This pot-roasted coconut chicken is not only visually stunning but also surprisingly easy to prepare, requiring only a handful of basic ingredients. It epitomizes the type of dish I truly enjoy creating, and the best part is, it happens to be good for your health! This delightful recipe hails from the “Feel Good Food” cookbook, authored by Valli Little, a revered figure in the Australian culinary world, celebrated as a chef, cookbook writer, and magazine editor.
Meeting a legend in the Australian culinary scene is not an everyday occurrence, and for someone like me leading a rather ordinary and unglamorous life, it’s practically unheard of. So, when I was offered the opportunity to explore Valli Little’s latest cookbook and, to top it off, meet her in person, it felt like an early Christmas gift!
I must confess, I felt a tad nervous at first. Valli graciously invited me to her home, and the moment I stepped through her door, it felt as though I was reuniting with an old friend. You know those people who effortlessly put others at ease and instantly make them feel welcomed? Valli Little possesses that gift. What struck me most about her was her remarkable humility and down-to-earth nature, laced with a touch of playfulness. She’s just like any of us – your neighbor, your friend, your mother, your coworker.
Oh, did I forget to mention? She also happens to be one of the most prominent figures in the Australian food industry. As the Food Director of Delicious magazine, the author of the Delicious cookbook series, and a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in London, she’s widely recognized. Her recipes seem to pop up everywhere! But what truly captivated me about Valli was her unwavering passion for food (her expertise goes without saying). She genuinely adores what she does. You often hear about people’s eyes lighting up when they talk about their passions, and that’s exactly what I witnessed when Valli and I engaged in a casual conversation about her background, family, the intricacies of cookbook writing, her surprisingly unglamorous life in the magazine industry (she certainly burst my bubble there), and, of course, food.
When I’m with my family, our time typically revolves around eating, cooking, planning our next meal, and engaging in lively discussions about food – minus the arguing part. In that sense, my morning with Valli felt like spending time with my family, comfortable and completely in my element, talking about what I love!
I was particularly intrigued to learn more about her latest cookbook, “Feel Good Food.” To begin with, Valli is far from being a trendy health food chef. Much like me, she’s not one to jump on food trends simply for the sake of it, such as paleo diets, kale, or chia seeds.
I knew there was a compelling backstory to this cookbook, which, honestly, if you ignore the title, wouldn’t immediately strike you as a “healthy” cookbook. And indeed, it isn’t – Valli is quick to clarify that. In her own words, it’s about becoming more conscious of what you’re putting into your body. For Valli, it was a health scare last year when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer that served as the catalyst for this cookbook. We didn’t delve into that topic during our conversation – I forgot to check with her publisher if it was off-limits – but I was aware of it.
She spoke about her treatments and the scare it brought to her and her family. This experience inspired the creation of a cookbook focused on being mindful of the ingredients you use to make your meals healthier, without the need for fancy, expensive sugar substitutes and unpronounceable ingredients.
There are numerous recipes from her cookbook that I wanted to share, but alas, I could only choose one. I plan to inquire with Valli if I can showcase another one since there are a few more that I truly adore.
I believe she’d be pleasantly surprised to learn just how many of her recipes I’ve already had the pleasure of trying. Nevertheless, this pot-roasted chicken stands out distinctly. It deviates quite a distance from the traditional pot-roasted chicken, offering a modern, fresh Asian-inspired twist with exceptional flavors, and it’s also remarkably clean. What keeps slipping my mind is that this is indeed a clean recipe!
P.S. If you happen to think that stuffing the herb mixture under the skin is a tricky task, think again! I have a clever tip that makes it incredibly easy – you can refer to the step-by-step photos in the recipe below. It genuinely takes just about 2 minutes, and you won’t accidentally tear the skin! Now, let’s talk about the broth – it’s truly sensational. I prepared this chicken four times in three days just before my trip to Mexico, and I found myself sipping the broth straight from a cup. The base consists of coconut milk, which is lightened up with chicken broth/stock, and it carries the delicate, earthy aroma of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves (I’ve also provided substitutes!), freshness from lime, and a touch of sweet and salty. Initially, I thought, “The flavors won’t pack enough punch for me,” but boy, was I mistaken!
You know, I had originally planned to conduct a proper interview with Valli, and I apologize if that’s what you were expecting. I had a list of the usual questions ready – how she began her culinary journey, what it’s like to write a cookbook, and so on.
However, all those plans went out the window as soon as we started conversing. Firstly, I didn’t want to disrupt our conversation by sticking my iPhone between us to record it (talk about a mood spoiler!). Secondly, it felt so much more meaningful to me to simply “get to know her” and share my personal experience with you, rather than typing out answers to conventional interview questions.
I did manage to pose just one (incredibly important) question, which I diligently noted down. *Whenever I play this game, people often try to argue that “bread” and “butter” are two separate food items. However, I say it really quickly, and since it’s my game, I declare that they count as one food item. **This encompasses every type of cheese in existence. Every single one!
Now, who’s up for the idea of joining Valli and me to live on a deserted island? It promises to be an absolute blast!