Tomorrow is, I’m sure you know, Bonfire Night.
You’ll no doubt know this from the increasing occurrence of bangs, whizzes and pops that have filled our skies over the last couple of weeks.
Of course, for many of us up the Colne Valley, the sound of fireworks is an almost daily routine, as Standard Fireworks, now Black Cat, tests its products regularly.
I do love fireworks, and it’s with a wistful sadness that I think back to family gatherings, often with neighbours, where we would stand round a small bonfire, writing our names with sparklers, while slightly tipsy dads, tin of beer in hand, would light a succession of rockets and roman candles with increasing boldness, and the poorly-nailed catherine wheel would inevitably spin itself loose and disappear into the garden next door to enormous cheers.
The smell of that night air, laced with smoke, is surely one of childhood’s most cherished memories.
It’s a lot less impressive on the whole, these days. I’m not one of those ‘Health & Safety’ bores who would prefer we still used phosphorus and TNT, but I do find the basic home offerings much tamer than back in the 1970s.
They seem, in my mind, to have burned brighter for longer, the rockets more ‘whoosh-y’. Perhaps my rose-tinted spectacles made this appear so.
We are now expected to attend organised displays, which, while impressive and entertaining, don’t quite summon up the magic that a jovial back-garden shindig does.
And it also means we miss the other great thing about fireworks at home – the food. Bonfire Night food is brilliant, hearty stuff, from big mugs of soup to buttery jacket spuds, foil-wrapped and cooked in the heart of the bonfire. Sausages tucked into soft buns, paper plates struggling to contain hot pies swimming in mushy peas.
Dark, sticky treacle toffee, mulled wine. So much wonderful stuff to guzzle as the sky fills with colour and noise. So I decided to offer you something relatively quick and easy, but with masses of ‘oomph’ as my contribution this week – firecracker chicken wings.
The idea of crunchy sauce-covered wings originated with the famous Buffalo Wing, created, it’s said, at the Anchor Inn in Buffalo, in upstate New York in 1964, one of those frequent times when the combination of a largely empty larder and a hungry late-night customer combined to bring about an absolute classic.
Nowadays, these spicy wings, served traditionally with a blue cheese sauce and celery sticks, are a global phenomenon, and have spawned many variants.
My wings, using sriracha, sesame and soy, are definitely oriental in flavour, but you can really let your imagination soar; there are so many variations on the basic recipe, once you’ve got the technique nailed.
The hot sauce can be any of your choice, from a basic hot-wing sauce to fruity piri-piri, to the fiery sauces of the Caribbean.
For those of a nervous disposition, mixing or even completely replacing hot sauce with ketchup, BBQ sauce or Chinese black bean sauce would work just as well when mixed with the garlic and butter base, and not blow your woolly hat off.
The end product, a crunchy, sticky, tasty wing is what we’re after, and any ketchup-y style sauce will do very well. Your garnishes, too, can be altered according to taste.
Fresh coriander or basil, dried herbs, minced chilis or shredded pickles would all work well, when combined with your preferred coating sauce.
But today, in honour of the auspicious date, let’s fire up the taste buds with a real chili explosion and blast off into space!
For the wings:
24 free-range chicken wings
2 pints milk
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tsp sea salt
400g plain flour
2 tsp celery salt
1 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1 tsp dried garlic granules
1 tsp dried onion granules
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
For the sauce:
4 cloves garlic, minced
240ml hot sauce of your choice (I used sriracha)
4 tsp cider vinegar
4 tsp dark muscovado sugar
2 tsp sesame oil (optional)
A splash of soy sauce (optional)
For the garnish:
1 small bunch spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
2 tbsps sesame seeds
Fresh green and red chilis, finely sliced
First, using a sharp knife, chop off the wing tips if they are still on the wings. These tend to burn or overcook when baked or fried. Then, tip the wings into a suitable container, cover with the milk and add the garlic and salt.
The wings should be immersed completely. Swoosh them round, cover tightly and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight.
Strain off the milk and allow the wings to dry slightly.
Sift the flour and cornflour with the remaining dry ingredients and toss the wings in the mixture, squeezing and pressing to get a good coating on each wing. When you’ve finished, leave the wings for half an hour, then repeat the process.
As they sit a second time, make up the coating sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan, and gently cook the garlic until soft. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth. Keep warm.
Heat the oil in a deep, high-sided pan or deep-fryer to 180ºC. Heat the oven to 220ºC / Gas 7.
In small batches, fry the chicken wings for about 10 minutes, until nicely browned all over.
Remove from the oil, drain well, and place in an ovenproof tray. When all the wings are fried, bake for 10 minutes until sizzling, then toss quickly in as much of the sauce as you like, covering each wing fully.
Toss in the garnishes and mix fully, before serving, piping hot, to your guests.