Thursday, 22 September 2016

How to cook for parties, and Sticky Chicken Skewers with Coriander Green Sauce

It's been 3 months, which is a whole new record for being away from the blog. It's ridiculous, the seasons have even changed. I was writing about blistering weather and asparagus with salted egg mayo back in June, and now I'm looking out of my window at a gloomy sky, curled up with a huge cup of tea. Lots of things have happened since. I've finished grad school (woo!) and back to job-hunting (boo); been on a couple of trips food researching (eating); and believe it or not, I've been writing about food – most recently for Gousto, Great British Chefs and the Japan Centre, which I'll link up to below if you've missed recipes from me.

I've also popped up with my apron and knives at various kitchens. There was a Singaporean-Hong Kong hawker food supperclub collaboration at a snazzy cocktail bar in Soho, a lovely private dinner party, and a catering gig at the beautiful London Rowing Club just by the river. I'm also about to help teach a clever, equally food-loving bunch of ADHD kids for a massive birthday celebration this weekend. All in all, I've fed over two hundred people in the past couple of months. That all sounds a bit nuts – and if I think back to the days when I'm used to cooking only for myself, intimidating – but I've picked up some tips over the years on no-stress cooking for a crowd.

Lamb satays with tamarind peanut sauce and unintended product placement; Chef Shu and Olly

1. Go big
My favourite way to do dinner or lunch parties is to have huge sharing platters and have everyone dig in. Any stews, braises or roasts work extremely well for this, the only thing you'll need is a bit of primary school math for upsizing the recipe and a bigger pot/ roasting tray. Salads also translate well to sharing sizes, because you can throw lots of flavours, colours and textures together on a beautiful large platter.

2. ... Or if you're going small, think chilli padi
Birds eye chillies (chilli padi in Malay) are deceptively small chillies which pack an insane fiery punch. Canapés though bite-sized, should pack a mouthful of flavour. It should also catch your guest's eye so I think about colours – a sprinkle of black sesame seeds and a peep of green cucumber and dill over an otherwise dull-coloured smoked mackerel pate; pickled red onions or radishes to add a cute bright pink contrast (and sweet sharp bite) to something green.

Crab, peach and spring onion croustades; Smoked mackerel pate with dill & black sesame; 
Smoked aubergine and pomegranate, salted duck egg mayo & edamame pea mint dips

3. Teach your guests how to make their own 
Aside from significantly lowering the amount of prep on your end, people love getting involved in the process. For the hawker night pop-up, we had a wrap-your-own popiah party featuring a stack of popiah skins and a spread of fresh salads, homemade chilli and sweet sauces, and the traditional braised turnip and shiitake filling, alongside fun extras like crispy roast pork belly. Popiah parties are quite a thing in Singapore and I remember my little sister having roast duck on the table for her deluxe birthday popiah party. I've also done summer (and winter) roll parties. It's fun and everyone gets to be as creative and greedy as they like.

Popiah pick-and-mix galore with my co-chefs J and Cherry; Summer rollin'

4. Lastly, remember to have fun
 I've picked up lots of tips from London's hottest caterer/ my good friend Milli's awesome book on canapés Party Perfect Bites, but this is my favourite. This is not time to get your panties in a twist over what's "authentic and correct". Set aside your pre-conceived notions and foodie morals, and have fun playing with flavours and colours.

Thai-style shrimp glass noodle salad cups with roasted peanut powder, and shredded Teochew braised duck pancakes with cucumber; I like to creep on my guests to make sure they're happy

This is my recipe for a crowd-pleaser from the last event: chicken marinated in soy sauce and honey, grilled till they're all smoky sticky and lovely, and then served with a fresh zesty coriander-based green sauce. I've also sneaked in some green chilli padi for an added kick, feel free to double the quantities if you're feeding spice-loving fiends. It's an adaptation of the sticky soy sauce wings recipe in Chicken and Rice cookbook – which is doing well and has sneaked its way into many strangers' dinners (absolutely makes my day when I get tagged on social media, so please do or otherwise leave a happy review on Amazon).

makes about 25 skewers

1 kg skinless and boneless chicken thighs, cubed

for the marinade
6 tbsp Kikkoman regular soy sauce*
6 tbsp runny honey
3 tbsp rice wine
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
6 cloves garlic

for the green sauce
1 large bunch coriander
3 large stalks spring onions, green parts only
3 cloves garlic
juice of 1-2 limes, to taste/ juiciness of your limes
1 green bird's eye chilli
groundnut oil
sea salt, to taste

to serve
chopped spring onions
toasted white sesame seeds

1. Combine the ingredients for the marinade. Place the chicken in a large ziplock bag and pour the marinade over. Leave in the fridge for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Flip the bag around once in a while to make sure they are all evenly marinated. Soak skewers.
2. Preheat oven to 190C. Skewer chicken and arrange the chicken skewers on a greased baking tray. In a small saucepan, bring the reserved marinade to a boil for a full two minutes. Place the chicken in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and caramelised, turning and baste the skewers regularly with the reserved marinade.
3. When the chicken is ready, remove from the oven and let rest. Combine any roasting juices with the reserved marinade
4. Blitz all the ingredients for the green sauce together, adding just enough oil to make a smooth runny sauce, sort of like a pesto. Season to taste with salt. Keep the sauce covered in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours, the longer you do this ahead the more it loses its vibrant green so try not to do this too far ahead. Your prep is basically done until just before the party.
5. When ready to serve, remove the sauce from the fridge and let it come back up to room temperature. Finish the skewers on the grill for a minute on both sides till charred, brushing with the marinade + roasting juices regularly. Finish with a sprinkle of chopped spring onions and toasted sesame seeds, and serve with the green sauce.

* Kikkoman and most other Japanese soy sauces don't differentiate between light or dark, they just have the one amazing soy sauce, and variations on ingredients/ salt levels. If using other brands of light soy sauce, you might want to add a tad of dark soy sauce too for the colour.

Related reads/ recipes
Great British Chefs Japan Centre feature series on noodles:
  Soba noodles with smoked mackerel and grilled courgettes
  Sichuan-style cold cucumber and shirataki noodle salad
  Miso ramen with poached egg and crispy shallots (aka Pimp Your Ramen)
Gousto chef feature and interview 
  My Khao Tom recipe adapted for Gousto (+ all the ingredients you need to make it, delivered to your doorstep)
Chopsticks Brunch Club
My first supper club experience (nostalgic blast to the past)

Related clicks
Chicken and Rice cookbook on Amazon
Get on the mailing list to have first dibs on future news/ events