Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Cheater’s chicken satay

There is a perception that foodies, food authors and food bloggers only ever cook from scratch. Of course we must! Just look at the Instagram pictures and recipes we write and share! Naturally, we must painstakingly achieve each step with our own two hands…

I may be disowned by the fraternity by spilling the beans. Plenty of us cheat. Making our own pastry? Why? The wonderful Lorraine Pascale (you can’t argue with her baking expertise) advocates using frozen. Adam Creme, a foodie and award winning lawyer put it like this: “Life is too bleedin’ short to make shortcrust pastry unless it’s a special event” (via Twitter). Italians do make fresh pasta, occasionally, but to celebrate something. Valentina Harris once said that the celebration wasn’t just a mere birthday, but perhaps a graduation, or someone selling their farmhouse or similar; a landmark moment. 

Anna Symington, a fellow foodie and lawyer tweeted this: “only a crazy person makes puff”! I couldn’t agree more. For me, it’s too time consuming and difficult to be worthwhile. Although, if you want to make your own, go ahead. If I have to put together other elements of a meal, do I really want the faff of making my own mayonnaise, trying to maintain its consistency whilst mixing and pouring in my oil? 
In the weekend, I do sometimes set myself longer cooking projects. But I do that to enjoy the process. If you make your own pastry, mayonnaise, bacon or cheese because you love the task, fantastic. Carry on, and please do send me pictures of your handiwork.

All I am saying is, there’s nothing wrong with a little corner cutting, a little time saving and people should not be made to feel guilty for a little cheating. If it results in better taste, commensurate with the effort used, then I’ll do everything from scratch. Adam Creme puts it differently: “Part of the art of being a good cook is knowing which bits to cheat at". Brilliant!
Otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with cheating. As fellow food blogger Kavey said on Twitter “We don’t all live off the land anymore so no one does everything from scratch”.

So I am sharing how you can use a sachet of Lobo Chicken Satay mix, available from Chinese and Thai grocers shops, to make a delicious chicken satay better than your local takeaway. It is based on the instructions on the back of the Lobo packet, but with some Snigdha tweaks. For example, making 1kg of chicken would be suitable for 4 people (I have reduced to two), the cooking time on a domestic grill risks uncooked chicken (a food poisoning risk) and there were no amounts for the veggies for the cucumber salad.

Cheater’s chicken satay

(Serves 2)

You will need:

1 pack Lobo Chicken Satay
500g pack skinned, boneless chicken thighs
1 can coconut milk (will be used for both marinade and sauce)
3 tablespoons ground nut oil
Half a cucumber, halved again lengthways and sliced into 5mm slices
1 large shallot, halved and sliced finely lengthways (I mean the echalion “banana” shallots; if you are using the very small Thai shallots, you will need 3-4)
1 birds eye chilli, seeds removed, diced as small as you can manage (or halve if you want it less hot)
4 tablespoons white rice vinegar
5 tablespoons caster sugar
¾ (three quarters) teaspoon ground sea salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander leaf


Bamboo skewers
Grill pan
2 small saucepans (even a milk pan will be the right size)
2 non-metallic bowls, 1 lidded or capable of being covered
A tall bottle, tall enough to contain the bamboo skewers
Measuring jug (or equivalent)
Grill, Hob, Kettle, non-metallic spoons, whisk
Gloves; food preparation gloves and oven gloves
Aluminium foil


1. Put the kettle on, boil some water. Empty into the tall bottle and soak the bamboo skewers. The longer they soak in hot water, the better. Hot water will help stop the skewers from burning when grilling. 
2. Remove excess fat and other inedible stuff from the chicken thighs. Slice into half inch long strips. 

3. In the lidded (or coverable) non-metallic bowl, empty 60ml of the coconut milk, plus the ground nut oil. Whisk together lightly until combined.

4. Open the marinade mix sachet, tipping it into the bowl, and whisk lightly until mixed. 

5. Put your food preparation gloves on, because the yellow marinade has a lot of turmeric in it and will dye your fingernails yellow.  

6. Add the chicken strips and with your gloved hands, ensure the strips are coated thoroughly in the marinade. 

7. Put the lid on the bowl, and put in the fridge for 50 minutes.  

8. Open the sauce mix sachet, tip it into one of the saucepans. Add 180ml of the remaining coconut milk and whisk lightly to combine and ensure there are no lumps. Put on the hob on a low heat. 

9. Remove the chicken from the fridge and leave at room temperature for 10 minutes.  

10. Heat the sauce for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, and leave to cool. 

11. Line a grill pan with aluminium foil to avoid marinade spillage during cooking and put to one side. Donning your food preparation gloves once more, make up your chicken skewers. The strips should be capable of being threaded 3 times onto the skewer (as if you were sewing running stitch). Push the chicken pieces up tightly together on the skewers. Place on your foil wrapped grill pan.

12. Heat the grill to a high setting. I used the highest setting on my grill which is 270 degrees Celsius.

13. Cook each side of the skewers for 3-4 minutes, turning 4-5 times. You will need to cook the chicken for 12-15 minutes, or longer, depending on how fierce the heat on your grill is. 

14. For the cucumber salad, here are your instructions:

15. Serve and enjoy.

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