Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Spicy Chicken Wings on the Braai

Chicken wings weren’t even on my food radar before I came to South Africa. All skin and bone with only small morsels of playing-hard-to-get meat inside... I didn’t see the point of them at all. Fast forward a few years and I am educated in all things braai by my husband’s family: chicken wings have become a delicacy, fragrant and crispy skin coated in spice, tender, falling apart meat inside, eaten hot from the grill, juggled between scorched fingers but irresistible all the same.

Last weekend was an unseasonably warm hint of summer, perfect for an impromptu first braai of the season. I was cudgelling my brain for a new recipe, original, startling and noteworthy enough to mark the occasion and to make a good blog post for Cooksister’s Braai the Beloved Country event.  My husband requested chicken wings and boerewors.
“But I want something to blog about.”
“Have you ever done a blog post on chicken wings?”
I hadn’t, so there we go, decision made, not startling or original but a braai staple, in our family at least.

 I decided to assert my food bloggerness by devising a new signature spice rub for the chicken wings. Usually we use my brother-in-law’s secret spice mix, which may or may not burn your lips off with its chilli heat, depending on the batch and his inspiration when he mixed it. It has a whole variety of spices and barbeque spice mixes in it, but I hadn’t yet come up with a version that was my own.

I wanted something spicy but slightly more subtle: something to entertain the taste buds rather than bludgeon them into submission. I ended up turning to Jamie Oliver’s section on rubs and marinades for inspiration and adapted his fragrant and hot dry spice rub. It was good but leaves room for more experimentation – the fennel was a bit too in your face at the start, though it mellowed out after the first mouthful, and I wouldn’t mind a bit more of the fragrant cardamom coming through. It’s spicy but not at all burny, no chilli at all, which I don’t think my brother-in-law would approve of!

So I’ll give you my adapted version of the recipe that I used as a starting point. Feel free to experiment with it and let me know what other versions you come up with. I’ll add any further adaptations and improvements through the summer braai season.

Fragrant spice rub for chicken wings
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons nigella seeds*
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 clove
½ cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
2 cloves garlic crushed
Salt and ground pepper

*I used the nigella seeds that came in my FBI goody bag, but they aren’t easy to find. Fenugreek was what the original recipe asked for if you prefer to try that.

In a heavy pan over a medium low heat, toast all the whole spices lightly, stirring occasionally.
Either pound the spices to a powder in a pestle and mortar... or give up half way and pour them all into a coffee grinder and do the whole job in about two seconds flat. Clean the coffee grinder out well afterwards!
Crush the garlic cloves and mix in with the ground spices. Add salt and a bit more ground pepper to taste.
Rub the spice mix into the chicken wings and leave the spices to permeate for a few hours before braaiing.

Then let your wings sizzle over hot coals, turning frequently, while you sip a chilled glass of Tangled Tree * butterscotch chardonnay, as the sun dips below the horizon and you pretend it really is summer.

This post is in honour of Cooksister's annual Braai the Beloved Country event, whcih takes place on south Africa's Heritage Day, 24th September, otherwise known as National Braai Day.

My entry last year was this ostrich and butternut kebab recipe, also a darn fine thing to cook over the coals!

Look out for Jeanne's round-up of braai recipes on Monday.

*I'm really enjoying sampling the range of Tangled Tree wines that I won in their competition last month - all very palatable, full of flavour and accessible. I'm saving the Chocolate Cabernet Sauvignon till last!

1 comment:

  1. Mmmm, chicken wings are a huge braai favourite in South Africa, aren't they - I really miss the skewered wing "sundowners" that you can get at every supermarket and that are totally unheard of here :( Love the combination of spices you have used on these, not being a huge fan of chilli!! Thanks for taking part once again :)


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