This is a super-fast post, because I can’t seem to string together more than 15 minutes in front of the computer these days. I also slashed the tip of my thumb open on my mandolin making the sprouts recipe earlier this week and it hurts to type. This recipe was a rip-roaring surprise of a success last night and the 2, 5 and 7 year olds ate ADULT portions of it. Crucially for children, it is mild, but far from dull as it is very aromatic. I know my kids are not the norm, but I believe that if you expect a lot from them, they will deliver. I held my breath with my back turned as they first tucked in, and lo and behold, they did not complain, far from it!
I will come back and replace my iphone pics with high-res. photos to accompany this recipe when I next make it as this one doesn’t really do it justice. I instagrammed yesterday evening’s results and whole load of people asked for the recipe. I ate the leftovers for lunch today with my husband, it was so tasty, although I confess it was spiked with chillies for our palates and worked wonderfully too. You know something is good when you eat it several meals in a row with no complaint. I think you could substitute the chicken with sweet potato or tofu and make it veggie… I’ll give it a whirl and let you know.
I call it lightning curry as:
- it can be made in a flash (literally the time it takes to cook the rice)
- it is like a dazzling lightning bolt of golden energy beaming right in to your winter kitchen, eradicating doom, gloom and viruses.
- it can almost qualify as a non-vegetarian detox style dish and is most certainly healthy if not vegan therefore is could technically be part of a weightloss programme (“lightening”, geddit?)
The short, basic formula for any easy, fast curry is as follows:
- chop everything before hand
- make a curry paste with herbs, spices and roots in a chopper (or use shop-bought)
- fry onions (a bit like soffritto)
- add paste to onions
- add meat or main star ingredient to onions
- sear main ingredient to seal in flavour before adding liquid
- pour in liquid (be it stock, water, coconut milk)
- bring to boil
- THEN add tender veg (or else they will become mush)
- turn off heat and season
- garnish well with something pretty and colourful eg. chillies / spring onions / coriander (cilantro)
The detailed version, for this curry however, is:
The curry in the photo was a mild version in its original incarnation, but it morphed in to a spicy one once my husband and I were having it as left overs on day 2. If you like heat, then use chillies. If not, this is a great recipe, as unlike when I use quality, shop-bought Thai curry pastes, you get to decide on how spicy you want it to be.
The cooking time of the rice (if you use a rice-cooker) is more than sufficient to get on with the rest if you use a chopper to mince up all your spices and roots etc.
We use a rice cooker a lot in our house - I used to think they were just another unnecessary piece of kitchen kit, until my husband brought one into my life after being converted to its wisdom during a stint living in Asia. In actual fact I have grown to really appreciate this gadget very recently on discovering that I can cook dried beans or split peas in a fraction of the time and even then, they no longer give me bloating nor do they retain that grassy, overly "al dente" chalkiness that can make them so unappealing. The other advantage is that I can be on the school run or whatever, while the rice-cooker bubbles away, basically leaving it to get on with things. If I have understood correctly, a rice-cooker is not a pressure cooker, but the seal in the rice cooker somehow amplifies the cooking speed and thoroughness.
Secondly, if you want to prepare ahead, you could chop your meat and marinate it in half the spices as much as a day in advance if you fancy (I did not, and it was still wonderful). The other half is best fried over with the onions and the marinated meat/spice mixture then added.
Whenever you cook meat, be sure to let it come to room temperature before cooking as otherwise it will clench up like a scared mollusc and end up tough and chewy. The thermal shock on the muscle-fibres makes them shorten, whereas if you don't subject, it to unnaturally extreme spikes in heat, it yields and becomes tender. With this in mind, remove your meat from the fridge at least 15 minutes before you want to throw it in the pan.
- 500g bag Brown Rice (I used Organic Germinated Brown Rice "GBR" called Gaba Jasmine-Green Rice from Ocado, as apparently GBR is much more digestible and I also find it more flavoursome)
- 4 chicken breast or thighs if you prefer (boneless for ease of chopping)
- 2 medium onions or 5-6 shallots
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp salt approx. (strewn across the onions during cooking)
- 2 heaped tbsp coconut oil
- For the Curry Paste
- 1 level tbsp coconut oil
- a few wisps of blade mace
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp nigella seeds
- 6-8 cardamom pods
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 6-8 cloves garlic
- 3-inch piece of fresh ginger root (approx)
- 2x 2-inch pieces of fresh turmeric root (approx)
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp salt and a few turns of pepper
- 2 fresh chillies - optional (IF NO KIDS ARE EATING : ) )
- For the body of the "gravy"
- 3 fresh tomatoes / a cup of passata / ends of your pasta sauce (I used the latter for speed and wont of opening a whole new bottle of passata)
- 500ml / 1 pint approx. chicken stock or water or a mix of both
- half a head of cauliflower (chopped in to little florets)
- half a head of broccoli (chopped in to little florets)
- 300g approx. Greek yoghurt (or to your taste) - I use 1-2 cups as a rough guide
- salt if more necessary to your palate
- Garnish / Final Touch
- fresh chillies (optional), sliced
- Fresh coriander, chopped - to taste
- Spring onions, chopped - to taste
- The most important thing to not hold things up is to get the rice on first. If you have a rice cooker, pour the bag of rice into the chamber, run cold water over it and discard the water until it is no longer cloudy. To speed things up in an unorthodox way, I like to pour boiling water over the rice to speed things up as I am impatient. Otherwise the classic Asian way of judging the measure of water in which to cook rice is to spread your open hand and lean it on the levelled rice and pour cold water in up to the point where the water laps at the middle joints of your fingers: it is full proof. (I will post a photo of this in the post). If you have no rice cooker, use whichever method you like to cook it and then turn to the meat.
- Remove any sinew and veiny / gristly bits from your meat and roughly chop it in to chunks slightly larger than Toblerone triangles. Put this aside.
- Now get to chopping your onions / shallots (see my notes on onions / shallots below, if you care).
- Put your coconut oil in a large, heavy based pan and heat till liquefied. Throw in the chopped onions / shallots and bay leaf and stir till evenly coated and sizzling gently, season with a little salt and pepper. Turn down and allow to go golden.
- While the onions are mellowing (you only need to stir occasionally if the heat is not blazing), get on with making your root and spice paste (basically your curry paste).
- Peel and roughly chop all the roots, peel the garlic and throw these and and the various seeds / spices into a blender or chopper and blitz with some water from the hot tap or kettle and coconut oil (to help bind). It will be a bit lumpy and granular and ever such a little bit fibrous, but this is not a problem once cooked through.
- Once the onions are just beginning to caramelize, add your spice and root paste to the pan and stir it all together, turning and lifting, till the onions are a blazing golden-yellow. Keep stirring! The onions and spices will at first try to stick to the bottom of the pan (I never use non-stick) but this will subside as the onions and paste release their moisture further. If you are concerned, just add a little water to the pan to aid mixing / prevent sticking.
- The paste should no longer appear so gritty, and before the onions begin to burn (2-3 minutes), throw in the chicken chunks.
- Let these go white all over, turning every now and then until their outers are "sealed" by the heat. Only when uniformly seared all over, you can add your liquid (stock/water combo) and tomato. Turn up the heat and once simmering, lower the heat to maintain a steady, gentle simmer and allow the meat stew a little (10-15 minutes).
- While the meat cooks and tenderizes, chop up your vegetables and only once they are all chopped up in one batch, add them to the meat / curry pan and turn so they are covered with the curry liquid.
- Turn off the heat, and when slightly cooled (a couple of minutes later), stir in the yoghurt.
- Serve on your rice and garnish with spring onions and coriander. It is a real vision to behold.
A little note on alliums:
I like large shallots as although a little more expensive, they have wonderful flavour, keep better, are less watery, you can use a small one when a whole onion is not required (without that mouldering half-onion sitting on the countertop for a day or two) and they are a massive time-saver - they brown very swiftly and evenly (being less watery), and in terms of their shape, they are also so slim that they are easier to chop up: I half them length ways and slice them lengthways again into large matchsticks, along the stripes of the shallot and then pile them up and chop them perpendicular to these stripes, several shallots at a time. I find you have to swivel and turn onions and flip them over by dint of their depth and this is a faff to me. My eyes water terribly with onions so this cuts out precious minutes of hassle.