No recipe required – midweek curries with whatever you have in the fridge plus Madhur Jaffrey’s Chicken with spinach
April 23, 2012
Absolutely everyone loves a curry. It’s weird -people who won’t eat local food in places like Spain and Portugal will all eat curry. In our house anything curried goes down a storm even with the kids who moan about the tiniest bit of ginger making their juice “too spicy!”. And it doesn’t have to be fancy either. Got loads of random stuff at the back of the fridge and don’t fancy soup? Make curry instead. Now, I’m no expert and most of my curries are, shall we say, on the not very authentic side but somehow they always seem turn out ok.
From some cooking I did alongside an Indian girl in Barcelona I know that a good way to start is with lots of slowcooked onions which is pretty much how I start most dishes. I sweat these in plenty of rapeseed or coconut oil over a low heat til they start to go mushy then throw in lots of garlic (not only because it tastes good but because it’s so good for you). Keeping cooking until the garlic softens then add a pre-mixed curry powder (I’m currently working my way through a tin of Madras but it’s whatever you fancy) along with a little chilli for extra fire. Normally I then throw in a few chopped tomatoes (a tin will also work fine) and cook these down a bit before adding some coconut milk (told you this wasn’t kosher!)
While all this is going on, I’m furiously peeling and chopping what, in any other dish would be a waaaay too random selection of veg – parsnip, carrot,cabbage (red, white and green) celery, fennel, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, cauliflower, spuds……pretty much anything works. In they go and I’m onto rinsing a tin of chickpeas. These get thrown in with some water or stock then it’s sit back and let things cook. If I’m using greens, they go in at the end as do courgettes and broccoli (they go to mush otherwise) and I’m also partial to a handful of sultanas at this stage. Serve with rice and some chutney and pickles – we’re enjoying a lime one from M&S at the moment that one of you recommended (thanks Penelope). Easy, peasy, lasts well in the fridge and it rocks the next day for lunch with flatbread.
When it comes to the real thing, I’ve always found Indian food to be such a complex mix of spices and flavours that unless I pay very close attention to a recipe book I usually don’t have a clue where to start so I tend not to bother with it unless I’ve got lots of time (so that means never at the moment). Plus, there are usually so many spices required that I’m frustrated before I start (when I’m ready to cook, I’m ready to cook). Paul is the one with the patience/OCD tendencies for all that assembling of ingredients and precision grinding of spices. He also does a mean matchstick of pretty much any root veg but I warn you – bring snacks because dinner’s at midnight.
Recently, Indian cooking guru MadhurJaffrey completely changed this for good when she brought out Curry Easy, a book that seeks to do the previously unthinkable – simplify and speed up Indian cooking. She says herself that over the years (she’s now in her seventies) her cooking had changed and that some of the processes she’d previously considered essential she has recently discovered can be done in different ways. So, instead of cooking for hours there’s lots of marinating to really let the flavours sink in before you even start. There are also fewer spices (well, usually 6 or 7 but not the 10 -15 that you find in her other books) so there’s less faffing around. I feel like I’m starting to understand how to build Indian flavours without a recipe and I find myself using more in other cooking.
We’ve been cooking our way through this book for a while and everything we’ve made has been amazing. First of all, we tried the Chicken Karhai with Mint which involved marinating everything overnight then simply frying it up and it was superb. We served it alongside Aubergines with Tomatoes which were also great. After that we were hooked. Standouts so far have been Chicken with apricots, Masala fish steaks and the green lamb curry.
I have earmarked this week’s spinach in from Denis Healy in Wicklow for one our favourite dishes from the book which I’m going to share with you – Chicken with spinach. I haven’t changed anything except lower the quantity of oil used. It’s very quick and fantastically moreish.This recipe feeds 2 with leftovers.
Madhur Jaffrey’s Chicken with Spinach
3 chicken legs separated into drumsticks and thighs weighing about 1k in total
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion roughly chopped
2.5cm/1 inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 tablespoon sweet red paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons olive/ rapeseed oil
1 x 5cm/2 inch cinnamon
4 cardamom pods
150g/ 5 oz spinach, chopped
Spread out the chicken pieces and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and lots of black pepper on both sides
Put the onions, garlic, ginger, paprika and cayenne in the food processor and chop all the ingredients as finely as possible taking care not to allow things to go to mush.
Heat the oil in a large pan or wok. Add the cinnamon and cardamon letting them sizzle for a few seconds before adding as much of the chicken as will fit in a single layer. Brown the chicken pieces on both sides then remove to a bowl leaving the spices behind. When all the chicken is cooked add the onion mix to the pan and fry for about 5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated taking care to stir as you go so thing don’t stick and burn. Add the spinach and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the chicken, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 12oml/4 fl oz water. Bring to the boil, cover and lower the heat then gently simmer for about 30 minutes. Any excess fat can be removed before serving with boiled basmati and nan bread
This week there’s also celery in our selections and I notice how Guardian columnist Yotan Ottolenghi has been using the leaves and inner tender stalks for salads a lot recently. Last Saturday’s Avocado, radish and celery salad with spiced croutons and lime is on my to-make list for this week – sounds fab right? Our larger bags have radishes from the Healys and I’m hoping to secure enough for all our bags next week.
Have a brilliant week,