Southern-fried Vegan ‘Chicken’ Drumsticks

Zacchary Bird

Makes 4

Ingredients

2 x 565g (1lb 4oz) tins young green jackfruit, rinsed and drained

375ml (121/2 fl oz/1 ½ cups) chicken-style stock

2 teaspoons nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon onion powder

10 drops liquid smoke

1 cauliflower

185ml (61/2 fl oz/3/4 cup) aquafaba

Canola oil, for deep frying

For the spice mix:

110g (4oz/3/4 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting

1 tbsp brown sugar

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp smoked paprika

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp chilli powder

¼ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp celery salt

¼ tsp ground sage

¼ tsp ground allspice

¼ tsp dried basil

Pinch of dried oregano

½ tsp kala namak (Indian black salt or use extra sea salt)

Method

1. Cut away the hard core from the jackfruit, then squeeze each piece so that any seeds pop out and any excess liquid is removed. Gently pull the jackfruit pieces to make them stringy, then rinse away the remaining brine under warm running water. Squeeze the jackfruit dry.

2. Place the jackfruit in a saucepan with the stock, nutritional yeast, onion powder and liquid smoke. Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the liquid had evaporated. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Divide the mixture into four portions.

3. Starting at the base, cut the cauliflower into quarters. You want to keep the stalk attached to the florets as this will be your ‘chicken bone’. Use a small knife to carefully remove the leaves. Trim the stalks into a rounded bone shape, then cut off the majority of the florets so you are left with a basic chicken drumstick shape.

4. Place a large square of plastic wrap on your work surface and spoon half of one portion of the jackfruit mixture towards the edge closest to you. Lay a cauliflower drumstick on top of the jackfruit mixture with the stalk sticking out the end of the plastic wrap. Add the remaining half portion of jackfruit mixture on top, filling in and loosely covering the florets.

5. Pick up the four corners of the plastic wrap and fold them over the jackfruit mixture, twisting to enclose the jackfruit around the florets. Once sealed, gentle squeeze the jackfruit mixture to let the excess liquid run down the ‘bone’. Use your hands to mould the jackfruit inside the wrap to evenly cover the cauliflower and mush it into the perfect shape. Repeat for each cauliflower ‘bone’, then place the drumsticks on a tray in your freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up.

6. Combine the spice mix ingredients in a large bowl and pour the aquafaba into a separate shallow bowl. Heat the canola oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat. Test if the oil is ready by inserting a wooden skewer or the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil; if it begins to bubble quickly then you’re ready to go.

7. Once the drumsticks have firmed up, take them out of the freezer and unwrap the plastic wrap – this is where it gets tricky, because as soon as the jackfruit hits the aquafaba it will want to fall apart, so you need to work quickly.

8. Holding a drumstick in one hand, drizzle over enough aquafaba to coat, then place the drumstick into the spice mix and toss extra on top to coat. Use floured hands to press the drumstick back into shape if necessary, then repeat the coating process and set aside while you repeat with the remaining drumsticks.

9. Cook the drumsticks in two batches, turning constantly, for 3-5 minutes, until golden on all sides. (Use tongs to turn the drumsticks and make sure you grip them by the fleshy part so they maintain their shape.) Drain on paper towels and serve immediately, picking your jaw up off the ground once you realise how good they are!

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