Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Back to my roots

It wouldn't be right to talk about food and not talk about curry, especially as this is so intrinsic to my heritage. The great thing about a curry is that it is so versatile- you can make a curry with any meat, seafood or vegetable and can totally control how spicy it is. Curries in Sri-Lanka and South India are notorious for their heat whilst the West-Indian curries are generally milder in taste with hot sauces served on the side. Another great thing about a curry is that there is no set way of making it. You can literally make it up as you go along, and hence why I love them so much. This chicken curry is not a recipe per say, but the way it has naturally developed throughout the years.

For me a great chicken curry means layering. It needs the usual onions, garlic and ginger, but it also calls for a melody of different spices: cumin, fennel and dill seeds, cardamon, cinnamon star anise, cloves, dry red chillies and curry leaves. It also needs powders such as turmeric, chilli, curry and coriander for body and a twist of tomato paste for extra colour. A great tip when choosing your onions, is go for as small as possible as these are really strong and taste amazing once they are fried down. If you can stand peeling shallots, then even better, but if you're like me, chances are by the 10th onion you'll be crying to stop.

Heat your pan with a bit of oil, and then chuck in your spices and onions. Wait for them to turn golden and then add your powders and a few soft cherry tomatoes. This will start to stick to your pan, but before you add any water, give it a minute as this little step smokes the curry powders and will give your curry that smokey undertone. In the mean time you can wash your baby chicken. This is a probably a good time to mention my caution against buying a batch of same style pieces. Though no-one particularly likes eating the neck and naturally heads for the breast or leg, cooking a whole chicken means that you really get a full body of flavours. Trust me I've cooked batches of just legs or fillets, and they really do not taste as good. 

Once the chicken has been washed, add a dash of water to your pan (just enough to wet the spice and powder mixture), then add your baby chicken, tomato paste, garlic and ginger. Once you've turned this a few times, cover and allow to cook for 15mins. The chicken will naturally expel some water, so don't worry about adding too much water- unless, of course, you like extra sauce. After 15mins check on the chicken and give it a turn. Cooking time for 1 baby chicken should be about 25mins, so after this mid check allow to cool for a further 10mins. By this time the chicken will be juicy and the sauce will be a glorious amber colour. As an extra step, with total taste-bud pay off, fry a handful of onions, cumin seeds and green peppers and spread on the top.

Serve with some long-grain white rice and some fresh green beans and enjoy.

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