NEW YEAR IN SCOTLAND | CHICKEN RICE

Howdy Guys! I was just counting on my fingers and realised six weeks have passed in the blink of an eye. This post is clearly overdue as I returned from Scotland shortly after New Year’s Day. Although I’ve not been back for long, I'm already having vacation withdrawal symptoms. I want to escape the unpredictable weather patterns here in Singapore. One moment rain is pelting the corridor of my office. Ten minutes later, sunny skies and soaring humidity. I dread having to do outdoor video productions at the moment, soaked with rain or perspiration—or both. I miss the walks in Scotland. I’d wear layer over layer… over layer, and stay toasty and dry all day. Now only a cotton dress and umbrella are my options to combat the wet heat of Singapore, hehehe. I miss Scotland :(

Back in December, I spent my New Year’s in Banchory, a quiet and beautiful town in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Taking time off from work and visiting a whole new setting gave me the perfect opportunity to reflect on what I’d achieved last year, and on the potential solutions to rectify lingering problems. I planned out my next steps for continually self-improving in 2016. After twelve splendid days with the luxury of a huge larder of food and plenty of time to cook meals, I felt refreshed, revitalized and well prepared for the new year ahead.

It was quite a pity when I only got one chance to hike up Banchory’s local hill, Scolty. However, it was a gorgeous day: mellow rays falling tenderly on my skin, a light refreshing frosty breeze, and a small forest of snow-coated trees!

After our adventure up Scolty I decided to treat everyone to a Singaporean staple: Chicken Rice. This home recipe was passed down by my grandma, who is Hainanese. Every Chinese New Year and Dumpling Festival, she'd wake up early in the morning to prepare her own special version of Chicken Rice, and a wide spread of other foods for prayers. Over the years of observing and assisting her, I realised how important time management was. For example, you need to know what to cook first and to prepare last so that everything can be plated in time for dinner. With this in mind, I give you the following recipe and instructions :)

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 1 small ginger root
  • ½ cabbage, in small chunks
  • 1 stalk of parsley, chopped in quarters
  • 2 cups of jasmine rice
  • 2 cubes of chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 cucumber, sliced (for serving)
  • 8 baby tomatoes, halves (for serving)

For the paste

  • 3 ginger root, chopped in large chunks
  • 2 stalks spring onions, sliced in strips bulb 
  • ½ garlic, chopped
  • Avocado oil
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Chilli flakes

Kitchen Equipment

  • Cleaver (for chicken)
  • Vegetable knife
  • 2 chopping boards (one for chicken, one for vegetables; to avoid cross contamination)
  • Mortar and Pestle
  • Food Processor
  • Large pot/pan for the stock ~Stockpot (should be able to fit the whole chicken submerged in water)
  • Small pot/pan (for cooking up the ginger and garlic side accompaniments)
  • 6 toothpicks (to hold the stuffed chicken together)

Preparation

  • Fill 3/4 of stockpot with water, bring to boil
  • Peel 1 root of ginger and 1 head of garlic, pound with pestle/mortar until till juice flows out. (This will be the stuffing for the chicken.)
  • Peel remaining ginger and chop into large chunks
  • Cut away the fat from the chicken and remove the pores (using the other chopping board)

Cooking

  • Bring water to the boil in the Stockpot, before adding the cabbage and chicken stock
  • Put stuffing into chicken (including pouring any remaining juice from the mortar) 
  • Use toothpicks to seal up the chicken. Turn the chicken upside down to ensure stuffing doesn't flow out. Slowly dip it into the Stockpot by holding onto the wings. Ensure water level practically covers the chicken, otherwise add more water into the pot. 
  • Let it cook for 30 minutes (still at a boil). Use a toothpick/skewer to pierce the top of the chicken to check if it’s cooked. If the toothpick is warm, then turn over the chicken cook for another 30 minutes. 
  • Once chicken is cooked, bring it out from the pot and place it in a plate of ice cubes to let it cool down for 10 minutes.
  • Rinse jasmine rice, add in 3 cups of chicken broth. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Remove chicken from the ice plate, pull out the toothpicks and scoop out stuffing. 
  • Cleave chicken into slices (usually I’ll debone them also for a fuss-free eating)
  • Drizzle sesame oil and sprinkle with chopped parsley on top of the chicken slices.
  • Season remaining chicken broth with pepper.

Pastes to accompany chicken

  • For the ginger and spring onion paste, first add in large chunks of ginger into the food processor and add a generous amount of avocado oil. Blend the mixture till smooth.
  • Pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil into frying pan and add in spring onions. Stir fry them   till soft.
  • Pour in ginger paste and stir fry it with another 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and serve. Next, on a serparate bowl, add 2 tablespoons of chilli flakes and chopped garlic by the side to serve.

When eating

Dip chicken with a choice of either the ginger & spring onion paste, or chili & garlic paste. As the chicken may taste a little oily for some, I strongly suggest adding some refreshing cucumber and tomatoes.

Tip

If you are preparing this for dinner, I would encourage that preparation starts around 3pm. This gives you enough time to slice, chop, and pound everything before 6pm (3 hours total). Finally, be mindful that the chicken has to be entirely cooked (no pink shades) before serving. Undercooked chicken is a prime candidate for food poisoning. Please let’s not let this happen!