Wicked Chicken Korma

I made this on the fly for dinner the other night, and didn't write it down at the time, but it went something like this:

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 thumb-size piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • Butter and oil, or ghee
  • 4 small boneless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
  • 2 handfuls raw shelled pistachios
  • 1 handful vanilla-soaked dried apricots (or organic apricots and a teaspoon of vanilla extract, or half a bean)
  • 2 tablespoons ground cardamom
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 small tin coconut milk
  • Chicken stock
  • Small tub creme fraiche
  • Ground almonds
  • 2 hard bananas
  • More butter
  • A tub of dry crispy fried onions

In a big heavy pan, melt the garlic, ginger and onion in the fat, slowly. Soften but not colour. Add the chicken, nuts, apricots, and spices. Stew gently and stir until the chicken is coated in the spices and cooked on the outside. Add the coconut milk and enough chicken stock to cover. Cover and simmer gently for up to a couple of hours, if you can, but at least half an hour. Take the lid off and mash the apricots into the sauce. Simmer again for at least another half an hour, longer if possible. Top up with water if necessary. When you're getting close to serving time, add the creme fraiche and stir in. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of ground almonds on the top and stir in well. This will thicken the sauce, let the first lot swell and do its work before adding more if you want thicker sauce. Watch it as the thicker it gets, the quicker it's likely to catch and scorch. While that's happening, chop the bananas into chunks and fry quickly in butter until golden.

Serve the chicken with the bananas on top, a sprinkling of fried onions, and some plain rice or naan bread to soak up the sauce. We had it with lamb stewed for hours in a low oven with tomatoes and hotter spices, and an aubergine and red pepper madras.

If you can't find the onions in your regular ethnic stores, try the IKEA food shop, or make your own by finely shredding shallots, frying in light hot oil until crisp, and draining well. Dry on paper towels. Or don't bother – a bit of crunch adds a nice texture but it isn't necessary.

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Crusader Salmon

An old idea, and I've usually followed the Glynn Christian version for a whole salmon. But there were only three of us, so I changed it a bit. Well, quite a lot, actually.

Start with 5 – 6 indiividual fillet boneless portions of salmon, skin off, and lay on a foil-covered baking tray, that's been drizzled with a little olive oil. Heat the oven to Gas Mark 5, and the grill to high.

Take:

  • 3 knobs of stem ginger in syrup
  • 2 tbsps the ginger syrup
  • 2 tbsps lemon juice
  • half a lemon, peel shredded
  • 50 gms shelled pistachios
  • 1 onion that's been baked slowly for a long time
  • ground cinnamon, allspice, paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic puree

Whizz in a processor the first three ingredients, to a rough mix. Tip out and mix with the peel, grind the pistachios coarsely and add. Whizz the onion to a coarse paste (this happens really fast, watch it), and stir in with the spices, tasting as you go. You want sharp, sweet, slightly hot. It will be v. wet. Add salt-and-sugar-free muesli, sprinkling on a bit at a time until it feels like porridge and looks like it will hold together well. If you're using a muesli base, you probably need some raisins or sultanas.

Spread the topping on the fillets to make a crust. Cook 10 -12 mins in the oven, then under the grill to crisp the topping and make it nice and brown. This took 5 – 7 minutes. We had a mix of thick but narrow pieces, and wide flat ones. The thick ones had less topping per portion, but the salmon was done about right. The wide ones were surplus to requirements, and are in the fridge.

Served with plain boiled rice and some fresh green beans stir-fried in a garlic and chicken stock sauce, with toasted flaked almonds.

Didn't really need a sauce as the topping was so moist inside, but maybe a wetter vegetable dish to go with it? or a more pilau style of rice.

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Curried Fish with Pistachio

Tonight we tried a new DrGourmet recipe, Pistachio Crusted Grouper Braised in Curry . Grouper isn't easily available over here, but our fishmonger had caught it in Florida, and recommended if we were after something similar but not too ordinary, we could try barramundi. And very edible it was too. The basic recipe involves coating 2 x 4oz fillets of fish in 3/4 oz pistachio nuts, ground, and baking in a very hot oven (gas mark 9) in a sprayed pre-heated skillet, 8 – 10 minutes, turning once.

Meanwhile you heat in the microwave:

 

1/4 cup grapefruit juice
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 tsp. salt
  fresh ground black pepper
1 pinch grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. curry powder
1/8 tsp garam masala
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. fresh lime juice

and pour it over the fish and bake for about another 4 minutes.

I was quite concerned as I don't usually think curry spices do well unless dry-fried or heated in oil first. And the amount of acid looked a bit iffy. I left out the salt as I use bottled chicken stock concentrate which is salty anyway. When I took the fish out of the oven the sauce had dried away, and had to be resurrected with some additional hot water. I'd tipped the remainder of the pistachios from the fish-coating plate in with it, and it was definitely trying hard to be a korma. It was vaguely curry-tasting, but overall a bit bland – a lot of his curries are far too mild for British tastes. We'll definitely have it again, but I'll pick a more robust fish, monkfish would do well I think, or just a plain white fish block. The remainder of the nuts could be ground finer and heated with the sauce separately to thicken it more, and keep it softer. The fish coating would have been crunchier, which would have made more it more interesting in terms of texture. Extra heat, either from some fresh chilli in the sauce, extra curry powder, or some dried chilli flakes in the pistachio coating.

We had plain basmati rice with it, and some melon on the side because I couldn't be bothered to do a real fresh chutney or raita. It does need a fresh savoury crunch with it though, something with tomatoes and red onion maybe. And you could blitz a load of fresh coriander into the sauce to make a pesto-sort-of-thing. You've got plenty of calories to play with, the fish dish comes in at 204 per serving.

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