Saturday, 27 October 2012

Chicken and banana curry

I have a very lazy relationship with curry. I either go out to eat it, or I order in a takeaway - both on the basis that it'll be far superior to my own efforts. I have a jar of balti paste in the cupboard for when I do decide to rustle up a curry of my own, particularly if I have ripe tomatoes that need eating. And once in a while I make this.

Years ago my parents used to make a chicken and banana curry from a recipe book, but it wasn't particularly tasty as it used a standard curry powder blend. Despite my laziness, I did learn a bit about curry spices some years back and I'm confident that this is an upmarket recreation of that dish from my teens. If you can be bothered it's well worth experimenting - whole spices vastly improve a curry, but South Asians already know that!

I like the combination of chicken and banana as I'm not keen on very hot curries - this produces something milder, slightly sweet and more aromatic. It's not quick - you need about an hour from start to finish, but for soothing, warming comfort food it's hard to beat. Makes 2 portions, on the grounds that curry often tastes better the day after.

What you need: 
Vegetable oil
2 skinless chicken thighs
An inch of cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
6 cardamon pods, lightly crushed
6 crushed black peppercorns
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
an inch of fresh ginger, grated
1 small onion, diced
1/2 pint chicken stock
1 small green pepper, sliced
2 medium ripe bananas, thickly sliced
A handful of roughly chopped fresh coriander

What to do: 
Prep all the spices first and chop the vegetables. Heat a splash of vegetable oil in a sauteuse on a medium hob and brown the chicken thighs. Set aside, add a little more oil if the pan looks dry then fry the whole spices until they release their aromas.

Add the ginger, garlic and onion and fry until the onion starts to soften - about 5 minutes. Pour the chicken stock in, then add the chicken thighs, banana and green pepper. Stir well and turn up the heat until it starts to bubble gently. Then turn the heat back down, put a lid on, and leave to simmer gently for about 45 minutes.

Plate up - sprinkle the chopped coriander over the curry and add a portion of basmati rice on the side.

Cook's tips:
This works just as well with chicken fillet - if you're in a hurry, it'll cook in about 30 minutes.

Don't use bananas that are very ripe else they will break down completely and you want to have some texture from the fruit even while it's melted into the sauce. And don't swap the green pepper for red or yellow - it will make the curry too sweet. If you prefer more heat, substitute a fresh green chilli, finely chopped, for the mustard seeds.

You can turn this into a korma by using half stock and half coconut milk, plus a tablespoon of ground almonds and a few sultanas.