Sunday, October 14, 2012

Indian Chicken Curry

Spring hit us fast and hard this year, with Brisbane city recording temperatures in the very high twenties from early September, with the weather creeping up into the thirties as we progress through October. The last couple of days however have seen a sudden dip and I’ve had to drag a couple of extra blankets out from the cupboard where I had packed them away, hoping it would be nearly another 12 months until we saw each other again.

As always, the food on the dinner table changed quickly to try and suit the climate and we went from craving salads with fresh sourdough bread to hearty curries with comforting Japanese-style rice to go with it.

 Mum learnt this curry at a cooking class run by an Indian couple, who had lived in Japan for a good number of years, nearly ten years ago. They were both fluent in Japanese and had chosen recipes they thought would suit the tastebuds of arguably the fussiest eaters in Asia. Even so, apparently Mum was the only one who loved the spices and enthusiastically ate their creations … the other mothers were the wives of rich retirees and apparently decided they possessed finer taste buds.  For example, this recipe was made in the class using cabbage; the rest of the class was horrified at the mere thought of serving such a cheap dish to their respective husbands and families! Luckily for me, my own mum is the ultimate stinge (she’s one of those people for whom “feed your family for under $10” recipes are written for) and she embraced it. So here we are, still eating this delicious curry a decade down the track.

As well as being cooks who were the source of centuries’ worth of traditional family recipes, both the husband and wife were yoga teachers and naturopaths. Unfortunately the only piece of information that Mum can remember with regards to naturopathy is that it’s bad for your body to fry onions until they go brown… so I had this hammered into me the first time I made this curry, nearly a year ago now.  I’ve lost count of how many times Mum has made this curry for us but the first time she did so at the cooking class, it (the curry) was whisked off to the local hospital where the son-in-law of the Indian couple was waiting for the arrival of his first child. I find it amazing that we become briefly entangled in the lives of people we don’t even know and then, as quickly as we become a part, we are a part no longer. Mum may have helped in making this new dad-to-be dinner and attended his parents-in-laws’ cooking class but that was as far as it went. I suppose that there seven billion of us here on this earth after all and it is of course impossible for us to know everyone. But the sheer number of people, and in particular all of whose stories we will never know, simply overwhelms me.

The discovery that komatsuna (or Japanese mustard spinach, a turnip relative ) is perfect in this curry was made by one of the other mothers (obviously one who saw the light) who went to this particular class. Komatsuna is currently bouncing out of the ground at the community garden.

Indian Chicken Curry (from my mother’s cookbook)


Chicken thigh cutlets with bones and/or chicken drumsticks (skin removed)
45ml oil
5ml sugar
1 brown onion
1 heaped Tbsp of each of cumin, coriander and turmeric, all dissolved in 600-800ml water
3 big bunches Komatsuna (or half a cabbage), cut into bite-sized pieces
~2 cups beans (the more the merrier!), cut in half
15ml chilli powder
1 or 2 tsp salt (start with 1 and add to taste if necessary)
15ml tomato puree or 1-2 tinned tomatoes (nicer with lots of tomatoes – can reduce water if adding more tomatoes)
Coriander leaves, extra (add at the end if desired)

1. Fry onion in oil without browning; add chicken and fry until surface is white.

2. Add spice mixture (dissolved in water), then add vegetables, chilli powder, salt and tomatoes.

3. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and veggies are tender.

We eat this with medium-grain rice cooked to perfection in a rice cooker but that choice of carbohydrate might be frowned upon in this recently-and-increasingly health conscious society. I’m sure it would be equally delicious with a side of quinoa or black rice.

- Matilda

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