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Chicken and Coconut

one small chicken
one medium onion, roughly sliced
small lump ( ½'' 1.5cm cube) of fresh ginger or, preferably, galangal, bruised
one Tom Yam stock cube, or 1 tsp Tom Yam paste
1 tsp each of coriander and cumin, pan roasted and ground
½ tsp ground tumeric, or a small chunk (hazelnut size) of fresh tumeric, bruised
4 Kafir lime leaves
1 lime or lemon
1 tin coconut milk

This is a dish I make for unexpected guests, with a chicken from the freezer, a can of coconut milk, and spices from the cupboard. Onion, ginger, and lemons are staples, almost always to hand. However, it is always adjusted to use whatever is available, and the quantities here are just a record of one recent, and particularly successful, instantiation.

Tom Yam includes fish sauce, lime juice, cilantro, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, rosted chilli paste and fresh chillis. If you have any of these in the cupboard, you can use them to adjust the flavour. If you have all of them, you can make your own Tom Yam paste.

Rinse the chicken inside and out. Put the lemon or lime inside the chicken; smaer the otside with Tom Yam paste (if using a stock cube, work it to a paste with a little hot water).

Put the onion, spices and ginger in a pot, with ½'' (1 cm) of water. Lay the chicken on to, breast-side down, cover and cook for 90 minutes in a slow (275 °1 40 °C) oven. Then remove the lid, add the coconut milk and cook, uncovered for a further 90 minutes; turn the chicken breast-side up for the last 30 minutes.

The meat should fall easily from the bone. In either case, make sure you get all the meat from the carcass, including the oysters—the small, tender, oyster-shaped chunks that sit in their own spoon-shaped depressions in the pelvis, on either side of the bird's backbone.

Remove the chicken to a warmed platter. taste the sauce, and adjust the seasoning with fish sauce (or salt) and lime juice (or vinegar).

You can carve the chicken at this point and return it in bite-sized chunks to the sauce, which is then served with a ladle. Or you can carve the bird at table and serve the sauce separately, in which case, you may want to reduce the liquid, on the hob, to thicken the sauce, stirring carefully so it doesn't burn.

Serve with plain or saffron rice, garnished with chopped cilantro and spring onions.

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