Feast or Famine

With one away on school camp, another at university and the third spreading his wings into life outside the confines of the school timetable, dinner time catering has been flipped on its head. From loaves and fishes it has become ‘how do I cram all of these leftovers back into the refrigerator that no one was home to consume but out of habit I cooked anyway?’ As such, I was peering into the chilled shelves when met with the questioning stare of some lovely marinated baked chicken wondering what its next culinary incarnation would be. Thankfully, I have tucked away, a simple and quite delicious chicken curry recipe that requires leftover cooked chicken.

This recipe has also dealt with excess charcoal chicken purchases and the unthreading of chicken kebabs that the barbeque crowd simply could not finish. Not only surplus chicken, this recipe requires fresh tomatoes – which we have in abundance right now and any opportunity I have to use them outside of pasta sauce or salad becomes a hallelujah moment. Last winter I became a serious curry cook so my spice library is fully stocked. The remaining ingredients are basically pantry mainstays so I did not need to set foot outside of the kitchen to put this one together.

Nearby on the sideboard, two plump eggplant made themselves apparent. They were trophies brought in from the garden earlier in the week and having served their admiration purpose sufficiently were ready for the pot. Madhur Jaffrey, my Indian food go to has a simple recipe, Aubergine with Nigella seeds, which my daughter has affectionately shortened to ‘black seed’. This vegetable dish is the perfect accompaniment to any curry, so that’s where those eggplants were going to perform their swan song. With these two dishes underway, all that remained was to boil a pot of rice, spoon out a fresh bowl of yoghurt and pan fry some frozen flat bread for sauce dabbing. By the time you lay all of these dishes out on the table, it appears as if a magnificent feast has been prepared. At this point, I can never resist slipping out to the garden just beyond the kitchen door and plucking a sprig of lemon balm or mint to garnish the yoghurt bowl.

It doesn’t really matter who appears at the table, as this meal seems to go around generously and anything left is further enhanced in flavour the following day as the spices are given extra time to develop. A recent purchase of a tiffin carrier means I can individually pack any leftovers and deliver them to a very appreciative grandmother who can also have her own mini feast. I have coveted these little stainless steel carriers for years, my first introduction to them being at a cricket match when Australia was playing against India. I sat behind an Indian family and at lunch break was fascinated as they unclipped each individual pot from the stack and doled out rice, curry and like to all of the family present. Our local supermarket had a shipment of these shiny wonders recently, so of course one was slipped into the trolley with the milk, oats and washing powder.

flexible chicken curry
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
½ tsp salt
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 tbsp ginger finely chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp chilli powder
2-3 tomatoes roughly chopped
300ml chicken stock
cooked chicken chopped into bite sized pieces
2 tbsp yoghurt

Heat the oil in a heavy based pot and fry the onion gently with the salt until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for a further 2 minutes. Add the spices and cook stirring continuously for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir through for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for 15 minutes. Add the cooked chicken and stir through the yoghurt. Simmer for another 5 minutes or until the chicken is well heated through.




Thai Beef Curry Slowcooker

Growing up in a 1970’s household with a working mother, it was not uncommon to awaken to the smell of onions and meat browning. Reason being, my mother was the first generation of crockpot cooks, who have now evolved into the slowcooker generation.

A new name, but essentially not a lot has changed in terms of the workings or output of these machines. Perhaps only the aesthetics – ours being an earthy brown ceramic inner, housed in a vibrant orange metal unit to reflect contemporaneous kitchen décor. Today we are offered stainless steel and white. (In line with the colour pop emerging trend, I expect we shall soon be marketed these appliances in an array of primaries).

Our crockpot does all its work in the cooler months, and to provide us with lovely offerings it only requires meat and onions to be browned, cuts on the bone or large chunks thereof and removal of visible fat, in return.

At the end of the day (literally), regardless of model colour or name, there is nothing finer than opening the door to the aroma of your ‘low and slow’. Fill your crockpot with these Thai Beef Curry ingredients and an aromatic blend of cinnamon, lemongrass and bay will be first to greet you as you turn your key in the lock tonight.

2 tbsp peanut oil
2 large brown onions cut into wedges
1kg chuck steak, cut into large cubes
195g jar Massaman curry paste
250ml coconut milk
250ml chicken stock
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
3 medium potatoes chopped into chunks
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
handful of coriander leaves
1 lime

  1. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan and cook off the onions until browned, place in slowcooker.
  2. Heat remaining oil and brown the beef in batches, add to slow cooker.
  3. Add paste to pan and cook, stirring for one minute until fragrant, add to the slowcooker.
  4. Add coconut milk, stock, cinnamon, bay leaves, potato and nuts to the slowcooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  5. Remove cinnamon sticks and stir in the sugar and fish sauce.
  6. Serve garnished with coriander, limes wedges on the side and fluffy white rice.

Massaman Curry Paste

Postscript: curiously, with the technological strides taken over previous decades, crockpot manufacturers may have managed to up the styling and revamp the recipes but have overlooked a feature that would change the lives of many disappointed hungry evening families – a reminder device to switch the machine on before you close the front door behind you……



rogan josh

If the people of India had to rely upon a cool change to indulge in a curry, then they would surely be in a pickle. As our summer temperatures soar, let’s move the salad and barbeque items to one side, take some inspiration from our Indian neighbours to compose some wonderfully hot rich curries, and face the heat squarely.

With Christmas well and truly in the rear view and our salad consumption reaching its peak, thoughts of something rich, spicy and saucy have crossed my mind. For me, this translates to curry. If the prep is done early, when by evening,  the heat has taken its toll on even the most enthusiastic of cooks, a delicious meal is waiting.

We all know curry improves over time, so make a large pot and there will be something to turn to in the refrigerator, when inspiration eludes.

1 bunch coriander
olive oil
1kg diced lamb
2 onions, finely diced
1 piece of ginger, finely diced
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to season
2 tablespns balsamic vinegar
1 400g can chopped tomatoes
1/2 jar Patak’s Rogan Josh curry paste (not the simmer sauce)
1/2 cup red lentils
plain yoghurt and papadums to serve

Chop the coriander including the stalks, finely (remove a few branches for garnish and put to the side). Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pan. Add onions, ginger, coriander and bay leaves and cook until onions have softened. Add the lamb and cook further until the meat is browned. Season with salt and pepper. Add the balsamic and cook down for a few minutes. Tip in the tomatoes and curry paste. Mix in the lentils and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered for about 1 hour. Check regularly that curry is not sticking and add water if necessary. Serve with fluffy rice, a splodge of yoghurt and some crispy papadums. Garnish with reserved coriander.

lamb curry