Healthy Kick-Ass Curry
Whilst admittedly this recipe is in no way “traditional” (I’ve given up trying to be that a long time ago) this curry is probably best described as a Western interpretation on classic Indian flavours. It has all the favourites you’d expect in there, chilli, garlic, ginger, cumin…and some extras for good measure. It has all the characteristics of a cracking curry - your fingers will smell for days having cooked it, it warms the back of the throat without burning it and if spilt down your front it will most certainly stain for life. That much I can guarantee.
My delicious aunty has lived in New Delhi for some 15 years now and has travelled much of the country. She is herself a passionate cook and I in fact owe a lot of my fascination with cooking to her. I vividly remember as a child, her boozy soirees with friends at her house in Brighton; where the standard of the dishes slowly declined as the evening progressed and the wine increased. Her house was always full of hungry revellers, loud music and platters laden with food. I longed to be older so I could join in the fun and eat fancy sounding foods like bouillabaisse and zabaglione.
A few Christmases ago I cornered said aunty on one of her visits back to the motherland and demanded a masterclass on India’s finest. Now, she is a dedicated pescatarian, so this recipe does not originate from her..and truth be told, I’ve sadly forgotten most of the lesson. One thing I do remember though, is the “trilogy”. This is the base of all good curry dishes, so I’m told, and consists of fresh chillies, garlic and ginger - in any amount that your tastebuds and stomach can tolerate. For this dish I went with a fairly safe - two - red birds eye chillies, with seeds. You can experiment however you like. Good luck and God speed to you.
Here I wanted to create a lighter and healthier version of your average curry, so I roped in the lovely Alex Crockford who is somewhat of a big deal in the fitness industry. He is a local guy, who I know of through a mutual friend, and he impressed me with the way he seems to care about a wholistic approach to healthy living. He’s not just about squats and bench presses (although there is a lot of that going on) he considers nutrition, mental well-being, self care and all the good stuff that contributes to having a healthy mind and body. That is what I’m talking about.
We removed heavy creams in favour of coconut milk and replaced vegetable oil with organic coconut oil. Then rather than eliminating, we thought about how much good stuff we could add into the dish so that it packed as much of a nutrient punch as well as a flavour one. This is why I suggest serving it with the brown rice instead of your usual basmati, which is high in fibre, vitamins and minerals. It is also a complex carb, so it is a slower releasing sugar which keeps you full and energised for longer - double bonus. I also like to serve this with a side of pickled tomatoes, red onion, cucumber and fresh coriander - which is basically all of those things diced up, then mixed with a generous splash of red wine vinegar, olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. This adds a welcome freshness, which lightens the whole meal and cuts through the creaminess of the curry.
Finely dice the chillies, two cloves of garlic and a half thumb sized piece of fresh ginger and mash to a paste in a pestle and mortar. Add a heaped teaspoon of the organic coconut oil to loosen the mixture.
Dice the chicken into evenly sized pieces and set aside. I used three breasts to serve two hungry souls.
Heat a heavy based cast iron pan on the stove on a medium-high heat and add the magic trilogy until fragrant (and your eyes start to sting from the fumes).
Next add a finely diced brown onion and turn the heat down slightly so you soften the onions rather than burning them. Cook them until they are tender and stir regularly so they don’t catch on the bottom of the pan.
Next add the spice mix - which is a heaped teaspoon of Garam Masala, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/4 tsp cumin seeds and 1/4 tsp chilli powder. Stir to evenly combine the spices and the onions.
Once this is nicely toasted, add the diced chicken and cook until browned.
Pour in one 400ml can of coconut milk (not coconut cream). I used the full fat version rather than the light - because it’s a “good fat” after all.
Turn the heat to low and simmer for about five minutes, before adding a Knorr chicken stock pot. Call me crazy, but I find this adds so much richness it’s well worth the addition.
Let the curry bubble away until the desired consistency is reached. I like my curry quite “saucy” so you may need to add a splash of water to loosen the dish if it reduces too much.
Meanwhile cook your brown rice (half a cup per person) and drain.
Laden your curry on top of the rice and garnish with flaked toasted almonds and fresh coriander. Serve your pickle on the side and tuck in!
This really is such a satisfyingly familiar and tasty curry dish, and it’s light enough that you could easily have it on a weekly basis completely guilt free. Unless you’re pairing it with a bucket of beer and poppadoms, in which case I’d reconsider.
If you want to mix it up you could do a fish version of this quite easily. I’d suggest using a meaty fish like cod or pollock and prawns as they will retain their structure rather than flaking away to nothing. If you are doing this version, follow the steps above but add the fish at the end and almost poach them in the liquor until cooked through (about 4-5 minutes).
Hoping this dish warms you up from the inside out as winter descends upon us and, as always, let me know how you get on!