghetti as cauliflower rice is to real rice. However, I have tried another paleo substitute for pasta which is quite delightful and very similar to the real thing: sweet potato noodles or regular potato noodles. They are made with either sweet potato starch or potato starch, and are therefore suitable for those eating gluten-free. Available from asian grocers, they may also be labelled ‘sweet potato vermicelli’. On account of their high carbohydrate count, potato noodles would make a good post-workout or Carb Nite meal. They have a neutral taste rather like real pasta, and cook up nicely al dente.

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The method for cooking potato noodles is similar to that of regular pasta. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add some salt to the water, add the noodles and turn the heat down to a simmer. The amount of time you need to simmer the noodles will vary according to their thickness, but I have found somewhere between 7-9 minutes works a treat.

We enjoy these noodles with a number of accoutrements, including chinese BBQ pork, preserved vegetables, sesame seeds, seaweed, scallions, paleo XO sauce & a drizzle of soy sauce. I have also tried using sweet potato noodles in Italian recipes such as carbonara and it worked very well. Since going paleo, I have fallen out of the habit of eating high carb meals regularly but it is good to have an option for when the pasta craving strikes.

Breakfast Egg Bake

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I love egg bakes. They make it easy and delicious to pack in a big serve of veggies and protein at breakfast and can also be eaten cold on picnics. If you subscribe to a vegetable box, egg bakes are the perfect way to use up veggies that you don’t quite know what to do with. Basically egg bakes are frittatas, except that mine invariably turn out to be more like a mass of vegetables bound together with some egg. The only downside is that they take a bit of time to prepare, as I sauté some of the veggies beforehand to get rid of the water which would otherwise seep into the egg bake, but I make a big enough batch for several days and it saves so much time in the mornings.

Silverbeet, Leek & Bacon Bake

  • 1 bunch silverbeet, chopped into small pieces (kale or spinach works well too)
  • 250g button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 leek, finely sliced
  • 1 red capsicum, finely diced
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 3 rashers bacon, diced
  • 9 eggs, beaten
  • 80g parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper
  • Coconut oil, for sautéing veggies

Method

  1. Fry bacon until browned and crisp. Set aside.
  2. Cook leek, mushrooms and capsicum until they have released most of their water. Set aside.
  3. Cook silverbeet until it has released its water and is wilted. Place in a large mixing bowl with the bacon, leek, mushrooms, capsicum and parsley. Add the beaten eggs and combine thoroughly. Add salt and pepper.
  4. Pour mixture into a 9” square baking dish. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top and bake at 180°C for 30 minutes or until a knife stuck in the centre comes out clean.

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Roasted Taro

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In an impulsive fit, I bought a taro the other day and it languished in my fridge for days as I didn’t know what to do with it until I came across a recipe on The Paleo Mom for savoury roasted taro.

If you’ve never seen taro before, it looks very much like something you could imagine your prehistoric ancestors digging up, and then grunting excitedly to each other. Here’s one:

It is available from asian grocers and is a very popular ingredient in Chinese cooking and desserts, although I personally never understood the appeal of taro-based desserts. There is even a taro dim sum (it is the shape of a giant rice bubble, deep-fried with a brown lattice shell). They taste bland and starchy with a similar texture to that of potatoes except drier. Some people extol taro’s “complex flavour”. In terms of their nutrient profile, they are higher in carbs than potatoes (taro has 26g total carbs per 100g vs 17g in potatoes), 112 cal (taro) vs 77g (potato), higher in potassium, fibre and calcium. Taro has a similar profile to potatoes for iron, Vitamin B, magnesium, protein and sugar.

I chopped up my taro into quarters, leaving the skin on for the time being and cooked it in the pressure cooker using the steamer basket for 7 minutes. It could also be conventionally steamed for 10-12 minutes. You don’t want to overcook it otherwise it crumbles, so I cooked it until it had a texture similar to firm potatoes. Once cooked, the skin peels off easily. I chopped it into smaller pieces and tossed it in a large bowl with melted fat left over from roasting chicken (really tasty). Sprinkle with salt and put under the grill (broiler) for 15-20 minutes, turning once, until nicely browned. The edges crisp up deliciously. My favourite parts were the little chunks of taro which had broken off as they ended up uber-crunchy.

So would I eat them again? Maybe. If you can’t tolerate potatoes, taro is a good alternative. It would probably work better in a stew-type preparation as it can absorb the flavours.

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.