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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 6 – In less than a week, the Year of the Metal Ox will be upon us. Some may hope that the hardworking and patient bovine will ensure the coming 12 months to be rewarding, that we shall reap handsomely what we have diligently sown.
But whatever the forecast, there’s nothing like a bit of extra perk-me-up to sweeten the deal.
On this note, we look forward to a surfeit of mandarin oranges, ever a ubiquitous part of every Chinese New Year. They symbolise good fortune, after all, as their name in Cantonese – kam – sounds similar to the word for gold.
Or in other words: wealth.
So it is an auspicious citrus that beckons prosperity to come our way. Which is why it makes sense to conjure up some dishes that make use of this tangy and refreshing fruit.
Thus I humbly offer you: Abundance Chicken and Auspicious Salad.
Yes, the names are a bit corny but it’s the right season for that.
The acids in the mandarin orange juice help tenderise the chicken while segments of mandarin oranges make up the base of the salad. Throw in a few other fruits, some pan-fried tempeh for some light fermented notes and crisp baby spinach – and you have quite a meal.
Surely there is no need for such a light and simple dish, you say. It is time to feast on more luxurious fare. Perhaps. But something lighter the day after never hurts, if only to help us recover enough so that we can tackle yet another spread.
May we all be well and happy, safe and protected, healthy and strong, in this magnificent Year of the Ox!
ABUNDANCE CHICKEN & AUSPICIOUS SALAD
Try to remove as much of the webs of white pith stuck to the segments of mandarin oranges as possible. They are bitter and more than a bit fibrous, which lessens the enjoyment of the salad somewhat.
If you have children at home, one way to keep them occupied since they aren’t able to roam freely outside is to have them undertake this step as a little project. Helps dissipate their restless energy till at least they are finished or get bored.
Thanks to the juice of mandarin oranges, the sliced apples don’t brown so quickly and the roasted drumsticks remain moist. For the latter, however, do keep watch on the cooking process as the times given are but a guide; different ovens have varying degrees of heating.
For a vegan option, serve the salad without the roasted drumsticks. To make the dish more substantial, you could replace chicken with couscous or even double the portion of salad served.
Ingredients: Abundance Chicken
4 pieces chicken drumsticks
1 large piece of fresh ginger
1 clove of garlic
2 mandarin oranges, juice only
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste
Ingredients: Auspicious Salad
1 block of tempeh (about 50g), sliced into sticks
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste
2 mandarin oranges, pith and seeds removed
Half a grapefruit, pith and seeds removed
1 red apple, sliced
1 green apple, sliced
100g fresh baby spinach, rinsed and dried
Reserved marinade (see above) to use as dressing
Preheat the oven to 220°C. If chilled, remove the chicken drumsticks from the fridge and pat dry with a kitchen towel. They don’t roast quite as well when they retain too much moisture.
Using a pestle and mortar, pound the ginger and garlic until they form a coarse paste. You may also use a food processor but make sure the resultant mixture isn’t too fine or it will produce too much liquid.
In a bowl, mix together the ginger and garlic paste, juice from the mandarin oranges, light soy sauce, coconut oil and sesame oil. Season with ground black pepper and sea salt to taste.
Use about half of this mixture to marinate the chicken drumsticks lightly. Reserve the remaining marinade to use as dressing for the salad later.
Place the chicken drumsticks into a baking tray in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes till golden brown. Midway during the cooking time, flip every piece of chicken to ensure even cooking.
Using a smaller bowl, mix the sliced tempeh with the extra virgin olive oil and ground black pepper and sea salt. Set it aside to absorb the flavours while you work with the fruit.
Toss the segments of mandarin oranges and grapefruit together with the sliced red and green apples. Let it sit for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the salad; the citrus juices from the mandarin oranges and grapefruit will prevent the apple slices from browning.
Pan-fry the sliced tempeh in a non-stick pan over medium high heat. You may opt not to add oil to the pan beforehand since the tempeh has already been coated with the extra virgin olive oil. Just 3-4 minutes on each side will do; you’re not looking for a dark crust the way you would if deep-frying.
Transfer the fried tempeh to a large heat-proof bowl. Add the baby spinach and toss together so the residual heat from the tempeh wilts the leaves slightly. Add the fruits together with the reserved marinade from earlier, and toss further until everything is well mixed.
Place one or two of the roasted drumsticks on each plate and serve with some of the fruit, tempeh and spinach salad on the side.
For more Weekend Kitchen and other slice-of-life stories, visit lifeforbeginners.com.