Monday, 15 April 2013
Basic Chicken Curry with Green Pepper and Cauliflower
I love a good curry. They are flavourful, hearty, healthy and satisfying. The thought of making it to people who didn't grow up with it can be daunting. There are many spices and spice blends used in curries and it can be confusing to know which ones to use and how much. A curry doesn't have to be a complex orchestra of spices and aromatics. Anyone can make a simple, basic curry at home. I've made a good amount of curries and I've gotten to know what combinations I like or not. I'm sure there is still much I have yet to learn, but it's not rocket science. This is just an example of a recipe you might like to try and embellish on.
Okay, before I say any more, I just have to get something out. The picture you see above, total amateur move on my part. I thought it might look cool if I made a ring of basmati rice with a well in the center, then fill the well with the curry. I took many shots and angles of the finished plate but in every one it just looks like an obscene amount of rice. So just bear in mind that this isn't a bed of rice, it's a lame looking wreath. I wouldn't recommend eating as much rice as it looks like in one sitting. Unless you're into that. So please forgive the bad plating. This was otherwise delicious.
Back to spices, I used 7 in total (not including salt and pepper). You could even keep it as little as 3 or 4 but I recommend using turmeric and cumin every time. That's just me. I also used a bit of dried chili flakes, which work great. Fresh chilies are always best in curry though. Funny story, I was picking up my vegetables for this dish at the market, paid for fresh chilies and missed them while I was packing my items at the counter. Brutal. So I had to settle for dried chilies I had on hand. If you are smarter than me and have fresh chilies to use, I would recommend using two with the seeds in. It depends completely on which chilies you use and your tolerance for spice. Chilies are typically much milder with the seeds and membrane removed. Or, you could leave chilies right out if you prefer.
This is an Indian style curry but it's just something I threw together so it's not an authentic Indian recipe by any means. There are a lot of different methods to make curry. This is just a simple version that's quick and easy while remaining healthy and delicious.
6 boneless chicken thighs, cut into strips or bite sized pieces
1 onion, finely sliced
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch thumb of ginger, finely grated
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tbsp turmeric, ground
1 tbsp cumin, ground
1 tbsp of garam masala
1 tsp of chili flakes
2 green cardamom pods, crushed
2 bay leaves
3 cloves, ground
Salt and pepper, to taste
First you want to brown them onions. Place a heavy pot over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of a neutral frying oil (vegetable, canola, grapeseed, etc...). Add the onion and stir from time to time but leave it alone for a couple of minutes or so between stirs. This will allow the onions to caramelize and char a bit. Your curry will be bitter if you brown your onions too much, I like to cook them to about this stage:
Then add all of the spices, the bay leaves, ginger and garlic, stir and cook for about a minute to awaken the aromas. Then add the tomatoes. The tomatoes will draw out a lot of liquid and this will stop the frying process. The heat will break down the tomatoes and turn into a sauce or gravy. Take this time to season with salt and pepper.
Add the chicken. Give everything a good stir to combine. Let this cook, stirring occasionally for about 7 minutes.
Then add the green pepper and cauliflower and stir to incorporate. If there is not enough gravy to smother everything, add just enough water as required. You could use chicken stock instead, but there's enough flavour in there that it's not necessary.
Bring the liquid to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and place a lid over the pot. Let the curry simmer for 15 minutes, covered. Remove the lid. You can serve now, but if you like your sauce a little thicker, bring the curry back up to the boil and cook for a few minutes to reduce a bit. Remove the bay leaves and cardamom pods before serving.
I love this method because you can play around with the spices however you like. The chicken is perfectly cooked through and succulent. The vegetables are cooked but have just enough bite to them. This is perfect with Indian breads such as naan and chapati or you could serve with basmati rice. This is a simple, fast meal that can feed a family or party. It's flavourful, nutritious, savoury and really hits the spot. Blends of Indian spices, when done well, really seem to play out an elaborate story on your tongue. I'd also recommend adding a bit of chopped fresh cilantro on the finished plate. It brightens up the entire dish and adds colour and freshness.
I have probably said this before, but when it comes to currying chicken, I always choose thighs over breasts. Thighs don't dry out and go stringy like breast meat does. It's up to you though. If you wanted to double the recipe, you could use a whole chicken and cut it into pieces. That would be awesome because the bones will keep the breast meat moist, flavourful and cook evenly. Instead of chicken you could use lamb, beef, or leave the meat out and keep it vegan. If you opt to go meatless, I recommend adding potatoes or some other hearty vegetable of substance for body.
I hope you enjoyed this. Very easy, very basic, but very enjoyable and delicious.
Would love to hear your favourite curry dishes.