It was during my recent move that I made a promise. I had been trying really hard to get rid of a lot of kitchen paraphernalia both before packing and after, and I did manage to make a few charity shops in the vicinity very happy. But there were some items that clearly did fit the rule that I would bin anything I hadn't used in the last year or so, but that I still decided to keep: the deep-fryer is one of them. So I came up with an additional clause: if you haven't used it in the last year, but cannot part with it for whatever reason, then you have to use it within the next two months, and at least twice a year thereafter, otherwise it's gotta go.
Who'd have thought that I would get emotionally attached to a deep-fryer, given that I am not that big on the frying front... I don't even appreciate fried food elsewhere that much, the occasional fries at a restaurant maybe, but I am not a regular at my local chippy either. I guess there's a bit of nostalgia involved. The deep-fryer was one of the first things I bought after moving in with my (now) husband (now, how romantic is that!), because we were in love with the "pimientos de padrón" we always ordered at Aioli, which was a great tapas bar cum deli in Vienna. Never mind that I discovered shortly after that these little green chillies taste much better just sprinkled with olive oil and grilled in the oven...
After a couple of weeks of settling into the new house, it was time to fulfill my promise and get frying! I had a few friends round for an evening of playing games and decided to make various plates of fingerfood so we would be able to nibble stuff without interrupting the game. These chicken balls were the perfect solution for my frying ambitions - but you don't necessarily need a deep-fryer to make them, a deep pan works just as well. They're incredibly easy to make and very tasty: copious amounts of garlic, coriander, lemongrass and chilli and served with a tangy fish sauce... very delicious. I also made them for Jeanne's birthday bash a few weeks ago and they went down a treat!
So, deep-frying has ticked one of many boxes... I have since made smoothies in the blender, pressed fresh orange juice with my kitchen aid, had a cosy evening around the raclette grill, made a gratin dauphinois using the mandoline, but I still have to get round to making a loaf with the bread maker, dust off the pasta machine and find a good recipe for espuma to use the ISI gourmet whip... don't worry, no spanking of cooks involved, this is 100% PG!
Vietnamese chicken balls
(yields ca. 40 balls)
600 g chicken breast
4 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 shallot (finely chopped)
2 stalks lemongrass (finely chopped)
1 tbsp fish sauce (Nam Pla)
1 egg (beaten)
100 g flour
2 heaped tbsp chopped coriander
2 tbsp chopped red chilli
bread-crumbs for rolling
groundnut oil for frying
For the dipping sauce:
1 red chilli (ca. 1 tbsp chopped)
100 ml rice vinegar
1 tbsp fish sauce (Nam Pla)
1 spring onion (finely sliced)
1 tbsp demerara sugar
Clean the chicken breasts thoroughly and cut them into tiny dice. Mix with the rest of the ingredients, then leave to sit in the fridge for 30 minutes for the flavours to infuse. Form little balls, shaping them in the palm of your hand, as firmly as you can. Roll them in the breadcrumbs, making sure they're nice and round.
Prepare the sauce. Combine all ingredients in a thick-based, non-stick pan and heat until the sugar is dissolved.
If using a deep-fryer, heat oil to instructions. If using a pan, make sure you heat up enough oil for the balls to be submerged (ca. 4-5 cm high). When the oil is hot, fry the chicken balls in batches, for 8-10 minutes at a time, until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on some kitchen towel.
(You can prepare them in advance and re-heat them in the oven later, in which case 5 minutes frying time is enough.)
Serve on a plate with the sauce in a shallow bowl, and toothpicks for dipping.