Hi friends! If you're still with me, thank you; my facebook page is certainly a lot more active than this place at the moment! I am sitting guiltily next to a huge pile of ironing as I write this post; the result of going up in the loft to bring down the next size clothes for little Tonju (hand me downs from big Tonju) which I have washed, and dried on the washing line (woohoo) but which has massively increased my ironing load. A bit like quantitative easing really. I've introduced more clothes into the wardrobes but haven't (yet) removed the previous size. Haha!
Anyway, the other day I was in the school queue waiting to pick up big Tonju, and another mum was talking about Chinese takeaway and how she eats it pretty frequently. I said that I love Chinese too, and Indian for that matter (although the frequency with which we have takeaway is negligable, I do really enjoy it on those rare occasions) and she said, "I'm surprised you don't make your own!" This mum follows me on Instagram so knows I love to experiment, and she inspired me to do a write up of this fantastic, Indian-inspired recipe from BBCGoodFood, which I've been cooking for absolutely years, and which is fab if you really have a craving for takeaway but want to be (a great deal) more healthy. I do realise I said previously that we were discussing Chinese, but I had this meal planned for this week anyway. I will definitely share some Chinese recipes at some point in the future though.
This really is a tremendously simple recipe and there are a couple of little cheats and additions you can make, which I'll come on to as we go through the recipe. The original can be accessed here if you want to check it out. Mine has rather more photos! In fact, this post is deliberately photo heavy because I've spoken to so many mums lately who see cooking as a real challenge, and have quite a narrow vision as to what constitutes food. I want to really enable and encourage those mums (and dads, of course) in particular, which is why I'm choosing to be very basic and step-by-step in my methods. All the ingredients in this recipe are very easy to come by in any supermarket, so nothing out of the ordinary to track down. Here goes...
Ingredients (for two adults and two fairly small children)
2-3 chicken breasts
200g frozen peas
200g basmati rice
1-2 red onions
1 tbsp curry powder
Pinch of saffron
Large handful of raisins
Handful each fresh coriander and mint
3 tbsp natural yoghurt
(1 tbsp mango chutney - optional, my addition)
(Handful of flaked almonds - optional, my addition)
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to Fan 180C.
Slice the onion.
Place the chicken in a large oven dish with enough space around it for the onion to be added.
Pour a glug of olive oil over the chicken with a bit extra for the onions. Ensure the chicken is nicely oiled all over by turning it with some tongs or a knife and fork.
Using a spoon, put the curry powder over the top surfaces of the chicken breasts and smooth over with the back of the spoon. The olive oil will help the powder to stay in place.
Now add the onions to the dish and mix around so they get nicely oiled too, before spreading them out amongst the chicken breasts in one layer.
Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
Now prepare the rice. Put it in a saucepan with the cinnamon stick and the pinch of saffron, then add enough water to cover the rice by about 3/4 inch. I use a small saucepan so this amount is perfect for that size pan. When you cook rice, the ideal is that you add enough water to fully evaporate by the time the rice has finished cooking, so you don't have to drain it. Excess water makes rice mushy, so if you see the water running a bit dry, taste the rice and see if it's nearly ready. Only add more water if it's still got a little while to go, and even then, only add water to the top of the rice. You probably won't need to add more water though, your rice will probably just be pretty much ready. Oh, and never stir rice (until it's finished cooking)!
Cover and bring to the boil, then simmer for about ten minutes until cooked and the water has evaporated.
Prepare the herbs while the rice is cooking. Tear a handful of leaves from the mint stalks and place them with the coriander stems. You don't need to remove the coriander leaves from the stalks.
Using a chef's knife, slice across the leaves to reduce the size...
...then using the palm of your hand pressing on the blunt side of the knife, rock the blade back and forth over the herbs to cut them into much smaller pieces. If you don't have a chef's knife, just use your sharpest alternative and hold the herbs in place with your fingers whilst chopping as you nrmally would. Set aside.
Now come to the sauce. In the original recipe, you mix the herbs you're just sliced into the yoghurt, so if you want to do that then do it now. I prefer to mix the herbs into the rice, and mix a big blob of mango chutney into the yoghurt, just to give a sweet edge to the curry flavours. If you'd like to do this too, just put the yoghurt and chutney in a bowl and mix together. What could be simpler?
I also like to add some flaked almonds to this dish. If you'd like to as well, just throw a handful into a dry frying pan and leave to toast for a few minutes, tossing them every so often ensure even toasting. Just don't forget about them or you'll have burnt almonds instead!
At this point the rice should be pretty much ready. Don't stir it, but poke a fork down to the bottom and gently move some grains aside to see how much water is left. If there's only a really tiny bit, turn off the heat and add the frozen peas and the raisins, stir well, then replace the lid. There should be a few minutes left for the chicken, by which time the peas will have defrosted in the hot rice, and the raisins will have softened nicely but won't be too soft, as they have a tendency to be if you add them at the beginning.
When the chicken is ready, remove from the oven, then add the herbs to the rice (if you haven't added them to the yoghurt) and season well, then give it a final stir.
Now you're ready to serve! I like to serve this meal in pasta bowls, making a bed of the rice, then placing the chicken breasts on top, followed by the red onion then a scattering of almonds. This is finished off with a big dollop of yoghurt (followed by many further dollops throughout the meal!) This also makes a great childrens' meal as you can make one chicken breast much less spicy, or not spicy at all (as you can see in the photos of putting the curry powder on the chicken at the top of the page), and the yoghurt and chutney mixture cools down and sweetens at the same time.
So I hope you enjoy making your own, Indian-inspired meal. It is so basic, with such easy to obtain ingredients and, best of all, this meal is really quite healthy. It certainly satisfies my craving for Indian food, although I must admit, real Indian isn't complete without a naan. I've been using Anjum Anand's Best Ever Grilled Naan Recipe, as found in her book Indian Vegetarian Feast, and it's a great recipe in case you're looking for one too. To be honest though, this particular meal really fills you up nicely, and, for me, it's rather good to feel satisfied but not stuffed. I have a bit of an "if I don't feel full I haven't eaten enough" mentality, so anything to knock that on the head is a bonus!
Thanks so much for reading, as always :-)