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I'm a London-based food writer, stylist and author. Click here to see more about me and my work

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Soy poached chicken legs with puy lentils

Very little has come out of this sausage machine in the last couple of weeks. My excuse is ironclad though. The untimely Iceland volcano that caused global chaos, trapped my family and I in Kuala Lumper for over 8 days. We were connecting from a dreamy trip to Vietnam and then got stuck. Don’t even get me started on the extra expense and frustration but I’m officially back in action this week.

After eating strictly Asian food for 3 weeks I was surprised how little I tired of it. Admittedly, I did get one or two days of carb pangs for pizza or pasta, but was happy to carry on. Normally I am a slave to my ever-changing cravings and cook what I’m in the mood for. It can be Indian one day or Italian the next. I shop for ingredients daily because I never know what I might be hankering for.  The Asian diet of meat, rice, vegetables and fruit, and little dairy and wheat, is so earnest and pure. You can pig out without a shred of guilt.

Hence, my recipe of choice this week is Asian. I featured this in my book, ‘Meals in heels’ and it’s one of my favorites.  Based on a Chinese cooking technique called ‘red cooked’ or braising, the chicken is poached in a soy, spice and rice wine stock. Sometimes this method can be too salty, but this recipe is sweet and mellow with hints of ginger, orange and star anise. After the chicken is simmered, it’s roasted to crisp the skin and the stock is used to cook the lentils. Yes, lentils are not Asian, but they work here so, who cares. They soak up all the gorgeous poaching liquid and the only not so healthy bit is a dollop of creme fraiche (optional) which bridges the spicy chilis and soy-rich stock.

soy chicken and ginger lentils
prep time 15 minutes, cooking time 1 hour 15 minutes
serves 6

750 ml/3 cups shaoxing (Chinese) rice wine
125 ml/1/2 cup dark soy sauce
125 g/2/3 cup lightly packed soft brown sugar
1 large strip of orange peel
4 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
3 garlic cloves
9 cm/3 inch knob of ginger, peeled and sliced
6 chicken legs
1 tbsp olive oil
3 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
500 g/1 lb 2 oz puy lentils, rinsed
crème fraîche, thinly sliced spring onion (scallion) and long red chilli, and coriander (cilantro) leaves, for garnish

Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF

Place the rice wine, soy sauce, sugar, orange peel, cinnamon, star anise, garlic and ginger in a large heavy-based saucepan with 1.25 litres/5 cups water and bring to the boil. Add the chicken, reduce heat to low-medium and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken, place on a wire rack placed in a roasting tray and roast for 35 minutes or until skin is crispy.

Strain and pour the stock into another container and rinse out the pan. Heat the oil in the clean pan over medium-high heat, add the carrot and onion, season with a bit of salt and pepper and cook for 3–4 minutes or until softened, Add the lentils and reserved stock, reduce heat to low-medium and simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils are cooked but still have some bite. There should be about 150 ml (5 fl oz) of the liquid left in the pan. Spoon lentils and liquid onto plates, top with chicken and garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche, spring onion, chilli and coriander.


  1. pensky says:

    That looks @£%!*+@ lovely!!!

  2. Danni says:

    So glad to see you’re back on the blog – this looks incredible! I’ve convinced one of my friends that I must eat either Vietnamese or noodles or both tonight! So hungry!

    PS I saw the momofuku pickles in your fridge…I now know that that’s what they were!

  3. mealsinheels says:

    Hey Danni, nice to hear from you. I still have your present from Vietnam so we must meet up so I can hand it over.

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