Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Southeast Asian Chicken Curry

Fussy eaters, what can you do about them? They make the chef's life difficult and the sweary chef's fucking difficult. I mean, we all have things that we're not keen on, sure. Personally, as I've told you previously, dear readers, I can't stand dried fruit as, to me they are the tagnuts from the devil's own pet rabbits. However, that's OK. They aren't in an awful lot of recipes, besides which, I do the cooking so you want raisins in, get your fucking own. The problems arise when someone doesn't like something that's a common ingredient in a lot of other things. Mrs Sweary has an aversion to butter, cheese in dishes (she'll eat "raw" cheese, go figure) and creamy sauces. This immediately wipes out half the cuisine of Western Europe as an option for dinner when I'm cooking for us. She's also ambivalent to curries containing a lot of coconut which also renders a lot of the fabulous curries from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia less than ideal. Sometimes a curry just needs a creamy texture to make it all the better, be it cream in something like a korma or the coconut in Thai red or green curries. Fortunately, Mrs S does like cashew nuts and they make a good alternative to coconut if they are blended into a paste. This curry has a smooth, creamy texture like you would find in a curry with coconut, but the nuttiness also lends it a flavour slightly reminiscent of satay.

While it's understandable that some people are a little bit fussy, the thing that really boils my piss is people that decide they can't eat a major food group as a fashion statement. Of course there are genuine clinical food intolerances and allergies (for example those with coeliac disease or lactose intolerance, which are real and often debilitating illnesses and my heart sincerely goes out to people who suffer with these afflictions), but there's always those people that say they can't eat bread or pasta because they are intolerant to wheat, or that milk makes them blow up like a balloon. The way they talk you might be forgiven for thinking that it was gluten and not polonium that had poisoned Alexander Litvinenko. Most of the time this aversion to a foodstuff is bullshit. Stop pathologising the fact that you're just a fucking fashionably fussy eater!

Anyway, back onto this recipe. This curry has a fresh, aromatic style like those from the various countries from SE Asia, though I think it's probably closest to a Sri Lankan dish. It serves 2 easily, with some left over for a lunch the next day if served with rice.

Spice paste
1 thumb-sized piece of galangal, roughly chopped
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
half a stalk of lemon grass, sliced
2 red chillies, roughly chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree

Dry spices
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 whole star anise
1 stick cinnamon (around 6 cm in length)
5 green cardamom pods
4 cloves
1 tsp ground tumeric
½ tsp ground black pepper

Spices on a plate again
From the top: ground tumeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, black pepper, salt, cinnamon stick, star anise, cardamom, cloves

2 tbsp oil
100g unsalted cashew nuts
20 (or so) curry leaves
I medium onion, sliced
1 medium-large aubergine, cut into 2cm cubes
4-6 chicken thighs, skinned
1 tsp garam masala

Preparation: 10 to 20 minutes (depending on if you use a blender or a pestle and mortar)
Cooking: 90 to 120 minutes

Place all the paste ingredients into a mini food processor and whizz up until smooth. Alternatively, if you're a foodie wanker like me, put them into a pestle and mortar and pound crap out of them until they are a smooth paste.

How low can you go?

Heat half the oil in a heavy pan and fry the cashews until golden brown, about 5 minutes or so.

Remove them with a slotted spoon.

To the  hot oil add the dry spice ingredients for a minute, stirring.

Add the spice paste and stir for a couple of minutes.

Put the spice mix into a blender with the cashews and 500ml water.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan and fry the sliced onion until it's soft.

Add the blended sauce to the pan as well as the curry leaves and heat until bubbling.

Add the aubergine and the chicken, pushing the chicken into the pan so it's submerged in the sauce.

Leave to simmer for an hour to 90 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the chicken is cooked through.

Add teaspoon of garam masala just before serving to pep up the flavour a little.

Serve with rice, like the golden pilau in the pic below, and/or an Indian bread like a naan or paratha.

This curry also works with lamb instead of chicken and, as I've alluded to, you could replace the cashew nuts with creamed coconut.

Galangal is a bit like a more fragrant version of ginger. If you can get it, fine, otherwise the curry doesn't lose much by using fresh ginger.

Curry leaves are another wanky foodie ingredient that aren't that easy to come by. You can find them in Asian grocers. Add a bay leaf instead if you can't get any.

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