Cool food: Plum chicken
Plum delivery: a crispy favourite with the Australian cricket team. Photo: Edwina Pickles
What is it?
Crumbed, fried chicken with a plum dipping sauce, a legend in its own lunchtime in Australian Test cricket circles.
Where is it?
It's the single most requested dish by Australian Test cricketers in the players' dining rooms at the Adelaide Oval. Former Test cricket captain Steve Waugh started the craze, insisting the chef put it on the players' buffet as often as possible. When Waugh announced his retirement in 2003, the then-chef, Maurice Maffei, announced the retirement of plum chicken in sympathy. It was not to be. Brought back by popular demand, plum chicken is now a permanent fixture on menu rotation. And let's face it, anything we can do to keep our cricketers on form should be considered of grave national importance.
"Everyone loves it, for some reason," says the executive chef of the SACA's (South Australian Cricket Association) Adelaide Oval Function Centre, Hamish Robertson, who oversees the serving of 750 to 800 meals a day during the season to cricketers, committee members, police and media. "The nutritionists only allow us to serve it once a week to the players but we usually sneak it into the dining room twice a week."
Nor do you have to wear whites and slog it out under the sun all day to develop a passion for plum chicken. It is reportedly enjoyed by those hard-working commentators as well, hence the rather long and meandering on-air segment devoted to the subject on ABC Radio during the second Test between South Africa and Australia late last year. You could sense the communal craving for that crisp, crumbed, tender chicken and sweet, sticky plum sauce through the mikes as it neared the lunch break.
Some commentators, such as Channel Nine's Mark Nicholas, think the dish might have had its day. "A lot of cricketers play on long after they should have retired," he says, adding quickly that he's not having a go at anyone in particular.
Why do I care?
Because nine out of 10 cricketers can't be wrong. Can they?
Can I do it at home?
As a recipe, it's as easy as pie. Easier than pie, actually. Pick up some chicken tenderloins or cut chicken breast into chunky strips, then crumb, and fry. If you have time on your hands, marinate the chicken in garlic and olive oil for a few hours beforehand. If you like things spicy, add paprika and cayenne pepper to the crumbs. If you have plums, make your own plum sauce. And if you'd rather watch the cricket than cook, open a jar of sauce instead.
Adelaide Oval's famous plum chicken
1kg chicken tenderloins
200g plain flour
300ml milk or buttermilk
400g fine breadcrumbs or Japanese panko
1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp sea salt
100ml vegetable oil
100g plum sauce
1. Remove any sinews from the chicken. Set out three bowls in order to coat the chicken. Place the flour in first. Whisk the eggs and milk together in the second. Mix the breadcrumbs, parsley and sea salt together in the third.
2. Coat each piece of chicken on all sides, first in the flour, then in the egg wash, then in the crumbs.
3. Heat the oil in a heavy-based fry pan and cook the chicken on both sides until golden and cooked through. Drain on paper towel, and serve with plum sauce for dipping.