There are days when I’m inclined to perform the culinary equivalent of a Cirque du Soleil act in my kitchen by attempting to create a menu degustation involving multiple recipes from the French Laundry Cookbook. I do love the challenge of it all. But there are other times when the occasion calls for simple, honest and, dare I say, reliable comfort food. Last week, we invited two friends, newlyweds, over for a weeknight meal. C & P had just returned to Singapore after having spent a whole month traveling; first tying the knot in Canada, then (re)tying the knot in Australia. While I wanted to offer them a meal that would celebrate their marriage, I also wanted to prepare a cosy dinner that would welcome them home. This was not quite the time for champagne espuma or menus boasting smart-ass wordplay.

So, I picked one of my favourite Charmaine Solomon recipes, one that I used frequently as a young undergraduate in Perth. Charmaine worked as a reporter in Sri Lanka before she moved to Australia (incidentally, the groom, P, is also Sri Lankan, by way of Australia). She is now widely recognized as an authority on Asian cuisine and is credited with having changed the way Australians eat and cook. (I actually interviewed her a few years ago. She’s such a sweet, generous lady.) The dish appears in her cookbooks listed either as Himalayan Chicken or Chicken Everest (the recipes are only marginally different). For this particular meal, I used the Chicken Everest recipe in her Complete Asian Cookbook. I love this dish for its heady combination of flavours (savoury and complex, with a delightful interplay between the fresh herbs and smoky, ground spices), its simple preparation, and the fact that it’s actually something Charmaine’s husband, Reuben (a noted jazz musician) created. She calls it one of his “successful variations on a traditional Indian theme”. As you might have noticed, I have a soft spot for men who cook.

Start with a large, roasting chicken, washed and dried. I usually try to get one close to 2 kg.

For the marinade:
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp finely grated ginger
1½ tbs curry powder
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 tbs lemon juice
½ tsp ground curry leaves (I substituted this for a small handful of fresh leaves)
2 tsp light soy sauce
2 tbs vegetable oil (I also added a splash of sesame oil, which I believe the other recipe calls for)
2 tbs ground rice (which I omitted)
a little warm water
2 tbs finely chopped spring onion
2 tbs chopped fresh coriander leaves

Charmine says to combine all the ingredients with sufficient warm water to make a paste of spreading consistency. My pressed-for-time method involves keeping the garlic cloves whole. I pop them into our Braun handheld blender’s mini processor along with a small knob of peeled ginger, the fresh curry leaves and roughly chopped spring onion and coriander. Top this with the oils and blitz it all into a pesto-like consistency before mixing in the rest of the ingredients with a spoon (pulse it a little as well to ensure even blending; remove the spoon before you do this, of course). Using this method, no additional water is required.

Next, rub the paste inside the chicken and all over it. She suggests leaving it to marinate for 1 hour. I prefer to leave it in the fridge overnight.

The trick is to get the chicken back to room temperature before you roast it. I also like to truss the chicken, although Charmaine doesn’t ask for this. We’ve learnt that it helps keep the breast meat tender and ensures even cooking (thanks Mr Keller). Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Roast the chicken for 1 to 1¼ hours (or until the chicken is done). Serve warm or cold.

For C & P, I served it warm with some other dishes I enjoy eating with this roast chicken: a refreshing tomato, onion and green coriander relish; mildly spiced Basmati rice and peas (it has toasted cumin seeds and onion in it, and I opted to fry the uncooked rice in ghee rather than vegetable oil); and small yellow split peas (chana dal), all from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery (another one of the books I dip into for simple meals when I don’t have much time to linger in the kitchen). We ended dinner with some homemade coconut ice-cream subtly infused with pandan leaf (from our proud little plant out in the hallway), topped with thick, oozy Indonesian coconut sugar sauce.

But I must confess that the real treat has to be in eating the leftovers. The tender, juicy bits of flesh running down the back of the chicken which I don’t usually serve are shredded by hand and refrigerated, as are any leftover rice and dal. When it suits your fancy, reheat and serve combined for an indulgent lunch or midnight snack. – S

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his three kids!


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14 September 2005


thanks S, for sharing that recipe, the list of ingredients for the marinade looks so common and yet unusual in its total combination – definitely to be experimented on soon 🙂

Hi S,
you are totally right regarding leftovers 😉 Some of my favorite dishes are best eaten on their second day… like lasagne or potato soup or… The only problem is, oftentimes there are no leftovers 😉

Your recipe sounds great and I’ll have to try, although I’m usually too lazy to start with a whole chicken…

Gosh! That chic looks soooooo gd! I wanna sink my teeth in it. I wish it could jux pop out of my monitor!! My fav meat is chicken!I love chick breast too!Thks 4 sharing de recipe.
Ha! I think most women have soft spot for men whom can cook.(Of cux muz go beyond instant noodles & fried rice)Mux be some simple dishes at least. Guarantee! It’d be an big Brownie point!!
Leftovers are good esp for certain dishes.Hee! Me being Kia Su,prefer to keep marinates overnite too.

Hi S, what a wonderful meal and a delicious-looking recipe for chicken. I totally agree with you: sometimes a simple relaxed meal is far better than trying to perform circus acrobatics!

Hello everyone,

Thank you for all your lovely comments.

Cath: I hope it pleases you as much as it did my guests!

Nicky: But the whole point of starting with a whole chicken is to ensure that you have leftovers. Think of it as cooking two meals at one go 😉

Cindy: I love a man in an apron (haha).

Melissa: Indeed. After having had to eat fancy restaurant meals daily in the name of work, I’ve found that it’s the simplest foods that impress the palate and warm the heart.

Charmaine Solomon’s Complete Asian Cookbook is fantastic and great for people like me who want to just try a few things here and there from different place. I was luck enough to pick it up second hand for the tiny sum of $8

CS no doubt did have an influence. The history of Australian cookbooks would be a great research project. Traditionally, up to the seventies at least, it all came through an Anglo Saxon filter with a dumbed down French influence. The rest of the world would get a recipe or two each. My friend still has nightmares about her gran’s “Sweet and Sour Pork”. I do actually have a chinese cookbook written by a Chinese Australian in the 50’s – very much restaurant fare, but a sincere effort. Given a prior history of Chinese in Australia of nearly a hundred years at the time, you have to wonder what took so long.

I digress and ramble.

Hi Anthony,

Thank you for the historical perspective. Studying the history of Australian cookbooks would indeed be a riveting enterprise. I try to collect old issues of Vogue Entertaining for the very same reason. (My favourite right now, although it isn’t that old, is a 1986 cookbook featuring the fresh young chefs of Australia: Neil Perry, Stephanie Alexander & Iain Hewitson.)

It does amuse me that while Perth has such a thriving Asian restaurant scene, when I was living there in the late 90s having ‘Chinese’ to many non-Asians hinged on sweet and sour. (“Mama’s cooking Canton” still rings clear in my head.) I remember having a conversation with a Perth cab driver once. He complained that when he visited Singapore he really missed his sweet and sour (which he implied that he was expecting to find in great abundance).

What’s the title of your 1950s Chinese cookbook?

Chinese restaurants were the first generation of Asian restaurants in more conservative times, so they carry a lot of baggage that other cuisine like Thai and Vietnamese don’t have to. Japanese does suffer here from everything being teriyaki this and that. I like my Yum Cha but will confess to enjoying the “traditional” place down the road.

The book is called “Chinese Home Recipes For Home Cooking” by Yep Yung Hee. Firts Published in 1951

[on the cover]
“Including: Chop Suey, Spring Rolls, Dim Sins, Fried Rice, Birds’s Nest Soup, Sweet and Sour(!) Fish, Chicken etc.”

Lots of recipes with Dry Sherry.

Hi Anthony,
“Dim Sins” are just so Australian 🙂 I could never bring myself to try the frozen ones at Coles. But it’s nice to see that they’re so much part of what everyone eats that you’d find them at university canteens. I’ll look out for your Chinese cookbook the next time I poke around an antique store in Perth. I so regret not buying the vintage glass/porcelain jelly moulds I saw a couple of years ago.

Along with cheese sausages, they were my favourite road-house trashy fave.

And of course an open invitation to dinner for you and CH next time you’re in town.

I’ve been making Chicken Everest for years. Always great. Here are some tricks I’ve learned. Try using chicken pieces (like thighs) as they are quick to prep, cook, and are easy to serve. Once you’ve marinated the chicken, transfer it to an oven bag dusted liberally with ground rice (I use lots in the recipe to achieve an Indian Kentucky Fried effect). It can sit in the bag, refrigerated, until you put the whole thing in a pyrex dish and into the oven. No mess. Try serving with Ainsley’s Cous-Cous. Yum.

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