I’m keeping it honest + simple today (actually I’m anxiously hovering over the publish button because my photos are crazy casual, oh my gosh) with a few photos illustrating one of my favourite dishes at a child; salt dough chicken. My mum only prepared the dish a few times but the spectacle of taking a chisel to a dough-encrusted bird was enough to retain those happy, tasty memories until today. Did anybody see those nerdburgers on #mkr prepare their salt-crusted trout? I’m pretty sure they were doing it wrong; this is how to do it right. The Women’s Weekly Cooking Class Cookbook taught me how. It states… “This is one of the renowned dishes of the Orient.”
*tugs collar*, yikes. Well, to pay homage to, um, “the Orient” as well as retaining my delicate Australian-wog sensibilities I’ve prepared the chicken by shoving lemon and rosemary up its arse then brushing the bird with kecap manis (can be substituted with soy sauce and sugar). Wrap your beloved chook in foil and salt dough and bake for four hours. It’s like cooking a chicken inside an oven inside an oven inside an oven (inception chook). Crack open your make-shift oven for a meal of melting-off-the-bone chicken. Delicious, noble, comforting bird; you’re the best.
The other day my mum said something very interesting; “why has ‘communal eating’ become such a fad lately? It’s like all of a sudden people decided it’s nice to eat together”. NICE ONE MUM. I lack the eye for refined plating as dishes upon dishes, complete with mismatched tongs, served in the centre of the table for all to enjoy has been the norm for as long as I can remember. Individual plates with perfect towers of food were never commonplace in my upbringing and this chicken dish respects this mentality by being so deliciously ugly it cannot possibly be transformed into a fine dining work-of-art. Do your best to transfer it out of the salt dough (that sucker’s gonna crumble) and let everybody dive in and grab their favourite piece. It’s how we’re meant to enjoy food.
Since this dinner was made for my family last night the luxury of taking my time with staged photos was nonexistent with a hungry audience present; as aforementioned here are some honest (read: dodgy) snaps from a tasty dinner in the Dimou household. Recipe follows after the jpg assault.
Salt Dough Chicken
(based on Beggar’s Chicken from the Women’s Weekly Cooking Class Cookbook)
1 whole chicken
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs rosemary
3 tbs kecap manis
6 cups plain flour
2 1/2 cups water
1. Pre-heat oven to 250°C. Combine all salt dough ingredients and knead until dough comes together and set aside.
2. Prepare baking tray with parchment paper and aluminium foil (or both to be safe like I did). Quarter lemon and onion, roughly crush garlic and place in cavity of the chicken. Brush with kecap manis and sprinkle with salt. Place chicken on foil that’s been brushed with olive oil and wrap tightly in a couple of layers. Roll out salt dough, one half at a time, and wrap the foiled chicken. Wet your fingertips to smooth over and fill any gaps.
3. Bake in the oven for one hour, turn down heat to 170°C and bake for another 3 hours.
4. Remove from oven. With a chisel and hammer gently tap away at the salt dough until you’re able to carefully extract the chicken (warning: SUPER HOT). Place on serving platter and enjoy.