So, when I lived in London, I missed Mexican food so much. When I first moved over there, you couldn’t even buy tortillas, and the only salsa you could buy was El Paso in a jar. Which, let’s face it, is NOT salsa.
Now that I’m back in California, I miss what London does so well: Indian curry. I had the best place near me in Battersea that I used to order from all the time. All the time. How often? Let’s just say I received a Christmas card from them…
There’s an Indian restaurant a half a block from my house. I never go there because it is not authentic. The weird thing is that the owners also own Nina’s Anglo-Indian Grocery in El Toro, where the food is quite good. Weird. I think this one is trying to appeal to the American palate too much. But never mind.
The Husband loves it when I start toasting up the spices and making curry. He loves anything with a ton of garlic in it, like me, so curry always works for us. It can be a little labor intensive with all the prep and chopping, but once you’ve done that, it goes pretty quick.
You can use plain rice with this, but I’ll also include a recipe for a simple rice and a pilau rice. If you need any of the spices listed here, head to Nina’s or another ethnic grocery, where they’ll be much cheaper than buying the little jars at the store.
I’m starting you all off with a mild curry—for those of you who like it hot, throw more chili in there. And for those who don’t like spice, don’t omit the chilis I have here. Really, there will be no burning of the mouth. I promise.
For the vegetarians/vegans out there, just omit the chicken and add more mushrooms and maybe throw in some chickpeas. Some eggplant would be nice too.
(This makes plenty for four people, or two meals for two)
For the paste:
2-inch piece of fresh ginger*
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 a large tomato, or 6 cherry tomatoes
Purée in a blender or in a small container with a stick blender. Add a little water if necessary, but not too much. It should be a thick paste.
2 Tbsp turmeric
1 Tbsp cumin**
1 Tbsp ground coriander seed**
2 tsp dried methi/fenugreek leaves‡
3 Tbls fresh cilantro
A pinch of cumin seeds
A pinch of coriander seeds
Ground black pepper to taste
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks (organic, hormone free and free-range, please!)
1 large red, yellow or orange bell pepper
1 brown onion, chopped into chunks
10-12 cremini mushrooms, cleaned, and halved if large
1 red jalapeño chili
1 serrano chili
Coconut oil, or grapeseed oil. Or use ghee if you can find it (and aren’t vegan).
I would highly recommend doing all the prep—chopping, measuring, puréeing—before you start. I know it makes you look like you’re pretending to be on a cooking show, but you’ll realize there’s a reason why all chefs do it—it works and makes your life easier. There’s nothing worse than scrambling for something at a critical point in cooking.
So here we go. Get a large pan (I use my large Le Creuset, shown above) hot and add some of your chosen oil. Once that’s hot, throw in your purée. And stand back–this will splatter. Stir it around for a few minutes until it starts going a little golden, then throw in your onion chunks and your chilis. Stir for about two minutes, then add the bell pepper.
Stir for about another two minutes, then add the whole cumin and coriander seeds and cook for another minute. (See how fast this is going? That’s why we prepped.) Add the chicken, stir and cook for about a minute.
Add the turmeric and the fenugreek, if you have it. Cook for another two minutes, then add the ground cumin and coriander. Stir until mixed well, adding a little water or oil if it’s really thick.
Add the mushrooms and the fresh cilantro, and cook until the chicken is cooked all the way through. (If I have a little leftover coconut cream or milk in the fridge, I add it now.) Add salt and pepper to taste, then serve over plain rice or one of the two described below.
Easy Rice that Looks Fancy
When you boil the water to put the rice in, add a stock cube or a teaspoon of “Better than Bouillon”. I love mushroom stock for this. Cook the rice as normal. Right as it’s finished cooking and you’re just leaving it there to soak up the last of the stock, add about a half-cup of chopped cilantro per cup of dry rice. Stir. That’s it. Your guests will love it and think you slaved over it. Nice!
1 cup basmati rice, washed and drained
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 whole cloves
2-inches cinnamon stick (use a pinch of ground cinnamon if you don’t have a stick)
3 green cardamom pods
Ghee, butter, coconut oil or grapeseed oil
Melt the fat/oil in a Le Creuset pot with lid, or similar. I prefer cooking rice in a cast-iron pot, but it’s not necessary. Add the spices, stir, and when they start crackling, add the onion. Sauté the onion until it starts to get golden.
Add the rice and sauté for two minutes, carefully. If there’s still water on the rice, there will be quite a bit of spitting and noise from the hot oil. Carefully add two cups of water to the pan, and stir. Cover with a tight lid and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to as low as possible. Check after 15 minutes; if the water is absorbed, you’re done. Let cook longer if the water’s not absorbed.
I use a cast-iron pan because you can turn it off right before all the water is absorbed and it will continue cooking without you having to worry about it, and you can finish off your curry.
* I keep my leftover ginger in the freezer. It keeps forever and it’s so easy to peel and grate when frozen.
**I really, really recommend getting whole seeds, toasting them in a dry pan until fragrant and a little brown, then grinding them in a mortar and pestle or an old coffee grinder. Do make sure there’s not coffee grinds in it still. If you can’t be bothered, it’ll be your loss because your curry won’t be as good using pre-ground. But if you must, you must.
‡If you can’t find this, don’t stress about it. It doesn’t affect the flavor that much.