There is nothing quite like a really good curry and I don’t think that there are many people who would turn their noses up at a selection of beautifully spicedfragrantrich curries. I was very kindly given the most amazing kit of Indian spices for Christmas: a positive medley of flavourings each with their individual pots just waiting to be turned in to warmingmelodic dishes. I couldn’t have been happier to receive it and so decided that it was time for a curry night at my house.
The only question was which curries to cook? I love a tomato based currythe perfect blend of sweet and tangyand nothing makes me happier than a bowl of rice with spiced lentils – the spiced lentils forming a kind of deconstructed dhal – their soft bite and mellowcaramelised spice giving an added oomph to some simple steamed white basmati; and I adore the deliciousslow cooked saag aloo with its softgarlicky spinach and potatoes tenderly soaked in spices. Finallyafter serious thought and salivationI decided on using the following two recipes as the base to my menu. They come from sources long forgotten and I cannot tell you whether they are truly authenticand if they arewhat region they may come from. What I can tell you is that after years of cooking themexperimenting with and tweaking themI cannot recommend enough the serving of my Lamb Korma and Chicken Rogan Josh at any curry partyor indeedon any Saturday evening.
Korma is quite often considered a very wimpy dishincredibly buttery and overly sweet in flavour. Not so this particular korma: it has got a mild flavour and is not heavy on the chilli but the blend of spices gives it a real intensity while the use of ground up cashew nuts produces a amazingly velvety and light sauce. I love the combination of lambspice and cream but chicken works just as welland it really lends itself to being converted to a vegetarian version – potatoes or squashcauliflowerspinach and peas.
Rogan Josh is one of those wonderful curries that can be adapted to suit your particular palate. By that I mean that if you like your curries hotrogan josh lends itself to the addition of a few extra chillies without losing any of its complexity of flavour. There is something reassuring about a sauce made up of tomatoes and onions: it can really hold its own with a whole array and intensity of herbs and spices. I think there are endless variations as to how to make a rogan josh but I like to keep mine fairly simplewith a slightly alternative addition of some ground almonds at the end of cooking. Trust methey add a particular depth and body to the sauce that complements the dish perfectly.
Like all good curries and taginesthese are best made the day before serving so that the flavours have a chance to really develop. If doing sosimply heat through and add the fresh coriander when you are ready to serve. I like to serve these with a selection of accompaniments: steamed basmati ricepoppadoms (ohthe beauty of gram flour)an oniontomato and coriander saladsliced bananas (probably not authentic but a real tradition in my house) and if I am honestmore rice with spiced lentilsotherwise known as Khichhari. A true feast.
CHICKEN ROGAN JOSH
6 skinless boneless chicken thighs
2 red onions
3 garlic cloves
1 red chilli (or more if you like it hotter)
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 large tomatoes
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp groundnut oil
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp soft brown sugar
2 tsp ground cumin
3 cardamom pods crushed
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp ground coriander
5 tbsp ground almonds
A small bunch of coriander
Begin by slicing the chicken thighs widthways in to ½ inch thick pieces. Peel the onions and cut in
to half moon rings. Crush the garlic and slice the fresh chilli in to fine roundskeeping the seeds. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and set aside.
Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan with a lid; add the onion and sauté gently until the onions are soft. Stir in the chilli powdercumincardamomturmericgingerbrown sugar1 tsp of sea salt flakestomato pureegarlic and fresh chilliand continue to sauté for a few more minutes. Add the chicken and mix through so that all of the chicken pieces are coated in spices. Pour over the chopped tomatoes and ¼ pint (150ml) of wateradd the tomato quarterscover and gently simmer over a low heat for 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender.
Once the curry is cookedstir in the ground almonds and garam masala and simmer gentlyuncovered until the sauce has thickened – around 5 minutes. Finely chop the coriandersprinkle over the top of the rogan josh and serve.
500g/1lb 2oz boneless lambcubed
60g/2½ oz cashew nuts
3tbsp groundnut oil
2 white onions
4 garlic cloves
1 inch piece of root ginger
1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
2 tsp tomato puree
2 bay leaves
3 cardamom podscrushed
1tsp ground coriander
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp chilli powder
A small bunch of coriander
Peel the garlic and ginger and then crush the garlic and finely grate gingermix together and set aside. Peel and finely chop the onions. Heat the oil in a large heavy based saucepan (I like to use a Le Creuset pan for thisor any other heavy basedstove top casserole pan with a lid)add the onioncinnamon stickcardamom and bay leaves and gently sauté until the onion is soft – around 5 – 10 minutes.
Add the ginger and garlicground corianderturmericchilli and tomato puree. Mix well and then continue to sauté over a low heat for around 5 minutesstirring occasionally. Add the lambseason well and mix together so that all of the lamb is coated in the spices. Pour over ¼ pint (150 ml) of watercover and simmer gently over a low heat for 30 minutes or until the lamb is tender.
Meanwhileusing a mortar and pestlegrind the cashew nuts with a little wateruntil you have a smoothcreamy paste. Once the lamb is cookedscoop out the cinnamon stick and bay leaves and add the cashew pastemix through and simmer for a couple of minutes. Roughly chop the corianderstalks and alland sprinkle over the korma ready to serve.