The damp squib that was this summer has left me wanting more light bright things - salads and spicy things, something that combines delicate with zingy. Proper shiny summer food. So I dug out some recipes from a cooking school I did in Bali and made a few random selections. The lovely Marie was coming to dinner Saturday night and so it was time to try a little harder.
The centrepiece of the meal was a chicken stuffed with spinach and spices, wrapped in banana leaves and then first steamed for half an hour then roasted. If you're thinking that sounds like a bit of a faff you're right. But you'd be wrong to think it was a bad idea. It is a wonderful dish - spiky and moist and roasted golden with lots of textures running alongside the flavours. Brilliant - worth every moment and the tricksy bit of getting the bird from steaming pan to roasting pan.
The only thing I would change is that I would wear gloves to grate the turmeric - my nails are still bright yellow - not attractive.
Ayam Betutu - Roast Chicken in Banana Leaf
1 whole chicken, weighing 1.2 - 1.5 kg
200g spinach leaves, washed and wilted in a hot pan
Salt and pepper
50g Shallots, peeled and sliced
25g garlic, peeled and chopped
50g turmeric, peeled and grated
50g galangal root, peeled and grated
25g brazil nuts, finely chopped
5 birds eye chilli, finely chopped
2 large red chilli seeded and sliced
4 stalks lemon grass, bruised and finely sliced
25g palm sugar
2 salam or myrtle leaves
Salt and pepper
2 tbspn oil
Banana leaves for wrapping - chinese grocers sell them frozen
Season the inside and outside of the chicken.
Combine all the marinade ingredients except spinach and myrtle leaves and mix thoroughly. Put a quarter of this marinade aside. Mix the rest of the marinade with the spinach.
Stuff the chicken with three quarters of the marinade and then gently separate the skin from the breast. Push the remaining spinach marinade between the skin and the meat then close the chicken with skewers.
Rub the outside of the bird with the marinade put aside before the spinach was added.
Wrap the chicken in several layers of banana leaves and fasten with skewers.
Place an upturned bowl in a large pan bring and add water to come three quarters of the way up the edge of the bowl. Put the banana leaf wrapped chicken on a plate and rest the plate on top of the bowl. Bring the water to the boil , reduce to a simmer then cover and steam for 35 minutes.
Carefully take the chicken from the pan, transfer it to a roasting pan and open the top of the banana leaves. Roast in a moderate oven - 160C, gas 4 - till chicken is golden.
Rest for 10 minutes after the bird is taken from the oven before serving with turmeric rice and bali salad.