23 August 2013

Chicken & Sweet Potato Curry

It had been a while since I'd made a curry from scratch when I decided to do this one.

Oh for sure we'd had curry, but they were usually "quickie" versions using a curry paste from a jar, as opposed to concocting the spicing myself.  I thought it was probably about time I had another go at it, before I forgot how to do it altogether!

Chicken was the obvious - and most forgiving - choice of meat to use.  You'd have to go some to let the meat spoil a curry using chicken, whereas with a prawn curry you can wind up with it being too thin and watery with leathery prawns and a beef curry is rife with problems such as the beef not being tender enough.  So, in order to concentrate on the spicing and not have to worry about the meat, chicken was the best option.

I'd decided to use sweet potato as the vegetable input.  It had been a while since we'd had sweet potato and it was an apparently good choice with chicken, as I'd seen a number of recipes for it in my travels.  I know that hubby likes a sweet curry, because his choice from the takeaway is often one of the sweeter curries, such as Pathia or Dhansak.  Anyway, sweet potato is very good for you, so I didn't need any further encouragement than that.
Hubble, bubble, curry on the way!

I didn't have any particular direction in mind for this curry, other than "sweet" and "not coconutty".  We've been having a lot of curries that utilised coconut milk and so I was keen to get away from that style - for a change.

As a result, I sort of built this curry as I went along.  Now I know - from bitter experience - that this can often result in disaster.  However, this time, I managed to rein in my more random impulses to put a bit of this in or a bit of that in - and kept it logical.  In the back of my mind I had my friend Jasvinder Singh's Facebook page - The Food Court - playing back to me all the curries he has posted to it, their methods and spices particularly.  I honestly think that I have learned an enormous amount from him as regards spicing curries, not to mention what I've learned from watching Yotam Ottolenghi's bold spicing of his food.

Interestingly, I knew this was going to be a great curry from a very early stage.  In fact, I think it was as early as the cooking the onions.  The combination of onion frying in groundnut oil with the addition of the cinnamon sticks, just smells so fabulous.  Each additional ingredient just made it better, until a taste confirmed that yes - this was going to be a great curry.

The nice thing about this curry is that you can decide just how chilli hot you would like it to be by reducing or increasing the chilli, or how thick you like the sauce by cutting out the reduction part.  Any type of vegetable would do well with it, too.  No need to keep to sweet potato.  Chuck any little homeless vegetables in there and it will give them a very good job to do.

In fact, so good was this curry that hubby was heard to declare that it was nicer than any of the takeaway curries we've had since being in Dorset.  In your face, Heart of India!  *chuckle*  All of which is an amazing accolade of course, except that it now means it's going to be even more difficult to convince him to go for an Indian takeaway - and that's difficult enough as it is!


Ingredients :

3 tbsp groundnut oil
1 onion, thickly sliced and 1 onion, chopped finely
2 cinnamon sticks 3" long
pinch of sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 hot red chilli, chopped (including seeds)
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 heaped tsp ground cumin
2 heaped tsp ground coriander
half a dessertspoon of Madras curry powder
half a dessertspoon of Garam Masala
1 tsp paprika
2 heaped tsp ground turmeric
2 small sweet potatoes, cubed small
3 chicken breasts, sliced and chunked
500ml chicken stock (I used Essential Cuisine chicken stock powder)
1 dessertspoonful of Kasuri Methi (fenugreek) leaves
2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp full fat plain yoghurt
10g butter.

Method :

1.  Add the  groundnut oil to a large wok or deep frying pan.  Heat until a slice of onion causes the fat to pop and spit, then add all the onion and stir fry until lightly golden brown.  Part way through, stir in a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper plus the two cinnamon sticks.

2.  Reduce the heat, and add the garlic and chilli, continuing to stir fry for another minute.

3.  Add the tomato puree, ground cumin, ground coriander, curry powder, Garam Masala and paprika.  Stir through and continue to cook until the moisture has all left the tomato puree mixture and the oil is visible around the edges.

4.  Add the ground turmeric and stir through, then increase the heat and add the sweet potatoes and chicken pieces.  Continue to cook until the chicken has turned opaque but isn't cooked through.

5.  Add the chicken stock and gently stir until completely combined.  Add the fenugreek and stir through, then leave to reduce and develop the curry sauce.  Stir every five minutes or so, to ensure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.

You should see the sauce turn from a fairly watery mixture, to a thickened and proper curry looking sauce, albeit still slightly thin.  The content will have reduced by just over half and the sauce should be coating the sweet potatoes and chicken nicely.

6. Taste for sweetness and salt - the sweet potato will be pretty much cooked by now and releasing its sweetness into the sauce.  Add sugar if necessary until you achieve the kind of sweetness you like and if necessary add a pinch more salt.

7.  Stir in the plain yoghurt and mix in quickly.  Don't panic if it appears to split, as it will melt into the sauce in the last few minutes of cooking.  Add the butter and allow to melt.  Continue stirring and simmering - and reducing - the sauce (as the addition of the yoghurt will have liquified it a little) until you are happy with its consistency.

Serve with some steamed white rice.  

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