How to cook curry the easy way using Patak's curry paste
If you're from outside the UK, it might surprise you to learn that Britain's favourite meal isn't fish and chips or bangers and mash, but chicken tikka masala. This sounds like a dish from the Indian subcontinent, but it was actually invented in Britain. The exact year of its birth is unclear but it's thought to be some time between the 1950s (when the first immigrants came over from India to live in Britain) and 1983, when Waitrose supermarket introduced it as a ready meal! Other types of curry - from the mild korma to the hot vindaloo and the even hotter phal - are also hugely popular in Britain; every medium sized town probably has at least one Indian takeaway or restaurant.
Making your own curries is a great way to save on restaurant bills, but some of us are put off by the number of ingredients that go into a "real" curry. And some of us have bad memories of school curries, with grey bits of unidentified meat floating in an ochre yellow sea of sludge, mixed in with the odd sultana and piece of apple.
This is why Patak's curry pastes are so great. I've never been to India and hence don't have a yardstick for gauging the "genuineness" of curries made with Patak's curry pastes - all I know is that they taste good, and that the pastes are very easy to use!
Anyway, the curry. I like my curries on the mild side, so I use Patak's mild curry paste. If I want to rev it up, I can always add a few chilli flakes. The recipe below serves two people and uses raw chicken breasts. You can use leftover roast chicken, lamb or beef, prawns or even just vegetables such as courgette/zucchini - it's up to you! (Cold cooked meats and prawns can be added a few minutes before the end of cooking to heat them through; courgettes should be chopped and added when you add the stock.)
You will need:
- About 8 ounces (just over 200g) of white rice - can be plain long grain (I like easy cook rice myself), or Basmati rice
- Two chicken breasts
- Quarter of a 10 oz jar of Patak's mild curry paste
- Half a medium sized onion, chopped
- Four or five cherry tomatoes or a couple of bigger ones
- Half a pint of home made chicken stock (stock cube stock is also fine)
- Pinch of cumin seeds
- A couple of tablespoons of ground almonds for thickening
- A medium sized courgette (optional)
- Tablespoon of grated creamed coconut (optional)
- A small chopped banana (also optional)
Fry the onion in butter until it goes glassy, then add the curry paste and stir it for a minute or two until the pieces of onion are coated with the paste. Add the stock, and mix well. Wash the chicken breasts, slap them with a wooden spoon on a chopping board (this has a tenderising effect), then chop into bite sized pieces and add to the stock, If you're using a courgette, chop this up and add to the stock as well, along with the tomatoes and the banana if you're using it. Allow the mixture to simmer with the lid off, to reduce it. Place the rice in a pan with at least a pint of cold water - you want there to be enough water to allow the starch in the rice to dissolve. Add the cumin seeds to the water. Bring the rice to the boil, stirring every now and then to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. If too much of the water boils off while you're cooking the rice, you can always add more cold water and stick the heat up a bit to bring it to the boil.
The rice should take 15-20 minutes to cook, by which time your curry will be ready as well. A couple of minutes before the end, add the ground almonds and creamed coconut, and mix well in. This should give you something that's thick enough in consistency to serve with the rice - you're aiming for something that's like thick gravy with bits in. If it's not thick enough, then add a bit of cornflour paste. A tablespoon of natural yoghurt is also good, as this has a thickening effect as well and imparts a nice creamy taste.
There are all sorts of "extras" you can serve with this: poppadums, naan bread, lime pickle… it's up to you!
© Empress Felicity November 2009
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