They say old habits die hard, but that’s really because they’re the ones you want to preserve. University Challenge when we’re at home on Mondays, Orange Wednesdays and Sunday night curry to name a few.
And what’s wrong with a Sunday night curry takeaway anyway? Its just want you want at the end of the week when the cupboard’s looking a little spartan and the herbs are pooling at the bottom of the fridge drawer. You’re knackered, the telly’s on. Fifteen quid well spent, surely? Well, yes – and no. Multiply that by the number of weeks in the year and you get- , well I don’t know exactly, but rather a good weekend break somewhere perhaps…
Just before Christmas, the BSG and I visited Rasa, just off Oxford Street with our friend G. (What we were doing just off Oxford Street on a Saturday night in a blizzard I don’t know, but we’d certainly go again.) This is Keralan food at its finest and it transported us away from standard takeaway fare into new realms of curry possibility. The BSG sat there, the illuminated light-bulb over his head shining like a beacon: we’d learn to make good, fragrant curries and step away from the soggy naans and the free poppadoms, simultaneously saving money and setting our palates free. For this, we’d need a good reference book (if any excuse were ever required for another cookbook).
The expert man at Books for Cooks knew exactly what was needed and prescribed 50 Great Curries of India, by Camellia Panjabi – that would keep us going for a while. Full of authentic dishes from all over the country, preceded by a comprehensive guide to all things curry and beyond, this is the book for anyone who wants to understand the spices, notes and colours that make up Indian cuisine. It doesn’t stop at the main dishes, but also explains breads, vegetable dishes, relishes and chutneys too. The book is small in size (really handy) but of epic proportions and will become indispensable; it has certainly put the joy back into Sunday evenings for us. I have already successfully(ish) attempted two, so it has the added bonus of being idiot-proof. You will be amazed how you want to make chapatis to go with everything, they are so easy.
If you are still hell-bent on the lazy, brought–to-your-door Tupperware element then why not make it in the week, freeze it and call through to whoever’s in the kitchen to heat it through? If you are still missing them, call your local curry house for a chat. But with this book in hand, I promise you’ll be reluctant to dial that number on your speed dial again. Homemade curry is a bit of an unexplored world for us, and one New Year’s resolution we want to keep.
Parsee Red Chicken Curry (Mumbai)
(NB: the right ingredients are key here, so stock up your cupboards before you start – the spices will last and make an interesting meal out of almost anything. Kashmiri chillies should be employed in this recipe; you can’t just use the ones from the fresh aisle of the supermarket. Believe me, I know.)
10-12 Kashmiri chillies
Half a thumb of ginger, peeled and chopped
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
3 medium tomatoes, chopped (you can use tinned if you prefer)
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 in cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon turmeric
8-9 cloves garlic
65 ml oil
3-4 bay leaves
1 kg chicken cut into pieces (preferably on bone)
Soak the Kashmiri chillies in a little warm water for about 20 minutes to soften and bloat.
Put the Kashmiri chillies, ginger, onions, tomatoes, cumin, coriander seeds, cinnamon, turmeric and garlic into a food processor and blend to a smooth paste.
Put the oil in a pan to heat. Add the bay leaves and gently fry for 1 minute. Then add the paste and stir it for 3 minutes.
Add the chicken pieces and stir for a further 2 minutes. Add 1 cup water (add more if you prefer a thinner gravy) and salt to taste, cover with a lid and cook on a very slow heat until it’s done.