I adore the beautiful island of Bali, and although it has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades owing to tourism, the heart and soul of this island is still very much apparent. I had Bali in mind this part weekend. The weather was being a little unpredictable and somewhat cooler than the beautiful balmy days we have been having, so we felt a roast would be perfect at some point over the weekend. Instead of going for a traditional roast chicken or one with a Middle Eastern rub – I’m a huge fan of sumac, I opted for a Balinese version, which is fondly called ‘ayam betutu’. This spiced roasted chicken dish is hugely popular in Indonesia – especially in Bali and Lombok.
The ingredients blend into a deliciously flavoursome paste that you literally slather all over the chicken. I like to spatchcock the chicken, which is simply removing the backbone, allowing the chicken to be flattened out. If you have bought the chicken from a butcher they will do this for you. Otherwise it is pretty straightforward. You just need a sharp pair of kitchen scissors to remove the spine and press down on the back bone. You can see step-by-step instructions here if you are unsure.
After you have made the paste it is important to warm it in a pan and cook gently for 5 minutes to allow the raw taste of the shallots and garlic to dissipate and all the flavours to blend together. You then need to let it cool completely – I put mine in a bowl, which then sits in a larger bowl of iced water – before slathering it on the chicken.
In Bali they warp the bird in banana leaves, but I find tin foil works equally well, although perhaps not as visually attractive. You need to wrap it up like a parcel so that all the sides are folded tightly so that the juices don’t run out.
I cook mine for 1h30 mins in a fan oven at 180 degrees. If you have a larger chicken then cook it for 1h 45mins. Either way allow it to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
You will find the chicken really moist and falling away from the bone. All the flavours will have fused together nicely and the juice is wonderful to pour over the chicken. It works really well with rice and some greens – whatever you have to hand: pak choi, choy sum, kale, spinach, cabbage, cavolo nero. Simple add a little garlic and soy sauce to the greens and the combination of the the spiced chicken, rice and greens will just sing.
Balinese Spiced Roast Chicken
1 whole chicken, spatchcocked ideally
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 lemongrass sticks, the bulbous ends only (the other part is too fibrous)
3 banana shallots
5 garlic cloves
3 red Thai chillies
10g galangal, peeled (leave out if you can’t find any)
20g ginger, peeled
1 tbsp palm sugar/jaggery/caster sugar
1 heaped tbsp coconut oil, if firm (if oil consistency then add a couple of tbsp)
1 tsp fresh or powdered turmeric
2 limes, juice
4 kaffir lime leaves
1 tsp salt
1. First finely grind the coriander seeds and black peppercorns and then the lemongrass sticks (bulbous end only) in a grinder/pestle and mortar.
2. In another chopper, add all the other ingredients (including the ground peppercorns/coriander/lemongrass) EXCEPT the fresh limes and kaffir limes leaves.
3. Heat the paste in a pan for up to five minutes, to release the flavours and remove the raw taste of the shallots and garlic. Allow to cool completely before moving on to the next stage.
4. In a large bowl, rub the now cooled paste all over the chicken. Add the juice of the two limes and leave the limes in the bowl too. Add the salt. Place the 4 kaffir limes leaves on top the chicken and then cover and leave in the fridge for 4 hours to overnight.
5. Bring the chicken to room temperature and preheat your oven to 180 degrees fan.
6. Place foil in a roasting tin and place the chicken on top. Cover the chicken completely with the foil, so that it looks like a wrapped parcel.
7. Place in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes or if you have a large chicken 1 hour 45 minutes.
8. Once cooked remove from the oven and leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving. There will be lots of juice that you can use to pour oven the chicken.
Serve with white rice and some greens – pak choi, choi sum or greens with a little garlic and soy sauce.