Satay – such a cinch
If you’re looking for a quick, convenient and delicious way to use up any leftover game in the freezer, look no further than a satay, says Sarah Monier-Williams.
Father’s idea of a perfect Christmas gift is a bag of random chilli seeds; his ideal day out, a visit to a British chilli farm to track down an elusive bhut jolokia ghost chilli or Trinidad Morunga Scorpion. Followed by copious quantities of real ale at the local pub, obvs. Respected by his Andalucian neighbours for his homemade interpretation of Tabasco, one can imagine the dizzy heights father’s heat tolerance reaches on the chilli heat Scoville Scale. Birthdays are a cinch: Chilli print Hawaiian shirt, seedling trays for his babies, a bizarre bottle of Jalapeño beer found in a Bangladeshi shop on the A4... you get the drift. A devotee of all things spicy, my father once even invited the entire cast of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum back from the pub for lunch (true).
The same is not to be said for the better half, who used to baulk at the merest hint of curry powder in Coronation chicken. Pleading palate preservation for his professional fine wine tasting (aka drinking) skills, he consistently eschewed all things spicy until he became part of the family. For him, Scotch is a whisky, not a bonnet, but we’ve somehow managed to bring him over to the dark side and these days he’s brave enough to tackle a tikka. Just don’t remind him of the venison vindaloo incident.
Back in early January, when Mr M-W uttered the memorable words “I rather fancy a curry”, I mentally visualised my father punching the air. After the excesses of the Christmas season, not to mention over-consumption of those repeat dried-fruit offenders – mince pies, Christmas cake and Christmas pudding – it’s no surprise our poor jaded palates craved something a little different.
His Lordship probably only had a chicken korma in mind, but I had more grandiose plans. We’d only been five for Christmas Day lunch and had compromised on roast beef. Come January 1 and we still hadn’t had even the smallest whiff of roast goose, yet here was our local butcher selling off his organic frozen finest at half price. Having been inspired by Adam Byatt of London’s Trinity restaurant to up my game, I’d successfully managed to satay a partridge back in December and now decided to try my luck with 5kg of goose. Forget your average take-away satay comprising arbitrary white bird meat floating in an insipid, sugar-laden, greasy, peanut butter gravy. The real thing is another matter entirely.
Marinating a 5kg goose can be an unwieldy affair. I channelled my inner Geoff Capes and hoisted the beast into my stainless steel preserving pan whilst wearing a pair of plastic gloves pinched from the local filling station. Turmeric doesn’t take prisoners, so try not to wear a white shirt if attempting this dish. And gentlemen, please don’t be tempted to go all gloveless macho or your hands will end up looking like you’ve had a 60-a-day habit since your teens.
Globally now as ubiquitous as a hamburger, satay’s origins are unknown, although if you believe Wikipedia it apparently found its way to us from the southern Muslim region of Indonesia, having been introduced there by immigrant Tamils. It arrived in Europe courtesy of the Dutch and it’s certainly a tastier import than Edam, thank you very much. The peanut bit is where it starts to diversify. Here in the West we like the sugary, coconuty, peanuty sauce accompaniment which often causes confusion. This sauce is not the marinade. It’s a side dish, along with our family favourite, the vinegar, cucumber, shallots and – yes, you’ve guessed it – chilli pickle.
Key to the actual marinade is the aforementioned turmeric, along with coconut milk, curry powder, salt, sugar, and a touch of cumin and coriander. Most folks will follow the traditional path and dice their meat ready to skewer onto pre-soaked bamboo sticks. Here in the M-W household we like a challenge and cook up our satay either whole or spatchcocked. Smaller, mostly white-fleshed birds such as partridge and young pheasant are best splayed out and barbecued, with duck, geese and the like best left whole and roasted. Diced venison makes a wicked satay, as does jointed hare and rabbit.
For the marinade, I start by dry roasting the cumin and coriander seeds in a pan then grinding them up in a pestle and mortar (don’t wash – save later for grinding roasted peanuts). For the goose I add coconut milk, turmeric, salt, sugar and curry powder to the ground, roasted seeds in the preserving pan and mix the lot together, turning the bird over and over to ensure the marinade gets rubbed into every goosy nook and cranny. Depending on how safe your kitchen is from our four-legged friends, you can either cover with tin foil and leave for four hours or hide in a cool cupboard.
Tolerant neighbours used to Mrs M-W’s dodgy cooking experiments were invited over for a Saturday evening supper on the promise of a good Chinese takeaway in the event of an epic fail. Our bodies craving iron, team M-W raided our January veg patch for tasty spring greens and purple sprouting broccoli and acquired a bag of decent quality jasmine rice to steam.
Be prepared for the sheer volume of fat which will pour out of a 5kg goose (it won’t with a partridge, especially if you’re barbecuing it!). In the case of this recipe the fat will also be bright yellow and slightly curried, perfect for making Bombay potatoes, gobi aloo saag or simply jazzing up a Sunday roast. This is why you need to cook your goose on a metal tray above a roasting dish and tip off the fat at least twice during cooking. Your kitchen extractor will thank you for reducing its workload too.
We like to let our satayed birds rest under cover of a Roast Cosy (look it up - it works!) or tin foil for 20 minutes after roasting, which is just enough time to make the side dishes, steam the rice and veg and pour the guests a glass of Vintage Pol Roger. Being a purist, I must fess up to using a tablespoon of ready-made Thai red curry paste for the peanut sauce, otherwise it is simply so easy to make that it would be a war crime to use a sugar and MSG-laden ready-mix packet. The cucumber and chilli pickle is simply a case of ready, steady, cook with everything pre-diced into tiny OCD cubes and plonked into a decent quality rice wine vinegar (or white wine if you’re caught short in Northumberland) with, sorry, more sugar.
So, my guess is that you all want to find out if we phoned Dragons Pearl or wolfed the goose? In Haiti there’s a hot chilli sauce named Ti Malice. Named after a character in Haitian voodoo, this potent brew combines chilli heat with a distinct citrus bite. According to Haitian folklore, the mischievous Ti Malice made an exceptionally spicy sauce to deter his dim-witted friend, Bouki, from eating his food. Sadly, the plan backfired as Bouki loved the sauce and raved about it. With Ti Malice firmly in mind, I added some particularly citrusy lime juice to my peanut sauce and an extra dash of chilli heat. Mr M-W loved it. Dad would be proud.