Sometime in August of 2013, we got an email from Jill Dupleix and Terry Durack asking if we’d like to meet for a coffee as they had an idea.
‘Of course’, we said, ‘we’d be delighted to’.
We were nervous.
I was pregnant.
They were neither.
Turns out, they thought we should write a book together and so we did and now, two years later, it is two weeks away from being released!!!
In hindsight, agreeing to write a book while I would be nursing a newborn and wrestling a three-year-old could perhaps have done with some more consideration, but by that point I’d signed the contract so it was too late anyway.
Luckily for me, Edie didn’t really care what I did so long as she didn’t leave my side. So I just took her with me and wrote at cafes on the days the Mighty Quinn was rockin’ it at daycare. (Thank you to Mark from Revolver for this shot.)
Now, for those of you who’ve written a book before, you’ll understand that a book goes through many evolutions before it becomes the one the reader sees. I had some inkling of this from my performing days when you’d come in to rehearsals and discover choreography had been thrown out and redone, harmony parts rewritten and staging reworked. I don’t mind the process because it allows you to get rid of dud ideas so they don’t smash about in your brain taking up space and interfering with good ideas, but it does mean you spend a lot of time on things that never see the light of day.
Originally we were focusing more on Fried Chicken and its story internationally – what it meant to and how it was enjoyed in various countries and cultures around the world.
As an Aussie, my experiences with fried chicken were slim. As in none.
I grew up in a country town and our mum held a steadfast commitment to the healthy food of the late 70’s/early 80’s – apricot chicken and brown rice, cabanossi and cubed cheese on a toothpick and margarine. How are we all still alive?
So to research this phenomena of chicken fried in fat, served with thick gravy and fat, buttery biscuits, I went to that stalwart of intellectual activity…Facebook.
Hi friends and family from around the world,
I’m doing a bit of research into Fried Chicken – did any of you grow up with it? Do you have a story/memory/recipe associated with it? And if so, would you mind sharing it with me? I would be so grateful.
And what do you know. Stories tumbled in from around the globe – a friend from LA with Japanese parents. A regular from Hartsyard whose dad had grown up with a slave in the south. Fried chicken from Lebanon, France, regional Australia, Korea, and southern America. Fascinating stories of family and tradition, customs and culture.
Meanwhile (and somewhat unfortunately), the manuscript was becoming less global and more localised in content, which eventually meant I had a file full of fabulous fried chicken stories with nowhere to actually put them.
And so, to celebrate the release of our first cookbook on August 1st 2015 (available on our website or in many bookstores) I thought I’d share these stories with you now.
SRI LANKAN DEVILLED CHICKEN
By Daphne Sivasubramaniam.
Daphne’s daughter Diane (pronounced De-arne) and I have been friends since we were 12. When we first met in year 7 at high school, I noticed three things about her. 1 – she had really long hair. 2 – her surname was too long to fit on those standardised tests you had to do every year and 3 – she was a pretty good student and therefore our relationship during class time was probably going to be minimal.
Despite this, our friendship survived and in 2006 she moved to NYC where I’d been living since 2002. I can’t tell you how lovely it was to be able to catch up with a friend from home. Diane had cut her hair, her surname was still the same and she was now a very good student, moving to New York to pursue a post-doctoral fellowship in forensic psychology. Clever she is. Chef she is not. It is the honest truth to tell you that not once in the 2.5 years she lived there did she ever prepare herself a meal in her New York City apartment. Breakfast, lunch and dinner – she ate every single meal out.
This fried chicken recipe is a dish from her mother’s childhood. The closest Diane has ever come to cooking it, is writing it down for inclusion in this blog.
This recipe comes from the heart of old Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and is a specialty of the Burgher community. It was passed down from my mother, whose original recipe included ways to raise, fatten, kill and prepare the chicken for cooking domestically. Ingredients were all prepared communally, using the unique kitchen skills learned from the domestic help. Chopping was done sitting on the floor, holding the knife, blade-side up, between the toes, and pushing ingredients repeatedly and rhythmically over the blade. The staff was so well practiced at this that they would spend the time catching up on the day’s gossip while they produced the finest of slices. Cooking was traditionally done in chutti (clay) pots over an open fire, the flavours from the wood and earthly clay were a distinctive feature of the dish. Family recipes included instructions on when to add or remove wood to regulate the heat. Modern methods of cooking have changed some of the traditional flavours, but it never fails to remind me of the happy family times we shared this dish at the dinner table in Kotahena, Colombo.
Daphne’s Sri Lankan Devilled Chicken.
Chicken and marinade:
1kg chicken thigh fillets (trimmed of fat, cut into bite-sized pieces)
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika (sweet or hot, depending on the heat you want)
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder (more or less to taste)
2 teaspoons ground pepper
A pinch of salt
Stir fry sauce:
1.5 Spanish onions, chopped
Ginger (one piece about the size of the end of your thumb) – finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
10 leaves of karapincha (curry leaves)
1 red capsicum, chopped into bite-sized chunks
2 green chillies, sliced
3 dried chillies, shredded
100ml tomato sauce
1 teaspoon soya sauce
Oil for frying
Mix marinade ingredients together and coat chicken pieces in marinade. Mix well. Set aside for a couple of hours (if possible).
Deep fry chicken in batches, until crisp. Keep warm in oven.
Heat oil in wok. Fry curry leaves until crisp. Then add garlic and ginger for 30 seconds. Add Spanish onions, capsicum and green chillies. Stir fry but keep crisp. Make a hole in stir fry and add tomato sauce and soy sauce to the bottom of the pan. Add deep fried chicken and mix and coat all ingredients.
Serve with day rice and pol sambol.
2 cups jasmine rice, washed
1.5 cups water
1 stick cinnamon
5 cardamom pods bruised between two spoons
8 karapincha leaves (curry leaves)
Mix together and cook rice as normal.
1.5 Bombay onions (brown onions), finely sliced
1.5 cups dessicated coconut
1 green chilli, finely sliced
Finely slice Bombay onions. Add a pinch of salt, and squeeze in the lemon. Leave to marinade while cooking. Before serving, add desiccated coconut and green chilli and mix well.
I reckon this would go down a treat on this gloomy, cold Friday night.