Those who know me well know I’m a bit of an Anglophile, as evidenced right there in the preceding Englishism. I don’t know why. English literature, English movies, the BBC—I love it all. Yes, the food, too. What exactly do people have against shepherd’s pie, clotted cream so thick you can stand a spoon in it, and fish and chips with malt vinegar? Do these people have no taste? This I consider their problem. Moreover, across the pond a renaissance has been going on for a few years now, one characterized by embracing the local and homegrown, and doing several yummy things with both. So there to the unwashed masses who do the pooh-pooh.*
I’ve never been to England**, which I hope to remedy sooner rather than later, but in the meantime I was excited to try Jenny Davies’s (of Jenny Eatwell’s Rhubarb & Ginger blog; URL below) recipe for a curry as part of my cooking project. Curries are a favorite English takeaway meal. Here in the States—in central New Jersey, anyway—curry isn’t a common thing for takeout (our own expression). I can count my experiences with curry on one hand, delicious though they were, even the one at Whole Foods’s food court. The nearest Indian restaurant is about a half hour away. This is a great sadness in my heart. The below helps to remedy that.
A few notes about the below to accompany Jenny’s always-charming language:
I edited lightly, and parenthetical additions following dashes are mine. It looks like a lot, but Jenny simply broke down each step for us. I listened like a good girl and spread out the process as she suggested, though—a wise idea. Loved seeing the basmati rice get longer instead of fatter like ordinary rice! Should have used a red chile, but Trader Joe’s didn’t have one, so I used a nebbishy jalapeno. Had to add red pepper flakes to the final product to make it spicy enough for me. I didn’t know what a donkey carrot was; Googled it, even asked a friend who works with Brits to make inquiries, both to no avail. And not having a donkey lying around, I couldn’t ask one to clarify. So I just used two big carrots. Didn’t use a tomato because this time of year in the northern hemisphere, they taste like a squishy wet nothing.
The result was a warm, flavorful, comforting dish that makes you feel as though you are taking very, very good care of yourself for once…and you are.
CURRY BAKED CHICKEN, VEGETABLE CURRY WITH RICE AND PEAS (Serves 3 with leftover vegetable curry)
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 tbsp plain (Greek) yoghurt
1 tbsp mango chutney
1.5 tbsp curry paste.
3 tbsp sunflower oil—(I used olive)
2 onions, sliced finely
2 fat garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 hot red chilli (seeds are optional)
1 donkey carrot, peeled and diced
3 tbsp curry paste
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
6-10 mushrooms, washed and quartered
6 baby red peppers (or one red pepper, cut into pieces), top & tailed
250ml coconut cream—(about 1 c)
1 tsp chicken stock powder or a low salt chicken stock cube
Enough water to just cover the contents—(I used chicken stock instead of the powder/cube and water)
3 heaped tbsp red lentils
3-4 cauliflower florets, broken into small pieces
3-4 broccoli florets, broken into small pieces
1 large ripe tomato, quartered (or smaller) into wedges
A large handful of fresh coriander, chopped.—(In the U.S, we call this cilantro)
1 cup of uncooked basmati rice
Half a cup of peas—(defrosted, or freshly shelled).
1. In the morning, mix together the yoghurt, chutney and curry paste in a large bowl.
2. Trim the chicken breasts of fat and gristle, then score lightly across the top to allow the above marinade to more easily penetrate the meat.
3. Add the chicken to the marinade and mix gently to ensure every little bit of chicken is covered in marinade. Cover with cling film and refrigerate until 30 minutes prior to cooking.—(I placed this in a Pyrex dish and covered with foil instead, then later put it in the oven as is.)
4. To make the vegetable curry (which I recommend should also be done in the morning), heat the oil in a large, deep saucepan. Add the oil.—(Medium-low heat works.)
5. Add the onion – and a small pinch of salt – and cook for around 10-15 minutes until golden brown, but not burned. Add the garlic and stir quickly, then add the chilli and stir.
6. Next, add the carrot pieces, which will help to cool the pan and so avoid burning the garlic.
7. Next add the curry paste and tomato puree and stir well to combine with the rest of the ingredients. Cooked until the oil is released – just a few minutes.
8. Add the potato/mushroom/red peppers and stir well to ensure they are coated with the curry mixture.
9. Add the coconut cream, stock powder and water and stir gently to combine. Do not add any salt at this stage, but if you’re yearning to – add a little black pepper instead!—(Jenny, I like you.)
10. Stir in the red lentils and let everything simmer gently together for around 20-30 minutes until almost cooked.
11. Finally – for this stage – add the cauliflower, turn off the heat, cover and leave to cool.—(I put mine in the fridge.)
12. Several hours later and when you’re ready to prepare the dinner proper, begin by turning on the heat under the vegetable curry and pre-heating the oven to 200degC/400degF/Gas 6. Line a shallow baking tray with silver foil (optional – but it helps with the washing up!) and place the chicken onto the foil. Spoon any additional marinade over the top of each chicken breast. Place into the oven for 25-35 minutes or until the juices run clear if pricked with a knife.
13. Three-quarters fill a good-sized saucepan with water, add a pinch of sea salt and place it on a high heat, to boil.—(2 c water worked for me.)
14. Put the dry rice into a sieve and run it under a hot tap until the water runs clear. Once the water in the pan boils, add the rice and cook – simmering – for 7-9 minutes. 2 minutes before the rice is due to be ready, add the defrosted peas.
15. As the rice is cooking, the vegetable curry should have come up to temperature. Remove the lid and allow the sauce to reduce a little as you add the broccoli, tomato and three quarters of the fresh coriander. Stir from time to time, to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
16. Once the rice is ready, drain and return to the warm pan. You can add a little of the chopped coriander for some extra flavour, if you like.
17. Once the chicken is done, serve with the vegetable curry and green pea rice – with an added flourish of a sprinkle of chopped coriander for garnish.
*I’ve argued this point before, the one about eating what the locals eat.* It fails not.
**I have been to Scotland, which soaked into me like butter on a hot scone; and flying home passed over Ireland which, even from the sky, is an ethereal green. Someday I will get there. Wales, too, and not just to see Cardiff, though that’s an obvious draw.