We had a taste of India at cubs on Friday night. We had a sleepover at the church where we meet. An Indian friend of mine (thank you so much Meena!!) came and answered questions about India, showed them a little Bollywood dancing and helped the cubs make chapattis, raita and a Indian semolina dessert. We let them smell and taste the spices that had been used to make the big pot of Keralan chicken curry I had made for them in the afternoon. So many of the cubs loved the curry so much that their parents have asked for the recipe.
I made the curry from scratch in the afternoon blending a couple of recipes I had for Keralan chicken. One by the much revered Madhur Jaffrey and the other by Anjum Anand – blended to suit the spices and ingredients I had available and tapping into the simpler method (when you are cooking for 20+ you want simple). I also wanted authentic. No jarred sauces, partly because I have one child in the group with severe allergy to legumes including soy so by making from scratch I knew that he could eat the curry safely, and partly because I wanted them to smell and taste some of the spices that were in their food. And I like making curry – always better from scratch if you have the time. And to be honest this was pretty quick.
So for all who have asked me for the recipe here it is (for 6 rather than for 20). The recipe is in two stages – the spice mix and the curry:
A chunk of fresh ginger (20g in the recipe but no need to be exact)
7 large cloves of garlic
1 tspn brown mustard seeds
1 tspn cumin seeds
½ tspn turmeric
2 tspns fennel seeds
1tsp garam masala (optional – it is not so easy to find in France)
½ black peppercorns (I left these out)
If you like a bit of heat then add chilli powder, fresh chillies or cayenne pepper to your taste. I skipped the heat for the cubs.
The first thing to do is to make your spice paste. Using a blender whizz the garlic and ginger with about 100mls of water until it is a puree. Then add all the spices and whizz again. If you don’t have a blender then I recommend using frozen ginger and mix it with crushed garlic by hand in a bowl or pestle and mortar and use ground cumin, black pepper instead.
2 tbsp oil
1 large onion
750g chicken – I used skinned chicken thighs but you could use white meat if you prefer. Or make it veggie with whatever vegetables you have in the fridge – I have tried this recipe with sweet potato, romanesco, peppers and aubergine – worked really well)
Vegetables – I used a small sweet potato and the equivalent of 1 pepper (a mixture of green and red) but whatever you like.
2 large tomatoes, pureed (but roughly chopped works as well) OR about half a can of tomato pulp/chopped tomatoes/passata.
200mls coconut milk
Slice your onion and fry in the oil until they are soft and beginning to colour. Add your spice mix to the onions and fry to reduce it to a paste – a couple of minutes.
Add your chicken (or vegetables for a veggie version) and stir for a couple of minutes to slightly brown and cover in the spices. Throw in any extra veg you want and then add about 200 mls of water and the tomatoes. Cover and simmer on a low heat for about 20 mins, stirring occasionally. There should be lots of gravy so increase the heat and remove the lid to allow the gravy to reduce. When the gravy is thicker it is time to add the coconut milk. I like to stir in some coriander at this point. Bring the curry back up to a gentle simmer for a few minutes and then you are ready to serve. With rice or Indian breads and chutneys. Mmm.
After a week of Food Matters Live (a post to come on this), filling my head with lectures and debates, meeting friends and colleagues, staying in a hotel and then rounding it all of with a delayed flight home was maybe not the best preparation for the sleepover. I attended some seminars about how we encourage children to cook and taste new foods and how to help them develop a good relationship with food, so it was great to see the cubs loving tasting and smelling the spices, getting all messy making chapatti dough, wanting to make and taste new dishes. It was also an opportunity to talk about food as part of learning about another culture and country, to sit around a table with their friends sharing a meal, being involved with everything from the preparing to the cleaning up afterwards.
It was a bit of a reminder for me to get my kids into the kitchen and cooking more often. Not just baking but making meals. It can be messy and dinner takes a bit longer to be ready, but the added enjoyment that you can see when they have made it themselves, the pride, is worth it. It can also improve the readiness to try new things. With the added bonus that they are practicing a life skill that so many young people lack when they head to their first flat share or their life at university. So get the kids in the kitchen, not just to bake cookies, get them making curry!