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.

The New Roast Chicken

Serves: 4

I cooked this recipe – originally from Delicious Magazine – years ago and it is really just so impressive. Really rewarding.

It’s a roast chicken on Monday night.

Ingredients

1/3 c olive oil
3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp chopped thyme leaves
4 skinless breast fillets
12 slices flat pancetta
4 slices sourdough bread
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/3 c flat-leaf parsley
40gm unsalted butter
1 tbsp plain flour
1 c white wine
2 c chicken stock
2 tbsp dry sherry or white wine
Steamed green beans to serve

Method

  1. Combine 2 tbsp olive oil in a bowl with 1 crushed garlic clove and thyme leaves. Season the chicken breasts and coat in garlic oil. Wrap each breast with 3 slices of pancetta slightly overlapping. Enclose chicken in plastic wrap and chill for 2 – 3 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190c. Break bread into rough pieces and i and toss in 1 tbsp oil. Place on a baking tray in a single layer and cook for 10 minutes or until golden and crisp. Cool slightly and pulse in a food processor with lemon zest parsley and remaining garlic until you have coarse crumbs. Season.
  3. Heat remaining 1 tbsp oil in an ovenproof frypan over a medium-high heat. Remove chicken from plastic wrap and cook, turning for 2 – 3 minutes until browned all over, then cook in the oven for 10 – 12 minute or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the oven, add butter to the pan and baste chicken with the melted butter. Remove chicken from the pan and cover with foil while you make the gravy.
  4. Return frypan to medium heat and cook flour, stirring for 1 minute until lightly browned. Add wine and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, then add stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes until the gravy is thickened. Add sherry to taste. Slice chicken and serve with gravy and green beans, scattered with breadcrumbs.

David Tanis’ Braised Chicken with Lemon and Olives

Serves: 4 – 6

I love a simple recipe that comes good and this one simply delivers.

It’s a bake (✅), it’s reasonably healthy (✅) and it’s easy (✅).

Though it’s the richness of wonderful Mediterranean flavour that truly gets it over the line. (✅).

It is better than the seeming sum of its parts and bravo for it.

The richness of the reserved stock, the break apart chicken… and those olives.

This is a mid-week meal that will set the clock forward to Friday when the cooking can commence. It’s just that good, that fun and that successful.

Paired with a salad of greens, red onion, tomato, maybe some cucumber and plenty of oregano and a good vinaigrette: I reckon only a bottle of chilled red along-side could better it.

Lock next Wednesday evening in and the road to the weekend just got much easier.

And chill that red.

Ingredients

8 chicken thighs (ideally skin-on and bone in)
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp crushed fennel seeds
1 tbsp roughly chopped rosemary
1 tbsp olive oil
2 lemons, cut into 8 wedges each
1 c olives, black and green pitted
1 c chicken stock
3 tbsp chopped parsley to serve

Method

  1. Pat chicken thighs dry with paper towels. Season well with salt and pepper and place in a baking dish one layer, (skin) side up. Sprinkle with red pepper, garlic, fennel and rosemary and drizzle with olive oil. Rub seasoning on all sides. Tuck lemon wedges here and there, marinating for 15 minutes. Heat the oven to 190c.
  2. Put the baking dish in the oven for 20 minutes uncovered (or until the skin, if you have it, starts to brown). Scatter olives over evenly and then pour over the stock. Cover tightly and bake for 1 hour.
  3. Remove thighs and lemon wedges and arrange on a platter and keep warm. Pour pan juices into a saucepan and quickly skim fat from the surface. Over high heat, simmer rapidly until reduced by half. Spoon juices over the chicken, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Gary Mehigan’s Karaage Chicken Burgers with Onion Slaw and Wasabi Mayo

Makes: 4

When it comes to burgers, we absolutely love it when we stumble on a burger that breaks into our top burgers of all time.* We can’t stop smiling.

And so here is one of those burgers, plated by my mother at a recent American-themed lunch. (And yes, I get that this burger, other than the bun and the fried chicken is the antithesis of an American burger!)

In his book, Gary references a time on Masterchef with Gordon Ramsay where Gordon was unimpressed by a challenge where contenstants plated up all manner of burgers; though where none of them were conventional or centered around a traditional patty.

As Gary says, Gordon might be right, though he hasn’t had this burger.

(Gordon is wrong. This is an excellent, excellent burger.)

Ingredients

4 chicken thighs
1/2 c katakuriko potato starch
1 c panko breadcrumbs
Peanut or sunflower oil for shallow-frying
4 soft brioche-style burger buns
1 ripe avacado, sliced
2 c mizuna or rocket leaves

Chicken marinade

2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin
2 tsp finely grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, grated

Onion slaw

1 white onion, thinly sliced
1 c shredded daikon
1 tbsp pickled ginger, finely chopped
1/4 c rice vinegar

Wasabi mayonaise

1/3 c Kewpie mayonnaise
2 – 3 tsp wasabi paste (depending on taste)

Method

  1. To make the marinade, combine the ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the chicken and stir through to coat. Cover and marinade in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, for the onion slaw. combine all the ingredients and set aside. For the mayo, combine the ingredients and refridgerate until using.
  3. Combine the potato startch and panko crumbs in a bowl, then add the chicken pieces and mix thoroughly with your hands to coat.
  4. Prepare a tray with a wire rack and tongs and set to one side in preparation to fry the chicken, Pour oil into a deep frying pan to a depth of 1.5cm, then heat over a medium-high heat until the oil reaches 160c. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain the temperature.
  5. Gently lower the chicken pieces into the hot oil with the tongs ad cook for 6 – 8 minutes, turning halfway, until evenly cooked through and crispy. You can check to see if the chicken is cooked using a thermometer – it should read above 65c. Lift the chicken from the oil with the tongs and place on a wire rack to drain. (If you feel that the chicken still needs a cooking nudge though you have already have a dark crunchy outside, place in an oven on 180c for a few minutes).
  6. Cut the buns in haf and cook under a grill until golden. Smear the cut side of the top half with a generous dollop of the wasabi mayonnaise. Place a little avacado and slaw on the base, add the crispy chicken, then the greens and sandwich together.

* Those burgers that Nat and I reckon have made that list – that have been absolute homeruns – are:

Anjum Anand’s Best Ever Burger with Spiced Onions
Gordon Ramsay 1-million Subscriber Burger (ironic I know)
Jamie Oliver’s Insanity Burger
Neil Perry’s ‘Hamburger’ (my favourite)

Ajoy Joshi’s Pepper and Garlic Chicken

Serves: 4 – 6

Another cracking Ajoy Joshi recipe, where according to Ajoy, this recipe began life at the Nagarjuna Restaurant in Bangalore where it is renowned for this Tamil Nadu dish.

The steaming of the chicken is clever, finishing it in ghee (Ajoy asks for oil and unsalted butter) until golden.

We served this on steamed rice with mint sauce, lots of chutney and coriander… and it was excellent. It reminded us of eating Nilgiri’s (Ajoy’s wonderful lower North Shore restaurant) and on that basis, it has to be typed.

Ingredients

1 cinnamon stick, about 7.5cm long
2 tsp green cardamom pods
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1/3 c chopped fresh coriander
36 fresh curry leaves
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
1 fresh mild long green chilli, finely chopped
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp tamarind concentrate
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
1kg skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and halved crosswise
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 unsalted butter (N.B. We substituted oil/butter with ghee)
Mango pickle/chutney to serve
Steamed rice to serve
Coriander to serve
Mint sauce to serve

Method

  1. In a spice grinder, combine cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns and grind to a fine powder. Transfer ground spices to a small food processor and add coriander, curry leaves, juice of 1 lemon, chilli, garlic, ginger, tamarind, turmeric, and salt. Process until a paste forms.
  2. Place chicken pieces in a non-reactive bowl. Add remaining juice of 1/2 lemon and turn to coat. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add paste and turn chicken to coat well. Set aside for 15 minutes to marinate.
  3. Line a large bamboo steamer with baking paper. Arrange chicken on a single layer on paper, cooking in 2 batches if necessary. Place basket over a wok or other pan of simmering water, Cover and steam until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 12 – 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
  4. In a large frying pan, heat oil and butter (or ghee) over a medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, 1 – 2 minutes per side. Serve with rice, fresh coriander, mint sauce and chutney.

Tony Tan’s Chicken Pepper Stir-fry (Curry)

Serves:4

Holy shit, this dish is amazing.

Amazing.

The heat, the bang, the spices. The whole thing.

We were blown away. It’s part Malaysian, Sri Lankan, maybe Southern Indian. Not sure.

Singaporean?

Though Lordy.

It’s the paste with the coconut. I’m sure of it.

This is a stir-fry curry that you have to do. This is a home run.

When we find a new curry that is so unique, we smile.

This is one of them.

Serve with lots of rice and plenty of white wine and here is your night done.

Ingredients

1/4 c ghee (or vegetable oil)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
3cm ginger, finely shredded
3 green cayenne chillies, thinly sliced
2 onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
500gm chicken thigh, cut into bite sized pieces
Large pinch of black pepper
Juice of half a lime
Extra fried curry leaves to serve

Spice paste

1 tbsp vegetable oil
100gm coarsely grated coconut flesh (or 50gm desiccated coconut)
2 cloves
3 cardamom pods
5 black peppercorns
1cm piece of cinnamon quill
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander

Method

  1. For the spice paste, heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add the coconut, cloves, cardamom pods, peppercorns and cinnamon, and cook, stirring occasionally, until coconut is golden brown. Add ground spices and cook for another minute. Cool and transfer to a blender. Add 200ml water and blend to a fine paste.
  2. Heat ghee or oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add mustard seeds and as soon as they pop, add curry leaves, ginger and green chilli. Cook, stirring frequently until softened: 2 – 3 minutes. Add the onion and cook until golden brown: 2 – 3 minutes. Add garlic, followed by tomatoes and spice paste, stirring each ingredient for a minute, before adding the next one. Season to taste with salt.
  3. Add chicken to the pan and cook until golden. Add 250ml hot water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to, cover pan partially until the chicken is cooked and the sauce is thickened. Serve sprinkled with black pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice and with extra fried curry leaves.

Neil Perry’s Chicken and Macaroni Salad

Serves: 4

This a super simple, super wonderful salad. It has Saturday lunch written all over it.

It is delicious. And whilst the simplicity of the ingredients might not let onto that, it is the simplicity of the ingredients that deliver.

You can buy a cooked chicken to make things easier though I cooked a chicken and it was just a bit more special. Leave the skin on either way.

And Neil’s tip… buy artichokes in olive oil and not brine. Though that’s obvious right!

Ingredients

1.6kg roast chicken, shredded
250gm cooked macaroni, al dente, drained and refreshed under cold water
2 celery stalks, cut into julienne
4 preserved artichoke hearts, thinly sliced
250gm cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 hard boiled eggs, quartered
235gm aioli
1 lemon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Aioli

3 egg yolks
4 garlic cloves, crushed
Sea salt
2 tbsp lemon juice
375ml half olive oil, half extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

(Makes about 400ml)

Method

  1. Place the pasta, celery, artichoke, tomato and egg in a large bowl and gently fold in the aioli.

For the salad

  1. Divide among four plates and top with roast chicken. Squeeze over a little lemon juice, drizzle with oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

For the aioli

  1. Put a saucepan large enough to hold a stainless steel bowl on a bench. Place a tea towel around the inside edge of the pan and place the bowl on top; this will hold the bowl steady while you whisk.
  2. Put the egg yolks in the bowl and whisk. Add the garlic, sea salt and lemon juice and while whisking, drizzle in the oil very slowly. As the emulsion starts to form, add the oil in a steady stream. Don’t let the oil sit on the surface as this can cause the aioli to split. Add a grind of pepper and check the seasoning for salt and lemon juice.
  3. Serve immediately or keep in the fridge for a week.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s One-Pan Crispy Spaghetti and Chicken

Serves: 4

You have to give it to this guy. He is so clever.

And this dish is just that. Like, screw you clever. Like, why didn’t I bloody think of that clever.

Like one-pot-pasta clever, though cleverer than the first batch of one-pot-pastas we were all inundated with five years back.

It’s the simplicity. The rusticity. And the various textures of the spaghetti, from soft to crunchy: the caramelised chicken.

Look at that spaghetti!

And it is fun to dish and eat.

Screw you clever.

It is a weeknight meal though served on a Saturday night with friends, it would absolutely not look out of place.

It is just that fun… and good.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1kg skin-on chicken thighs (4-6)
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1cm dice
3 tbsp tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 c boiling water
230gm spaghetti, broken into thirds
1/3 c lightly packed finely grated Parmesan
3 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 c finely chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 220c.
  2. Add 1 tbsp oil to a large, ovenproof lidded skillet and heat over high. Season the chicken with 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper, then add to the hot oil, skin down. Cook for 7 minutes, without turning, to brown well.
  3. Turn down to medium-high, stir in the onion and turn over the chicken; cook for 5 minutes until the onion has softened and is slightly browned. Add the tomato paste, garlic and 1 tbsp thyme and cook, stirring the paste into the onions for 2 minutes or until fragrant and all browned.
  4. Add the boiling water, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, then add the spaghetti, stirring to submerge and evenly distribute. Lift the chicken pieces so that sit on top of the spaghetti, skin side up. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and transfer to the oven for 30 minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley, lemon zest and remaining thyme.
  6. After the pasta has baked for 30 minutes, remove from the oven and turn the oven to its highest setting and get the grill on. Sprinkle the Parmesan mixture evenly over the chicken, drizzle with the remaining oil and grill for a few minutes until nicely browned and crisp. Set aside for a few minutes and serve straight from the pan.

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.