Braised Star Anise Chicken
This would have to be my greatest stand-by dish. I use it all the time and probably get asked for the recipe more often than any other. It’s easy to make and it looks startling – the chicken comes out a deep mahogany colour and has a haunting flavour from the star anise that is really addictive.
- Serves 4
- 1 cup (250ml) kecap manis*
- 1 cup (250ml) soy sauce
- 1 cup (25ml) water
- 1/3 cup (75g) brown sugar
- 2 star anise
- 2 tablespoons sherry
- 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
- 2 slices fresh ginger
- 1 x 2kg free-range chicken
- Lime wedges
- Pickled pink ginger
- A few extra star anise (optional)
- * Kecap manis is a thick, slightly sweet Indonesian soy sauce, available from most supermarkets
Preheat your oven to 180C.
Put everything except the chicken and serving ingredients into a large, flameproof casserole dish. (I use an enamelled cast iron dish for this.) Bring it to the boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the chicken, breast-side down. As soon as the liquid returns to the boil, cover the dish and put it into the oven.
Cook the chicken for 40 minutes, then carefully remove the dish from the oven and turn the chicken over. (This can be a bit messy. I’ve found the best way is to stick the handle of a wooden spoon through the cavity, then use it to hoist the chicken up and over.) Return the chicken to the oven and cook it for a further 45 minutes. When it’s done, remove it from the oven. Leave the chicken to cool a little in the liquid for at least half an hour, then carefully lift it out onto a plate.
For a special occasion, you can give the chicken a shiny glaze by boiling down a little of the cooking liquid until it’s syrupy and brushing it over the skin. Serve the chicken whole or chop it up into small pieces, Chinese style. I usually serve it on a long platter with a pile of lime wedges and a little mound of pickled ginger at one end. If you like, garnish with a few extra star anise dunked in a little of the cooking liquid.
Recycling the cooking liquid
One of the best things about this dish is that you can keep recycling the cooking liquid, or master stock, many times. To do this, strain it through a fine sieve, pour it into a clean container with a tight fitting lid and store it in the fridge. (The liquid sets like jelly and the fat from the chicken floats to the top and seals it. Just scoop off the fat before you use the stock.) You can keep cooking with this master stock again and again, as long as you boil it every couple of weeks. You will find that each time you re-use the stock, you may need to ‘freshen’ the flavour a bit – I quite often add fresh star anise pods, ginger, garlic and sometimes a splash of kecap manis and soy sauce as well.