Ajoy Joshi’s Chicken with Spinach

Serves: 4 – 6

A love a good spinach curry!

Unlike what we all get served up at our local Indian however, this dish by Ajoy Joshi has depth, heat and character. It is clearly a curry that doesn’t share a base with 200 other curries on the menu.

As with all Ajoy dishes, there are twists: the processed onions cooked gold in the oil is just one trick that makes this recipe special.

As part of a banquet, you could do a whole lot worse.

Ingredients

500gm (baby) spinach, stems removed
3 fresh mild long green chillies, slit lengthways
2 large yellow (brown) onions, roughly chopped
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 c whole milk
1 whole chicken (1.5kg) cut into 10 pieces, or 1kg chicken pieces (I used thigh)
1 tsp Garam Masala
1/2 tsp chilli powder
3 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 c heavy (double) cream

Method

  1. In a food processor, combine spinach and chillies and process until a paste forms. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Rinse and dry process, add onions and process until finely ground. Remove from the processor and set aside.
  2. In a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan, heat oil over a medium-heat. Add onions and salt and cooked uncovered, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the milk and cook for another 5 minutes longer.
  3. Raise heat to high, add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 5 minutes.* Stir in the Garam Masala and chilli powder and cook, stirring, until all the moisture evaporates and the oil separates, 5 – 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the spinach purée and tomatoes. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook until the chicken is cooked throughout and tender, 20 – 25 minutes. Uncover and if liquid remains, continue to cook on a medium heat until it evaporates.
  5. Just before serving, stir in the cream. Serve immediately.

* Respectfully, when chefs ask for meat to be browned in a sauce or gravy, I just don’t understand if this is possible without commercial cooking. Meat just doesn’t brown in milk. Just cook the meat.

Dan Toombs’ Chicken Xacuti

Serves: 4

This famous Goan curry is a hit.

Like so many I have typed – all I hope – it is just so unique, so special, so different to your usual local Indian. Indeed, we couldn’t see a world where we would get this served up outside of your really top Indian nosheries.

It is of course, a completely unique curry base.

I quartered the stock and then cooked it down far more than Dan suggests, though I cannot see how this wasn’t necessary to achieve the sort of gravy you would expect.

Substituted thyme for the ajwain seeds – which seemed fine – though ironically picked up some ajwain seeds the next day at an Indian grocer. Next time.

This is a special Saturday-night in curry.

Unique as I said. Special. Just special and oh wow wonderful.

Ingredients

Xacuti Masala

6 Kashmiri red dried chillies, chopped
1 c dried coconut flakes
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp ajwain (carom) seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp black poppy seeds (substitute black sesame seeds)
7 cloves
1 tbsp black peppercorns
5cm piece of cinnamon stick
4 star anise
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

For the curry

8 skinless chicken thighs
2 tsp rapeseed oil (canola)*
1 tsp black mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
2 onions, finely chopped
2 green bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
2 c chicken stock (I suggest 1/2c)
1 1/2 tamarind paste or concentrate
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 c coriander, finely chopped
Salt, to taste

Method

  1. Start by making the Xacuti masala: in a dry frypan, toast the Kashmiri chillies for about a minute, turning regularly until fragrant. Place in a bowl of warm water to soak for 30 minutes.
  2. Toast the coconut flakes until lightly browned and set aside.
  3. Toast the cumin, coriander, ajwain seeds, fennel and poppy seeds, the cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick and star anise over a medium-heat until fragrant and warm to the touch. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
  4. When the chillies are soft, drain them reserving the soaking water, then blend them with the coconut flakes and the rest of the masala ingredients along with a little of the chilli soaking water to make a paste. (If the soaking water is too bitter, use fresh water instead.)
  5. Pour the paste over the chicken in a large bowl and mix to coat. Marinate for as long as you can: overnight if possible.
  6. Heat the oil in a large frypan over a high-heat and when bubbling, adding the mustard seeds, stirring until they pop. Reduce the heat and add the curry leaves and cook for 30 seconds. Add the onions and fry for 5 minutes until soft, lightly browned and translucent. Stir in the chillies, then the chicken and all the marinade.
  7. Stir well to cover the chicken in the marinade and onion mixture; add the stock and cook down to a gravy.
  8. Stir in the tamarind and nutmeg and season. Stir in the coriander, season with salt and serve.

* We have doubled down on our oils this year and it makes a difference. Of course. Coconut oil, especially mustard oil. Canola will make the cut here, though do yourself the favour and invest in some Grapeseed oil. Doesn’t burn, no flavour, great for this sort of thing.

Adam Liaw’s Barramundi Curry with Tomato Coconut

Serves: 4

I’ve previously written about what a big fan I am of Adam Liaw.

Brilliant cook. Funniest Twitter account. Genuinely lovely guy.

And so there I am during Sydney’s Covid lockdown; in-line in a Chinese grocer and who walks up behind me, but Adam Liaw.

So I introduce myself and tell him what a fan I am of his; that I have purchased several of his latest book for friends.

He politely thanks me.

Clutching snake beans, I explain that I accidentally purchased garlic chives the day before and ho ho ho, what an easy mistake that is right?

And he gives me that look: no it isn’t moron. Only you could make that mistake.

Anyway, still a fan and yes, it was a moron mistake.

In keeping with all of Adam Liaw’s recipes, this one is a keeper. A total keeper.

A wonderful coming together of Malaysian and Indian flavours as he puts it.

We had this mid-week as a date night and didn’t we have a great evening! This dish and a bottle of cold white were big contributors.

Ingredients

1/4 c vegetable oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
4 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon quill
10 curry leaves
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2cm ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 large green chillies, sliced
2 coriander plants, leaves picked, stalks and roots roughly chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tbsp tamarind puree
400ml coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
10 okra, trimmed (optional and omitted)
750gm skinless barramundi fillets

Method

  1. Heat a large frypan or saucepan over a medium heat and add the oil. Add the fennel seeds, peppercorns, cardamom and cinnamon and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the curry leaves, and stir for 10 seconds. Add the onion, garlic, chillies, plus the coriander stalks and roots and stir well.
  2. Cook for about 4 minutes until the mix is fragrant but the onion is not yet coloured, then add the ground coriander, turmeric and chilli powder. Stir well, then add the tomatoes, tamarind, coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar plus a splash of water* and simmer for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the okra (if using) and simmer for another 10 minutes, then add the barramundi and simmer until cooked through: about 6 minutes. Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary, then scatter with the coriander leaves and serve.

*Nat and I did a virtual cooking class with Neil Perry during Sydney’s lockdown and the most prominent comment from the 750 or so Instagram participants was “slow down”. And it wasn’t that we did not have the ingredients ready.

The issue was cooking time.

Neil’s induction was putting our gas hobs to shame.

And it is why I assume so many chefs ask for a cup of water to be added to a dish and then reduced in 10 minutes. Because they can… and we can’t.

I’m subscribed to the view that you add water as you go rather than reducing large quantities of it. Because it always takes multiples of what you are told it should take time wise. And with respect to Adam, adding a cup of water at this stage meant another 15 minutes frantically trying to bring this back over a very high heat.

Lara Dunson’s Burmese Coconut Rice

Serves: 4

Lara Dunston is a Cambodian food and travel writer: she also makes a solid coconut rice, something Nat whipped up to accompany a great Burmese Chicken Curry we had last weekend.

Nothing says you’ve made an effort than a rice that has colour, or additional elements, or both.

This is one such rice, perfect for any Southern Asian curry.

Ingredients

3 c jasmine rice
1 c coconut milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
4 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
4 bay leaves

Method

  1. Rinse the rice until the water runs clear then transfer to the rice cooker. (We cooked in the microwave).
  2. Pour coconut milk into the rice cooker and then water until it reaches the 3 cup measure.
  3. Add vegetable oil, shallots, salt, spices and bay leaves and combine well.
  4. Cook until the rice is cooked through and then rest for 10 minutes.

Burmese Lemongrass Chicken Curry

Serves: 2

Last Saturday night, Nat did this curry with a coconut rice.

We wanted something quick, easy and healthy: we were already up to our eyeballs in cooking prepping for Sunday.

Neither of us had high expectations, though wow. It was awesome.

It is the spice that really does it. Hard to put my finger on it, though the heat was so focused and simple. The aromatics from the lemongrass immediately followed.

One mouthful in, Nat said I wouldn’t type it, though two in, I challenged this. Three mouthfuls and we both agreed that it was traditional, wonderful and needed to stick around.

Just make sure you accompany it with the coconut rice.

Ingredients

250gm chicken breast cut into 4cm pieces
3 sticks lemongrass, bruised
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 tomatoes finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1cm ginger, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 1/2 tsp fish sauce
1 1/2 tsp palm sugar
1/2 tsp turmeric

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large wok and add the shallots and garlic and fry until translucent.
  2. Add half of the tomatoes and cook over a medium-high heat until soft. Add the remaining tomatoes and repeat.
  3. Add the ginger and lemongrass. Stir fry until the sauce becomes a richer, deeper red colour. Then add the chilli powder, turmeric, fish sauce and palm sugar and stir.
  4. Add the chicken pieces with 1 1/2 c water and mix. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, The cover and simmer on a medium heat for 10 minutes. Finish the curry by removing the lid and allowing the sauce to cook down and thicken (approximately another 15 minutes).
  5. Remove the lemongrass pieces and serve with steamed rice.

Roast Ocean Trout with Chilli-Turmeric Paste

Serves: 4

This recipe is awesome.

Think a good lashing of a wonderful, oily paste on a thick piece of ocean trout (or salmon), roasted at a high temperature.

Served hot with a drizzle of coconut cream and a squeeze of lime, this is what you would call vibrant. I mean, ocean trout in any setting is the finest of the fish, though add this wonderful paste and this is just moorish.

It would be just as good with barramundi or even chicken breast.

Just make sure you have a glass of cold, crisp white ready to go!

Ingredients

4 fillets of ocean trout
Coconut cream, for drizzling
Lime wedges and steamed rice, to serve

Spice paste

4 long red chillies, seeds removed
1 lemongrass stalk, white part, finely chopped
10gm piece of turmeric, coarsely chopped
1 small golden shallot
2 tsp dry-roasted, coarsely ground coriander seeds
1/4 c olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 240C. For spice paste, using a hand-blender, blitz ingredients with a pinch of salt until smooth.
  2. Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add spice paste and stir until lightly roasted (1 – 2 minutes), then set aside to cool.
  3. Spread spice paste over fish and bake until just cooked through (8 minutes for medium-rare). To finish, drizzle fish with coconut cream and squeezed lime juice. Serve with rice.

Dan Toombs’ Pakistani Dry Meat Curry

Serves: 4

This is an incredible curry. Hall of fame sort of stuff.

It’s from Dan Toombs’ latest book – The Curry Guy Bible – recommended to me by my mate Rich and what a great book.

There is literally nothing I don’t want to try and based on this dry meat curry cooked by Nat, I am going to cook it all.

I’ve typed up a few dry curries and they are my favourite. Cooking the sauce down until you really don’t have sauce at all.

For many, I appreciate that this defeats the purpose of a curry, though just trust me.

With this particular curry, once the meat is tender and at the point of starting to breakdown, together with the spices, the fried onions and the reduced marinade, my word. Read through the method and get excited.

Add then add this dry meat curry to your cooking shortlist and prepare to be blown away.

Ingredients

900gm lamb leg meat, cut into bite sized pieces
3/4 c ghee (we used 2 tbsp to be healthy)
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp garam masala
2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder*
1 tbsp fenugreek leaves**
Salt, to taste
4 tbsp chopped coriander to garnish
3 limes, quartered, to serve

For the marinade

1/4 c white vinegar
1/2 c Greek yoghurt
1 1/2 tsp (chickpea) flour
2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste***
8 (green) bird’s eye chillies, blended to a paste with a drop of water
2 tbsp mustard oil****

Method

  1. Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a large mixing bowl until creamy smooth. Add the meat and mix well with your hands to ensure it is nicely coated and marinate for 3 hours or overnight – the longer the better.
  2. When ready to start cooking, bring 1 litre of water to the boil and add the lamb chunks with all the marinade and stir well. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour until the lamb is tender. You want to be left with a cup of cooking stock at the end of the step. Tip the cooked meat and remaining liquid into a bowl.
  3. Now, using the same pan, melt the ghee over a high heat and add the onions. Fry for about 15 minutes or until the onions are a deep brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer half the onions to a separate bowl.
  4. Reduce the meat to medium high and stir in the garam masala and chilli powder and return the set aside onions to the pan. Now add the meat and remaining broth to the pan and cook until the broth has almost evaporated. Turn up the heat to high and flash fry the meat until it is crispy and the ghee is starting to separate from the other ingredients.
  5. Add the fenugreek leaves by rubbing the leaves between your fingers into the pan and season with salt. When you are testing the meat for seasoning, it is very easy to continue snacking, so try not to do that too much! Garnish with coriander and serve with lime wedges.

* Much more subtle than chilli powder so hunt it out.
** Order from Herbies.
*** Blend equal parts garlic and chilli with a little water.
**** Worth the investment.

Dan Toombs’ Keema Pau Samosa

Serves: 4 as part of a meal

Dan Toombs doesn’t specifically make a Keema Pau Samosa.

Though he does make samosas. And he does make the Keema Pau.

And so I chose to bring them together and I am giving him pretty much all of the credit.

I made these as part of a bigger lunch and the boys – 13 and 10 – literally wolfed them down and asked for more to be made.

They’re not revolutionary. Keema never is.

Though they are as good as I have had.

Note, I skipped making the samosa pastry and went for store-bought shortcrust.

I also baked these samosas rather than (shallow) frying them. Hundreds of videos on how to fold samosas and so I’ll leave that for you.

Ingredients

500gm minced lamb
5 tbsp canola oil
2.5cm cinnamon stick
3 cardamom pods, bruised
500gm onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste*
1/2 tsp ground tumeric
1 very generous tbsp garam masala**
Generous handful of coriander
4 birds eye chillies
1/4 c frozen baby peas
1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves***
Salt, to taste
Shortcrust pastry
1 egg
Mint yoghurt to serve

Method

  1. Mix the minced lamb with 2 cups of water and break it up with your hands until the mixture is about the same consistency as porridge. (This will help achieve a smooth keema without any lumps.) Set aside.
  2. In a large pan or wok, heat the oil over a medium-high heat and when visibly hot, stir in the cinnamon and cardamom pods and let the flavours of the spices infuse in the oil for 30 seconds. Add the onion and fry for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion turns light brown. Stir in the garlic and ginger paste and fry for an additional 30 seconds and then tip in the meat/water mixture. Cook until the water is evaporated.
  3. Add the turmeric and garam masala and stir well to combine and simmer.
  4. In the meantime, blend the coriander and chillies with 1/4 cup of water until smooth and add to the pan; continue to cook, remembering that this needs to be a dry mixture. Add the peas and cook for a few minutes more.
  5. Finally, add the dried fenugreek leaves, breaking them up as you go. Continue to cook until the oil separates from the meat. Season with salt.
  6. Make an egg wash, heap a tablespoon of the mixture into the pastry and fold the samosas one by one, using the egg wash to seal. (I didn’t egg wash all over though will next time.)
  7. Bake until golden brown.

* Mince equal parts garlic and ginger with a small amount of water.

** I ended up adding at least two tbsp. Taste and go from there.

*** Order from Herbies.

Christine Manfield’s Cauliflower & Potato Curry

Serves: 4

I have definitely subscribed to the view that vegetarian Indian is the best Indian.

This particular curry tells you why.

Just so, so good.

The mustard oil (don’t cut this corner). The fried cauliflower. The curd.

Served along a brilliant Christine Manfield Mughlai Chicken, this absolutely took the night over the line.

(And for breakfast with some rice the next morning: stop it!)

Ingredients

4 tbsp mustard oil
200gm cauliflower florets
2 cloves
3 green cardamom pods, cracked
250gm, diced and parboiled
8 curry leaves
2 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
2 small ripe tomatoes, finely diced
150gm curd (drained yoghurt)
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp chopped mint leaves
3 tsp chopped coriander leaves

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the cauliflower for 2 minutes until just starting to colour. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon.
  2. In the same pan, fry the cloves, cardamom, ginger and curry leaves for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the potato, tossing to combine and coat with the spices. Return the cauliflower to the pan and toss to combine. Stir through the ground spices, salt and sugar.
  3. Add 2 cups of water and bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the tomato and simmer gently for 10 minutes or until the potato is soft.
  4. Add the curd and simmer gently for another 3 minutes. Season with garam masala and garnish with mint and coriander.

Christine Manfield’s Mughlai Chicken

Serves: 4

Christine Manfield‘s Mughlai Chicken is just another brilliant curry from her wonderful book, Tasting India.

It was just luscious, so unique and perfectly executed by Nat. Local Indian restaurant this is not.

Served alongside another wonderful cauliflower and potato curry, we had an old friend over for dinner, decanted a cracking red and had a memorable Saturday night in.

Doesn’t get much better than this.

Ingredients

1 tbsp vegetable oil
50gm finely sliced white onion
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp minced ginger
2tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
500gm chicken thigh, cut into 2cm cubes
100gm thick plain yoghurt, whisked
300ml white chicken stock
3 tsp mint chutney
50gm finely chopped spinach leaves
100gm spinach puree
2 tsp salt
20 fried curry leaves, slightly crushed
1 tsp ghee, melted

Mint Chutney

100gm mint leaves
75gm coriander leaves
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 small green chilli, minced
2 tsp minced ginger
5 tbsp thick plain yoghurt
2 red shallots, finely diced
2 tsp chat masala
1/2 tsp sea salt
Pinch of chilli powder

Method

Mint chutney

Blend the mint, coriander, lemon juice, chilli and ginger to make a smooth paste. Stir in the yoghurt, shallot, chat masala, salt and chilli powder. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Spinach puree

Blanch spinach leaves in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain and chop then puree in a food processor.

Fried curry leaves

Heat some vegetable oil to 170c and fry fresh curry leaves in small batches for 20 seconds

The Curry

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli over a high heat until softened. Add the chicken and toss to combine. Fry for a minute and then add the yoghurt.
  2. When the mixture starts to simmer, add the stock. Bring back to the simmer and then stir through the chutney and spinach leaves. Cook for 10 minutes until the chicken is tender and the gravy reduced.
  3. Add the spinach puree and salt and stir until combined and heated through. Stir in the curry leaves and ghee and serve with steamed rice.