Leftover largesse: from bland to bling

September 13, 2012

Roast chicken lawar

Whenever I’ve invited people over for dinner and then find I have ended up with almost no time to cook, I tend to fall back on an old favourite in this house – roast chook.

This happened on Tuesday evening. I’d invited six pals around, having forgotten that the plasterer was coming to fix the many cracks in our 120-year-old house. Which meant spending Monday getting allll the furniture and paintings and whatnot out of allll the rooms (except the kitchen, thankfully) while they did their thing – and then on Tuesday ridding the entire house (including kitchen!) of its fresh coating of plaster dust, and hauling all the stuff back into place. All while noticing along the way that my generally sluttish housewifery meant all our belongings were in fact covered with their own rich patina of dust and grime, so all that had to be cleaned as well. Lordy.

Despite the house looking like the above at 10am, we managed to get everything back to order by six o’clock and dinner was had and all was lovely (especially including Senor’s chocolate pots au creme from Neil Perry via our friend F! Divine).

Anyhoo,  as I erred on the side of too much food and roasted two chooks for eight people, this meant two roasted chook breasts waiting to be used in the fridge the next day.

What to do with leftover roast chook? Normally I just pick at it for lunches and whatnot, but this time wanted to try something different.

My brainwave was to revisit my lawar love affair of this time last year, following our beautiful holiday in Bali. And now I reckon this must be one of the most delicious and easy ways to use leftover chicken – because you can make a whole meal from it even if you only have a tiny bit of chook. We had lots, but if you didn’t all you would need to do is just increase the beans or other veg quantities and away you’d go. We’re thinking it might be very nice with beans and cashews or tofu cubes, actually …

Once again I used this SBS Food recipe as the starting point, but this time I doubled the paste quantity so I could keep some of that fab stuff in the freezer. I also added a whole bunch of coriander to the paste, and used one small red birdseye chilli instead of two big ones. As before, I dry-fried half a cupful of shredded coconut till brown.

Rather than going the trad mortar-and-pestle route, I whizzed the paste up in the food processor because I prefer pastes with lemongrass in them to be very smooth. Also I am bone idle as you know and can’t be bothered with all that pounding.

So, into the whizzer went the paste ingredients:

  • 1 birdseye chilli
  • 12 cloves garlic
  • a sizable knob of ginger (about 5cm lump)
  • ditto of fresh peeled galangal
  • a little finger of fresh turmeric
  • roots & leaves of 1 bunch coriander
  • 6 candlenuts
  • 4 roughly chopped lime leaves
  • 12 eschallots
  • 1 chopped stalk lemongrass
  • a couple of teaspoons of shrimp paste
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns (ground)
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • juice 1 lime
  • juice ½ lemon
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • salt to taste
  • a few lugs of olive oil (vegetable oil if you wish to be more authentic)

After whizzing for a few minutes, it ended up as a very aromatic yellowish paste.

Next step was to fry off about four tablespoons of this – use as much or as little as you like, but it’s so delicious I say don’t skimp on the amount. I fried it for about six minutes, stirring now and then to stop it sticking, over a medium heat.

While that was going on I shredded the chicken breast meat and set it aside. The real recipe uses poached chicken mince, and you then use the chicken water to cook the beans in. But I just blanched the beans – about 2 cups of green beans, cut into 3cm lengths – in boiling salted water for a little over a minute.

Once the beans were just crisp and refreshed in cold water, I added them to the chicken with about ½ a cupful of thinly sliced red capsicum and the previously browned coconut.

Then I added the lawar paste and combined very thoroughly until all the chicken, beans and capsicum were well coated in the mix. At the end I added the roughly chopped coriander leaves and about a tablespoon of chopped mint, and served this with a wedge of lime on each plate for squeezing. You could serve it with rice, but the paste is so deliciously rich and thick we just ate it in a bowl on its own.

All in all, it was a damn fine dinner.  And it might have been extra good because of the satisfaction quotient involved in transforming quite ordinary leftovers into something much more special, which always feels a bit magical to me.

What about you – any good kitchen transubstantiation going on at your place lately?


  1. YUM! Know how all of this feels: I have not stopped cooking despite moving in recently, and trying o the get the contents of two houses into one….

  2. Yum, that sounds amazing, Charlotte. Where do you buy the candlenuts from?

    • Am with Jules below, KJ – candlenuts are nice but not essential. You can get them from Asian supermarkets – I have a sizable bag that lives in the freezer, probably use six nuts every six months!

  3. Sounds good, Charlotte. And I agree re lemongrass- it has the texture of old toenails. That prawn paste ( blac(h)an?) packs a punch, an deep inhale in 1986 sent my nostrils into overload. I have been known to omit the candlenut or chuck in a macadamia.

  4. Ditto re. lemongrass, but DAMN, WOMAN, that dish looks and sounds absolutely scrumptious!

  5. Oh Yum! So many of my favourite flavours and with a terrible cold I might try this tonight! Thanks!

  6. I have a guilt feeling about beans, stemming from having to eat a pile of slimey, grey, stringy specimens my mother used to serve us in the 60s. I believe I should atone for a childhood spent avoiding swallowing them by : 1. spitting them in the toilet or 2. secreting them down my pyjama trouser leg and emptying them out when I left the table or 3. rolling them up into a chewed congealed ball and stashing them on the window sill in the dining room.
    Sooooooo, I now know how to cook them properly and looove them in all their snappish, greeney, crispishness. I will def try this recipe with them and complete another chapter of penance for my wicked bean behaviour of yore.
    Thanks Charlotte.

  7. Firstly, just wanted to say I’m loving yr book Charlotte!! Chapter on Mrs Spain a delight but it’s all been a fab read. Am inspired to cook everything so far. I now have a link to this blog on my iPhone w yr smiling face so clicked in for my update today. Dish looks delightful so will have to have a gd look around London for those ingredients. Being so far from Asia we aren’t as blessed w the wonderful Asian cooking ingredients as Aus. BUT I did use up my roast pumpkin risotto leftovers by making some little aranchini balls so thought I’d throw this into the mix. Much love to you & señor. Mike x

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