In our house, the current requirement is for dinners which are a) simple, b) can be mostly done ahead so they’re ready to cook (or reheat) at dinner time without spending an hour in the kitchen, and c) adaptable to suit the varying tastes of a spice and chilli-loving husband and a hungry but not so adventurous three year old. And me, though I’ll take dinner any way it comes as long as no-one is throwing a tantrum (the three year old) or crying (the three month old) while it’s eaten. My standards for dinner success are pretty minimal in these days of tiny people and their enormous needs.
Anyway, this recipe fits the bill in every way. First developed at work as a simple way to demonstrate how to make a complete meal in the steam oven, it’s become a home staple. Mostly made with chicken tenderloins because they’re quick and don’t need trimming or portioning, but sometimes with diced chicken breast, pork fillets or fish. I’ve changed up the marinade/sauce components to include, variously, ground Szechuan peppercorns, oyster sauce, coconut cream, peanut butter and chillies. All of them work well, though not all together! And I bet a Mediterranean version with lemon slices and juice, garlic, herbs and olive oil (and olives?) would be a winner too, although I am yet to try it.
The dish is all in the timing – if you nail that you’ll be able to prepare and cook a healthy dinner of rice, protein and veg in twenty minutes flat. I like to think about the timing as you would for an old-school stovetop steamer, where you chuck in the things which take longest first and add those which need less cooking later. So here the rice tray goes in first, then chicken and veg, and they all come out together. I’ve given the recipe using vegetables which take the same time to cook as the chicken, but you can take it one step further and add some faster-cooking veg such as peas or asparagus. Just work out how long you want them to cook for and toss them on top of the meat near the end of cooking time.
Below is the recipe in its simplest iteration – a master recipe, if you will – but feel free to take it in any direction you like – that’s the best kind of dish as far as I’m concerned. I’ve listed my tried and tested variations at the bottom of the post, feel free to comment if you have any other suggestions. I really hope you'll give it a go, and that it will give those of you new to steam oven cooking a bit of confidence to experiment with your oven.
Soy and ginger chicken with steamed rice and vegetables
One word of warning: although there might seem an enormous amount of sesame oil here, don’t be tempted to cut it down. (unless, of course, you hate sesame oil. In which case you must be in a tiny minority, and I’m not sure you should ever eat at my house given the sheer quantities of the stuff we get through). The steam oven dilutes the sauce quite a bit because it’s such a wet cooking method, and it’s much less noticeable in the finished dish.
And, if time isn’t critical, you might want to marinate the chicken for 20-30 minutes before you cook it. I generally don’t but you will get more flavour into it.
1 ½ cups (300g) jasmine or long grain rice
2 ¼ cups (530ml) water
¼ cup (60ml) ketjap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
¼ cup (60ml) dark soy sauce
1 tbs (20ml) sesame oil
A thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, sliced (optional)
500g chicken tenderloins, trimmed if necessary (I don’t usually bother)
4 spring onions, finely sliced
1 red capsicum, deseeded and finely sliced
1 head broccoli, broken into florets
Set your oven to 100⁰C (steam only).
Mix the rice and water in a shallow tray – I use the stainless steel one which came with my oven. Put it in the oven and set your timer for 7 minutes.
While the rice gets started, mix the sauces, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, chilli and chicken and spread it out in a wide, shallow dish which will fit the chicken in a single layer – I use a big rectangular Pyrex dish for this, and I mix straight in the dish to save time and washing up. Scatter the vegetables evenly over the top of the chicken.
When the timer goes off for the rice, add the chicken and veg tray to the oven and set your timer for a further 12 minutes.
At the end of cooking, check to make sure your chicken is done and cook for another minute or two if it’s not. Fluff the rice with a fork, then serve the chicken and veg over the rice, with the sauce drizzled on top.
A few ideas for variations:
· Switch the dark soy for oyster sauce in the marinade.
· Switch the ketjap manis for 2 tbs honey in the marinade and add a couple of tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds at the end of cooking.
· Switch the ketjap manis for 3 tbs peanut butter – we use crunchy because it’s what we keep around, smooth will work fine. Sprinkle chopped roasted peanuts over the finished dish.
· Use a small (285ml) tin of coconut cream*, a few splashes of fish sauce, a tablespoon or two of brown sugar and the juice of a lime instead of the above marinade. Still use the ginger, garlic and chilli, though. *You could use coconut milk (or light coconut milk – which, BTW, is just watered down coconut milk, people! I’d be doing that part myself), but the coconut cream gives a slightly thicker finished sauce.
· Switch the chicken for firm white fish or salmon fillets. You’ll probably need less cooking time with this option (around 8-10 minutes, depending on your fish), so put the vegetables in a separate tray and start them a bit earlier.
· Switch the chicken for 4cm-diced pork fillet – cooking time should remain the same.