5 ingredients is all it takes to make this saucy, sticky weeknight feast!
You know it’s almost Summer in Sydney when your denim coat is no longer necessary first thing in the morning and the sleeves of your red cotton shirt are rolled up to the elbow. An increase in daylight hours means I want to pack more into my day and get the most from it. I simply cannot do without a lunchtime wander in Sydney’s Domain or along the Barangaroo Foreshore. If I’m home before seven there may even be a moment for a late-evening run/jog/walk in my little corner of the world. I add to my daily step count as the sky changes from salmon to pink to a cool lavender.
Just like my clothing and my fitness regime, my approach to cooking also changes. Bottles of passata and copious cartons of cream are no longer daily pantry essentials. Instead, fresh asparagus, silverbeet, kale and other greens of the Cruciferous kind fill my grocery basket. These add colour and crunch to risotto primavera, hearty salads laced with char-grilled chorizo or simply plate of steamed greens drizzled with sea salt, olive oil, lemon zest and served with a soft boiled egg. A delightful supper in minutes!
Busy is the new normal.
I find it ironic that being busy is the new ideal in life. Busy means you are making full use of your time and pushing yourself to get the most out of your day. According to Forbes, a lack of free time might actually be seen as inspiration or a status symbol. A study conducted by Anat Keinan, an associate professor in the Marketing unit at Harvard Business School, explores the growing changes in perceptions of the value of one’s time – what Keinan calls Conspicuous Consumption. As she puts it, “The new conspicuous consumption is about saying, I am the scarce resource, and therefore I am valuable.” Although the study was conducted in the US, I can definitely say I’ve witnessed a similar culture emerging here in Sydney. It’s a culture that tells people there’s not enough time in a day to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Things like taking a lunch break, relaxing or even making a home cooked meal for your loved ones and sharing it around the dinner table.
So why cook from scratch?
All hope may not be lost. Thankfully there are still countless authors, bloggers and lifestyle celebrities out there encouraging others to pursue the joys of home cooking. In Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (2006), Michael Pollan, American author and professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, explores the nutritional and sociological benefits of home cooking. Back in 2014 he told the Boston Globe that when we cook at home, we naturally tend to make simpler meals minus the nasties. To explain this he compares the act of buying a typical junk food takeaway, say French Fries, with making them from scratch. “Homemade french fries are delicious, but they’re such a pain to make,” he says. “There are things built into the process of cooking that guard against those very tempting, but ultimately not very healthy, foods…you will naturally gravitate toward simple things.” Even in my own cooking I tend to limit my use of rich fats and don’t often deep fry due to the time-consuming clean up afterwards. Not to mention the lingering smell of cooking oil in the kitchen. Instead, I substitute fat for flavour from fresh herbs, spices and homemade pastes, sauces and condiments.
Pollan also recognises the importance of cooking as a social act saying, “It has been [a social act] since we started.” The power of fire to change food made it delicious and safer to digest. As soon as we made that discovery we had to learn how to share the food with those around us. He notes, “Cooking gave us the meal and the meal gave us civilisation.” Pollan’s continued efforts to convince the world of the benefits of home cooking lead to a 2016 Netflix series, also called Cooked, which urges a return to the kitchen to reclaim our lost traditions and to forge a deeper, more meaningful connection to the ingredients and cooking techniques that we use to nourish ourselves.
What would Jamie do?
Prior to starting this piece I’ve realised I’ve spent the evening listening to the same message preached from my food idol Jamie Oliver. His latest book 5 Ingredients – Quick and Easy Food is an effort to convince the masses of just how easy it is to create a delicious meal, from scratch, with not a lot of hassle at all. It’s an interesting move considering one of the major criticisms of his recent 30-Minute Meals (as well as the 15 minute follow up series) was that it takes much longer than 30 minutes to prepare when you factor in for the time taken for prep and to wash up afterwards. Oliver’s approach seems to be about making a return to the kitchen for the enjoyment of food and flavour.
Home cooking is good for the soul.
Getting back into the kitchen comes with a myriad of health and lifestyle benefits. Taste Senior Editor The Huffington Post, suggests these benefits could include altruism, creating stronger bonds between people and it can be a form of nurturing. She explains, “cooking brings us together, and it continues to create communities ― and with community comes feelings of connection and happiness.” That’s exactly the reason why I love cooking so much. I love to cook for my family and friends, my loved ones, because it lets them know that I care for them. It really does bring joy and happiness to my day.
When it comes to cooking dinner, it’s handy to have a quick and easy number up your sleeves. I love pairing syrupy aged balsamic vinegar with sweet honey and crushed garlic. It’s the perfect marinade for cheap-and-cheerful chicken drumsticks and coats the skin in a delicious sweet and tangy glaze when roasted. Best of all you can whip up this dish in minutes!
Recipe: Sticky Balsamic Chicken Drumsticks
PREP TIME 20 MINS | COOKING TIME 40 MINS | SERVES 4
- 4 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 8 chicken drumsticks
- Spring onions, finely sliced, to serve
Combine the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add the chicken drumsticks and toss to coat. Cover with cling wrap and place in the fridge to marinate for 20 minutes or overnight.
Pre-heat an oven to 200ºC/ 180ºC fan forced. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Remove the drumsticks from the fridge and place on the baking tray in a single layer.
Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until cooked through and caramelised. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving.
- These drumsticks are great served with couscous and a side salad.
- Though acidic prior to cooking, the balsamic vinegar combines with the honey to form a sweet sticky glaze for the chicken.
- To check if the chicken is cooked, pierce the thickest part of the drumstick with a skewer. The juices will run clear, and not pink, when cooked.
Happy Cooking and Keep Smiling,
*Author’s note: The recipe first appeared in The Freshest Food by Plumpton Marketplace X Brendon The Smiling Chef.