My name is Margaret Dent and I retired four years ago after nine marvellously enjoyable years as a Curator in Exhibitions at the National Library of Australia. The Patrick White papers came to the Library not long before I retired; the excitement was huge and it was an obvious candidate for a wonderful exhibition. I knew Patrick White and Manoly Lascaris enjoyed cooking, but did not know just how many recipes would be found in the collection. I have always enjoyed cooking myself, and although I find White’s books difficult, the recipes looked much more approachable…. The only one of his books I have managed to finish is The Solid Mandala, and I did find it worth persevering with. Long ago I bought a copy of Voss, and am now inspired to read it.
The occasion to try out some of the recipes was our weekly family get-together dinner. I like finding new recipes to experiment with for the dinners, and even my chef son usually approves!
1 or 2 bacon rashers
1 clove garlic
1 tsp ginger
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oil
Put jointed chicken in pan with garlic, ginger, bacon, pepper and salt. (I used chicken thigh fillets because they cook evenly and do not dry out as breast meat would in that sort of dish. For twelve fillets I used 2 rashers of bacon – they were large free-range ones and it was plenty – chopped and sprinkled over the meat. The recipe did not specify what type of ginger to use, and I suspect it assumed ground ginger, but I used finely chopped root ginger as I like the fresh flavour.)
Nearly cover chicken with cold water.
Cook fast without the lid for about 25 mins. Add 2 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tbsp oil. (I omitted the tablespoon of oil that was supposed to be added with the soy sauce, as there was a little fat on the meat and that was enough. I don’t cook with salt so omitted that too. I packed the meat in a single layer in a baking dish and brought it to a simmer on the stove, then transferred it to a 200º (not fan-forced) oven for the rest of the cooking, basting it often along the way.)
Continue cooking, basting frequently til liquid almost absorbed and chicken cooked.
Serve with rice.
What’s the verdict?
I’m no expert on Sri Lankan cooking so don’t know whether bacon and soy sauce would normally feature in it, but Ceylon Chicken Patrick White-style was very good. There was still quite a bit of the cooking liquid left when the chicken was cooked, and it would have evaporated more quickly on the stove-top, but we didn’t feel that the extra liquid was a problem as it was a good sauce to have over the rice. I used Basmati rice as we like it best.