The last few recipes may have given the impression that it's all cakes and biscuits around here but I promise, that's very far from the truth. The thing is, our weekday evenings go as follows. Get home from work - probably late, definitely starving. Make something quick and familiar (veg chilli, smoked salmon pasta, aubergine and lentil stew, meatballs). Fruit and yoghurt for pudding. Slump on the sofa, eat a few squares of chocolate. Treat ourselves to cheese and biscuits if we're feeling particularly greedy. In food terms there's nothing blog-worthy, nothing ground-breaking, nothing to bother the internet's pretty little head with.
But every now and then we do manage to force ourselves out of our dinner rut and try out something new on a weekday evening. And today's recipe is particularly big news. You see, however much I might pat myself on the back for having conquered my food dislikes of pears, olives, blue cheese, lamb (all of which I love now - and yes, all of which I really should have just eaten before and stopped being such a baby) there's been a huge elephant in the room. A social-event-avoiding, country-for-holiday-
preventing, ashamed-to-call-myself-an- adult-admitting, elephant. I have never liked curry.
Not just one particular curry, but any Indian food. I was a horribly fussy eater as a child and rejected Indian food outright, and I just never managed to get over it. To the extent that I used to get worried if people suggested going for a curry because I knew I wouldn't have a clue what to order, and I knew it would be really obvious. And before you say it (everyone says it), no, NOT a korma! I tried that tactic a couple of times as a teenager and they made me heave, greasy and fatty and far too creamy and ugh, just disgusting. I'm sure that I didn't try the best examples - we didn't really go in for fine dining back then - but they traumatised me and I just never got over it. So I avoided Indian food wherever possible, never made it at home, never went out for a curry. And always felt embarrassed to be such a baby.
So this year I was determined to grow up and make myself like it. And when a friend brought out balti and a tikka when we visited her house for dinner, I prepared myself to smile through it - and found myself asking for seconds. It was delicious! In the years since I last tried curry, I've become so much more adventurous (let's not forget, back when I was a nipper I'd never tried tagines, Mexican food, Thai - barely even Chinese) and it turns out that I really liked the curries now. What an IDIOT! And what a relief!
The next step was to make a curry at home and this Waitrose recipe looked just perfect. Easy, healthy, nothing to frighten the horses in the ingredients, simple to control the level of heat. And? Well, I'm embarrassed. It was brilliant. If anything, it could have been spicier. We've already started bookmarking all sorts of other curries to try. So I have to say it once again. What a relief! And what an IDIOT!
Chicken and Cauliflower Balti
From the Waitrose magazine (and available here)
- 1 onion, cut into chunks
- 2 peeled cloves of garlic
- a piece of root ginger about 4cm long, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 tablespoons of hot Madras curry powder
- a teaspoon of cumin (it was meant to be seeds but we only had ground)
- 700ml chicken stock
- a handful of cold roasted chicken (the original recipe uses raw chicken)
- three or four parsnips, peeled and cubed (our substitution for a potato)
- a cauliflower, cut into florets
- a bag of spinach
- coriander leaves to serve, if you don't think it tastes like the devil (which I do)
Whiz up the onion, garlic, ginger and curry powder in the food processor until it's a paste. Then fry in a large pan with a teeny bit of oil, stirring constantly, for about five minutes. Don't use your cake-decorating spatula for this or it'll stink of spices for weeks and weeks.
Stir in the cumin and stock, bring to the boil, then chuck in the parsnip and cook for 15 minutes. Add the cauliflower and cook for another 10, until the vegetables are all cooked through.
Stir in the cooked chicken meat and spinach, to warm and wilt them respectively, then serve with rice, naan, chapattis, yoghurt, whatever you want.