Gado Gado Satay Sauce

On Sunday Freya painted all day, I gardened all day; and we were both excellently productive.

For dinner I decided to make another tofu dish. We still had 2 packs left that were ‘just’ out of date and I hate throwing food away. I checked a few cookbooks, and found a Gado Gado recipe in Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook. We didn’t have all the ingredients for the whole dish but we did have all the ingredients for the sauce. I was sure I could cobble something together with all the ‘on edge’ leftovers that I had knocking about. At least half the dish could be made – that would do I thought!

Had I read ahead, and read more carefully, I probably wouldn’t have started this sauce so late in the day. It takes at least 90 minutes to make, probably longer. We decided to snack on leftover pork and mash instead and put this sauce aside for another day. Just as well really. It was very hot. Too hot for Freya anyway. She wouldn’t have been impressed at having this smothered all over her dinner. As it happens it wasn’t that hot when I used it for real the next day! Perhaps the tasting spoon was covered in chillies!

The last time I made a sauce that took this long was during a Cookery Course at Loaf in Birmingham. We were making a Massaman curry and had to pound all sorts of spices and chillies and garlic in a very big pestle and mortar for about an hour! I recall asking why you couldn’t just blast it all in a Thermomix, but apparently whacking something releases more flavour. It probably did – but it did seem like a lot of effort.

This doesn’t require any whacking, just a lot of stirring and adding ingredients.

The sauce has garlic, lemongrass, sambal oelek (Indonesian chilli paste), ginger and shallots; all which are blitzed (in a Thermomix (smiley face)) and fried off in oil for almost an hour. You add sweet paprika, sugar, seasoning, tamarind, coconut milk and ‘boiled peanuts’ and keep cooking for some more time. It is worth it honest. It just takes time. Boiling unsalted peanuts for half an hour was definitely something I was glad I read in advance; at least there was some multitasking!

As I said before it is hot; hotter than I expected, but very easily fixed with more coconut cream or yoghurt. It suited my tastes but it isn’t all about me.

This made lots. Four jars worth to be precise. I hope it keeps otherwise that was a lot of effort for nothing. On the plus side our go-to ‘istu 20 minute meal’ of tofu with peanut sauce can probably be modified a little to accommodate this sauce rather than the one in their book.

Would I make this again? Possibly. Are there easier satay sauces out there – most definitely!

Chicken Fatteh

First rule of cooking. Check how long something will take to cook before you start making it. That was my mistake last night – but hey it was good – it was just a late dinner. 

This feast of a recipe is from A Bird In The Hand by Diana Henry. The second dish I’ve made from the book.  I did say all her recipes were simple. This one is simple too – it’s just time consuming as there are many elements to the dish. I think it took me two hours to bring this to the table – but when I did it looked very inviting and comforting.

There are many components to this dish:

  • a tomato sauce
  • the chicken
  • a chicken stock reduction
  • the rice
  • crispy pitta breads
  • spiced aubergines
  • a garlic yoghurt
  • a dressing of nuts and pomegranate seeds

Each component takes a bit of time – and I’m sure with a bigger kitchen and more oven and hob space I could have done many of the elements concurrently. Sadly our tiny galley kitchen on the boat and a small oven/microwave combo can’t really cope and things have to be done one at a time.

This didn’t really matter – we weren’t that hungry and we were ploughing our way through this seasons Australian Masterchef. This season is currently showing in Australia – and I have the means to acquire the episodes. I guess you’ll have to wait if you’re in the UK. It’s very inspiring. Makes me want to move to Australia and get on the show – and use such amazing produce. They have things you just don’t get in the UK like Pigface, Marron and Abalone! They also have the weather – how could you turn that down!

Anyway, as I said before, each of these components are pretty easy to make, just time consuming.

The tomato sauce just needs to cook down to make it really rich and sweet – cut that corner and you’ll spoil the dish. Most people don’t cook tomato sauces for long enough and the full flavour of the tomatoes doesn’t come out. I think mine was cooking down uncovered for 40 minutes.

The chicken is rolled in olive oil, cumin, cinnamon and cloves and oven roasted for 80-90 minutes – but once it’s in it’s in and you can forget about it. When it’s ready you take it out of the oven and leave it to rest under some foil for 30 minutes. By serving time it is so tender it just falls off the bone. I used thighs and drumsticks. I think the darker meat is the better solution here. I imagine 90 minutes of roasting on a breast would really make it dry.

When the chicken is done you scrape the pan down with some water and reduce it to half its volume to get a really nice chicken gravy

The basmati rice is added to some onions that you have previously fried to golden with some butter, more cumin and more cinnamon. You then cook it in chicken stock until it is light and fluffy. The rice was perfectly cooked when it was ready and beautifully fragrant and subtly spicy.

The crispy pitta breads were simply brushed in melted butter and baked in the oven until they were crispy.

The aubergines were fried golden in olive oil with cumin and chilli flakes pressed into the surface. When they are ready you squeeze lemon juice over them. These were great – they’d be great on their own for sure.

The yoghurt was simply greek yoghurt with garlic stirred through and the topping was pine nuts and pomegranate seeds.

You assemble the whole dish in layers of rice, tomato sauce, chicken, coriander and parsley, the gravy, the yogurt and the bread and just keep building it up until it’s all in the serving dish. Finally top with the nuts and seeds.

It was huge. I think I should have realised that it served 8-10 people before I made it! Fortunately I was reserved and only served up two portions.

The rest – well that’s dinner for a few days for sure. But that’s one meal of leftovers I really look forward to eating again.

Would I change anything – probably not. But you could easily leave out the chicken and make this as a salad for a BBQ. You could also probably substitute the chicken for feta or halloumi and make it vegetarian and just run either of those through the salad when you are building up your layers.

This dish is definitely a keeper – I’ll be sure to make this again.