Sunday, November 14, 2010

Curry not in a hurry

Since the last posting, it has well and truly turned from Fall-ish to Fall/Winter-ish. I did manage to successfully wear flip flops for 3 hours last weekend which was impressive and apparently blog worthy. It's November!!!
There have been some stunning days showcasing the vibrant leaves and snow-capped mountains and some equally dismal, damp days that are now noticeably shorter. That coupled with the time change making it dark before 5pm, means it's time to get out the slow cooker/crock pot.
I got mine a couple of years ago and have had several very successful meals from it, once I got over the fear of burning the house down by leaving it on and unattended for 8-10 hours.
On one particularly chilly, wet day, I went to the library after work and picked up a book called "The Gourmet Slow Cooker:Simple and Sophisticated Meals from around the World". Sounds perfect. I got home, thumbed through it looking at the pictures and a quick skim of ingredients to ensure the dishes were manageable, within my existing pantry for the most part, with the addition of only a few bits and pieces from the grocery store.
I settled on a curry recipe and the ingredients were simple, I needed to make a spice blend but I have a coffee grinder which I use for that sort of thing. I had most of the ingredients bar the protein, cloves and serrano chiles. I got all the ingredients and the plan was to make up the dish the night before and then put it in the fridge ready for cooking as I left for work the following morning. I would then come home to a delicious meal at the end of a busy week.
Well, it didn't quite go to plan as I ran on of time the night before but, with previous crock pot creations, it was just a case of throwing everything in and putting the lid on. I had neglected one key step thus far. To read the recipe and method. A cardinal sin that a true foodist (Thank you DMA for the new designation) should know better than to make. Clearly I am not worthy of the foodist tag by making such juvenile errors. But I won't dwell on the negative...You live, you learn and it makes for an interesting post/story. I did this as I went to bed late Thursday and discovered that there was a good 30 minutes of cooking/prep time required. I set the alarm for 6am and hoped it would be worth it. So picture this, it's 6am, the kitchen is in full swing with hot pans, appliances going, extractor fan on. I'm chopping onions and my eyes are burning as I haven't yet put my contact lenses in (fun fact, wearing contact lenses protects your eyes from onion tears). I'm in my work clothes (fitness gear) and realise part way through that was not a good idea as I now smell of onions, not a great aroma to have on the gym at 8am, 9am, 10am, 11am..the whole day basically. I think my hair and skin were permeated too. Awesome. The onions needed to cook down over 15 minutes and then ginger, garlic and chiles added. All very delicious and also extremely pungent. Throw in a freshly ground aromatic spice mix to a hot pan and you have some serious cooking going on. Again, I'll remind you that it is not yet 6:30am.
It did smell amazing though and looked it too. The base for the sauce could easily be used for a quick curry too as it was rich and thick...and clearly full of flavour.
I put the chicken in the slow cooker. I chose bone-in thighs and chicken breast. I poured on the sauce, put the lid on and set it for 8 hours on low. I left my house on time, albeit with a distinct aroma I could only hope would fade during the day or at the very least be appreciated by fellow foodists.
Still a little paranoid about leaving something cooking unattended, I did my best to put the fear out of my head and think about the amazing dish I would be walking in to that night. all was well until I received a text from my landlords (who live above me) asking me "did you leave something cooking this morning?". UH-OH!! Was the smoke detector going off? Was the place on fire? Thoughts raced through my mind...I texted back immediately to inform them of the curry and to check what the problem was. Apparently the aromatic nature of the curry and prep had been so significant that the smell had rapidly permeated through to upstairs. UH-OH. If it smells that strongly in their suite, that they had to text me, then what on earth was my suite going to be like? I'm going to have to fumigate, wash all my clothes, sleep outside in a tent. Would it be like a skunking? overwhelming and loitering in closet corners and fabrics for weeks on end?
My landlords suggested we move the offending slow cooker outside. I agreed and told them to go in to the suite and do what was needed. I had visions of driving home from work later and getting a whiff 3 blocks away. Again, I hoped the resultant dish was worth it. I opened the lid and looked amazing, and smelled amazing yet not overpowering. The sauce was rich, intense and, even if I do say so myself, restaurant worthy. The chicken was so tender it was falling off the bone and merging with the sauce before my eyes. I served myself a portion immediately and any former memories of onion infused clothing, panics about burning the house down and potentially cooking myself out of my tenancy agreement were gone the moment the first forkful hit my tastebuds. This is the best curry I've ever made. Definitely a keeper and one for the blog.
Here is the recipe:


seeds from 2 black cardamon pods
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
4 or 5 whole cloves
5 to 6 black peppercorns
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
2 green serrano chiles, seeded and minced
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 and 1/2 tsp salt
2 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 chicken cut into serving pieces, skinned
chopped cilantro for garnish

1) Combine cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn, coriander and cumin in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder and grind to a fine powder.
2)Heat a large saucepan over med heat. Add the oil and then the onions. Saute, stirring frequently for 10-15 mins until browned. Add garlic, ginger and chiles and stir for 1-2 mins.
3)Add spice mixture, turmeric, cayenne and salt and stir for 2-3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and cook for 5-6 mins until some of the liquid has evaporated (The sauce at this point could make an awesome curry base if you don't have time for the slow cooker. Just add some browned protein and let simmer to meld flavours)
4) Arrange chicken in slow cooker and pour sauce over. cook on low for 3-8 hours until chicken is tender.

I added to the recipe with some bite sized potato chunks and 1/2 cup water. I find the starch in the potato thickens the sauce naturally and potato in curry is just a wonderful combo in general.

Leftovers were plentiful and shared with selected foodists. I will probably make this again next weekend with lamb and see what magic happens. I'll take photos this time, you may even be able to smell it through the images. I should also check out the rest of the book, if this meal was anything to go by, there could be many more posts to follow.

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