A roast chicken looks like one of life’s most innocuous pleasures: a Sunday dinner for some, a once-in-a-blue-moon feast for others. For me, roasting a chicken was a way to stay even marginally sane in the midst of the storm that has rampaged through the northern and central parts f the Philippines for nearly a week.
For most people, the coming of a storm is a cause for worry, even panic. Such has been the case in the low-lying areas of the Greater Manila Area for decades on end: several regimes have come and gone, generations born and passed on, but floods during the height of the monsoon season remain a critical and, yes, crippling issue in this nation.
The past five days have become the stuff of legend: a lesson for those of us alive now and those who will come after us. Decades of wholesale misappropriation of public funds, of the people’s taxes have led to flooding virtually everywhere on the big island of Luzon. Half of Manila and both its northern and suburb satellite cities was underwater, with the Marikina River rising way above the 20-meter mark. Water has spilled in, crashed in massive waves into public thoroughfares. Schools and offices have been closed since Monday. Beginning Saturday night, people from places where the floods were knee-high, waist-high, even neck-high ran for cover and are now shivering in the cold, sheltered in public school classrooms.
As grateful as I am for living on higher ground in a house strong enough to stand against the elements, I feel guilty for my good fortune. Housebound these past three days, rendered immobile so to speak by rain that falls in heavy sheets and the threat of being stranded due to the lack of viable public transportation, I watched the news with dread and horror. Much as I love cold and stormy weather, nearly a week’s worth of torrential downpours is too much even for me. I shudder to think of the toll it has taken on local infrastructure, on businesses, and – most especially – on my people.
Much as the act of cooking has saved me from the depths of despair in the past, it saved me from becoming overly depressed by recent circumstances. The act of preparing a meal for my family enabled me to stay calm, to keep my focus, to keep my chin up. It enabled me to tell myself “The storm cannot beat us! The rain can neither quench us nor quell us from doing what needs to be done!” Cooking has kept me busy and, likewise, kept me from becoming numb and lethargic.
This is a very simple recipe I’ve tweaked off Taste.com.au. In the original, chicken marylands – leg and thigh quarters – were used. I figured there was enough marinade for a 1.5 – 2-kilo chicken and used that. It is a delicious thing to feed your family on a cold night with a storm raging outside. At the same time, any leftovers can be used in stir-fries, sandwich fillings, chicken pot pie, salads, and pasta sauces. Even the carcass can be frozen once you’ve eaten all the meat; you can use it for making stock. At a time like this, wasting food is an absolute no-no.
Honey Roasted Soy Chicken
- 1 whole chicken, approximately 1.5 to 2 kilos
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup honey or golden syrup
- 2 inches fresh ginger-root, peeled and grated
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, and minced
- 1 star anise,broken up
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
On a chopping board, put the chicken breast-side-up. Using a cleaver, split the breastbone and open the chicken, effectively butterfly-cutting it.
Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large, non-reactive bowl. Add the chicken, massaging the marinade into the skin and meat. Leave to marinate for at least two hours, turning several times in the process.
Preheat your oven or Turbo Broiler (tabletop convection oven) to 350 degrees / Mark 4.
Put the chicken skin-side down in a roasting tin (or, if you’re using a Turbo Broiler, skin-side down on the inner rack); reserve the marinade. Roast for 25 minutes, spooning or brushing on marinade every ten minutes. After 25 minutes, turn the chicken over and roast an additional 25 minutes, basting occasionally.
Remove the chicken and leave to rest for about 5 to 10 minutes before carving.
Serves 6 with leftovers.
Incidentally… For those of you who want to help, click here to know more about how you can help in the relief efforts that are currently underway. For those abroad, donations may be coursed through the Ayala Foundation’s Laging Handa program. You may also get in touch with The Children’s Hour – Philippines by emailing Patricia Mallari at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the mobile-savvy, you can also text your donations to the Philippine Red Cross by texting RED<space>AMOUNT to 2899 (Globe) or 4143 (Smart). You can donate the following amounts in Philippine pesos:
Globe: 5, 25, 100, 300, 500 or 1000
Smart: 10, 25, 50, 100, 300, 500 or 1000