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Spicy Clay-pot Chicken

Clay-pot cooking stems from the practice of burying a glazed pot in the embers of an open fire. The gentle heat surrounds the base and keeps the liquid inside at a slow simmer, similar to the modern-day casserole.

ingredients

serves 4 - 6
1.5 kg (3 - 3 1/2 lb) chicken
45 ml (3 tbsp) freshly grated coconut
30 ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil
2 shallots or 1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
5 cm (2 in) lemon grass
2.5 cm (1 in) galangal or fresh root ginger, thinly sliced
2 small fresh green chillies, seeded and finely chopped
1 cm (1/2 in) square shrimp paste or 15 ml (1 tbsp) fish sauce
400 ml (14 fl oz) 1 2/3 cups canned coconut milk
300 ml (1/2 pint) 1 1/4 cups chicken stock
2 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
15 ml (1 tbsp) sugar
15 ml (1 tbsp) rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 ripe tomatoes, to garnish and 30 ml (2 tbsp) chopped coriander leaves, to garnish

method

1. To joint the chicken, remove the legs and wings with a chopping knife. Skin the pieces and divide the drumsticks from the thighs and, using a pair of kitchen scissors, remove the lower part of the chicken, leaving the breast piece. Remove as many of the bones as you can, to make the dish easier to eat. Cut the breast piece into four and set aside.

2. Dry-fry the coconut in a large wok until evenly brown. Add the vegetable oil, shallots or onion, garlic, lemon grass, galangal or ginger, chillies and shrimp paste or fish sauce. Fry briefly to release the flavours. Add the chicken pieces to the wok and brown evenly with the spices for 2 - 3 minutes.

3. Strain the coconut milk and reserve the thick part. Add the thin part to the wok, together with the chicken stock, lime leaves, if using, sugar and vinegar. Transfer to a glazed clay pot, cover and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C (350°F) Gas 4 for 50 - 55 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Stir in the thick part of the coconut milk and return to the oven for 5 - 10 minutes to simmer and thicken.

4. Place the tomatoes in a bowl and I cover with boiling water to loosen and remove the skins. Halve the tomatoes, discard the seeds and cut into large dice. Add the tomatoes to the finished dish, scatter with the chopped coriander and serve.

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