The weather has been blisteringly hot in Zurich lately, which should be a welcome change given the torrential rain which we’ve had in the preceeding months. But after a few days of soaking up the sun and several impromptu lakeside evening picnics, the lack of air-conditioning has become quite evident and I find myself quietly (and guiltily) yearning for the cooler weather to return. This is especially since I have discovered that our kitchen happens to be the warmest room in our apartment, a place which I have suddenly been trying to spend as little time as possible so that I can be elsewhere to catch the breeze. It has been quite an unusual predicament for me, trying to plan meals which require minimal time spent in the kitchen when it is often a place I escape to.
But the last few days finally saw the rainfall and thunderstorms return, as well as my appetite. And in an effort to demonstrate to my husband (well, mostly myself!) that I remember how to cook a proper meal, I set about preparing a curry feast.
In an effort to try something new, I went flicking through Anjum Anand’s Indian Food Made Easy for some inspiration. It is also a book which I had pledged in my New Year’s resolution to cook from in 2012, but much like the previous occasions when I had taken a moment to look at the recipes, inspiration was a bit lacking. So I turned to her more recent book, I Love Curry, from which I have had a bit more success. I settled upon the Cardamom-Scented Chicken Curry as it looked to be fairly easy to put together, and also because I had the tastebuds going for a tomato-based curry.
I have had a few experiences where Anand’s recipes have turned out to be quite bland, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that this curry had a nice savoury hit, despite the fact that I had used boneless chicken breast fillets in the dish. The original recipe calls for chicken on the bone which would give the dish much more flavour but, as it so happened, the supermarket I went to only had chicken breast fillets and whole chickens on offer. I opted for the former because I was feeling a bit too lazy to joint a chicken. But a touch of seasoning, particularly a teaspoon or so of sugar, and the curry tasted quite lovely.
It is quite a simple and subtle curry when you look at the list of ingredients, and coupled with the non-fussy preparation, I think this would be a perfect curry to make during the week when you are pressed for time. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes to hand, I think you could certainly use a tin of tomatoes instead. It also goes without saying that you could add more tomatoes if you want a more tomatey curry – I ended up adding another large tomato which I saw at the last minute, bursting with ripeness in the vegetable bowl.
The original recipe also calls for three green chillies to be added to the curry. Although hubby has a certain tolerance for spice, if I were to cook for my palate, most dishes would be inedible to him. So I try to omit the chillies when I can and add them at the table, or simply reduce the number of chillies so that there is a gentle heat.
If you have a mortar and pestle, I would suggest grinding the cardamom pods until you have just under a teaspoon of fragrant dust. Otherwise, if you don’t mind picking out the bits of cardamom later, I tend to just crush them and add them whole to the curry. An alternative would be to simply use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ready ground cardamom.
To go alongside the Cardamom-Scented Chicken Curry, I also made a fragrant and fresh-tasting dhal (recipe below) and served everything with some warm naan bread. A delicious curry feast for during the week!
Cardamom-Scented Chicken Curry
Recipe adapted from I Love Curry by Anjum Anand
Recipe adapted from Simply Bill by Bill Granger
There are many recipes for dhal out there and this is one which I turn to frequently. I find it to be a very simple recipe using ingredients which I usually have in the fridge and pantry, plus it takes mere moments to prepare and cook. When making a curry, I find it is nice to serve a dhal on the side for some variety, and this recipe can be easily put together while the main dish is simmering away. Or, if you are totally exhausted after a long day at work, this dhal is filling as a main dish in itself. Just make sure you have some roti parathas or naan bread squirrelled away in the freezer for such instant suppers.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red onion, finely diced
2.5 cm (1 inch) ginger, coarsely grated
3 garlic cloves, coarsely grated
1 green chilli, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
250 g (1 cup) red lentils
750 ml (3 cups) boiling water
1 tablespoon lime juice (or more to taste)
fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and gently sauté the onion, ginger, chilli, salt and ground cumin for about 10 minutes until the onions have softened.
Add the lentils, together with the boiling water, and simmer over low-medium heat for about 20 minutes until the lentils have softened and broken down. Stir the mixture occasionally to make sure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If the mixture looks too thick, add a bit more water.
Once the lentils have dissolved, stir through the lime juice and taste for seasoning. Sprinkle with fresh coriander before serving.