Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Recipe - Coconut and Saffron Curry

I have no innate cooking ability. I can follow recipes and I can learn from mistakes which lends me to being able to make things taste nice if they're written in a foolproof manner or if I've made them more than once so I have a theory about how to correct what went wrong. But I haven't the patience or the natural talent of a master chef. A friend of mine does. Well, more than one friend of mine does but there's one in particular who has the natural talent, the patience and the not-easily-satisfied nature that you need to cook truly delicious food. There's a word for it in Bengali but unfortunately it doesn't translate particularly well, it's pronounced 'moh-nu-joog'. It translates to a mixture of patience and concentration with a touch of dedication thrown in. That's the main thing this friend of mine has that I lack. Being friends with an excellent chef is actually better than being one yourself as it means you get cooked for. I bought lots of half price cava and did some washing up while she did everything else. The results were fantastic, hands down the best home-cooked meal I've eaten in the past three months AT LEAST. Much better than anything I've cooked myself. Another benefit of her cooking it in my presence was that it amounted to a free cooking lesson. She gave me the recipe and while I missed some of her 'a dash of this and a dash of that' steps, I watched the actual process so I could see what the curry was meant to look like at every step. I tried to re-enact it for the explorer and my live-in buddy. He gave an accurate review of it - it wasn't the same (and implicitly, it wasn't as good) but it was still pretty tasty.
Coconut and Saffron Curry
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 bird's eye chillies, finely chopped
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped

8 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on if you like it that way like I do

1 liberal pinch saffron infused in a cup of boiling water
2 bay leaves
2 cardamom pods
Half a cinnamon stick

1 chicken stock cube
1 tin coconut milk
1 tbsp flour

Season the chicken thighs all over with salt.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large, heavy bottomed frying pan and brown the chicken thighs well, about 3 - 5 minutes each side.
Remove the thighs and set aside. Turn the heat down to medium.
Brown the onions, garlic, chillies and ginger until translucent but not brown.
Add the ground coriander and the tomato and cook until 'sticky'. Sticky was her choice of word and I wasn't really sure what it meant but I kept cooking the tomato-onion mixture and kept stirring it and eventually it became sticky and caramelised. Sticky was definitely the right adjective to use.
Return the chicken thighs to the pan.
Add the saffron water, bay leaves, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick and stir to combine everything.
Add the stock cube and coconut milk and cook, uncovered for about 20 - 25 minutes until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
About five minutes from the end of the cooking time, remove about a ladleful of the sauce and place in a bowl.
Whisk in the flour to the sauce then return the mixture to the pan and mix. If you don't mind thinner sauces, this step is unnecessary.

If I cooked this again, I would hold off adding the coconut milk at the same time as the chicken and simmer the chicken in just stock for about 10 minutes then add the coconut milk to avoid the coconut milk splitting. Also I regret to say that I ever so slightly overcooked the chicken and forgot to scatter fresh coriander over the top. Sorry, Maria! I served it with jasmine rice and a very boring, undressed salad. That was not a patch on the asparagus, broccoli, cabbage and pepper glory that I ate it with the first time. 

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