Recently I had a rare evening all to myself. With both my daughter and wife off to an event, I had an entire evening – including supper for one – to myself.
This is a situation where a lot of people – quite understandably – just mail it in. Out come the pizza pops or canned soup, take out pizza or God forbid, a box of mac and cheese. Wasn’t it George Costanza who’s dream vacation was being home alone with a block of cheese the size of a car battery?
For me, however, this is where I take the opportunity to either experiment with a new dish or make something wildly spicy that I love and I know the rest of the family doesn’t like, namely things with lots and lots of chilies.
Since my daughter was born eight years ago, my curry consumption is a shadow of its former glory but man, I still love the stuff and jump at the opportunity to aromatize the house with it, even if I’m the only one in it on this particular day.
I like making curries from whole seeds and spices, partly because the flavour is far better than with a standard curry powder but also because it’s a methodical process I really enjoy. It’s an interesting, relaxing journey through layer after layer of flavour as it builds toward the final dish. Dumping a spoonful of curry powder into a stew just doesn’t compare.
The idea here is to slowly activate the flavour of the whole seeds and spices with a sauté in oil before finally adding the wet ingredients.
Give this method a try and by all means, experiment with it’s endless variations. If you make a mistake with it, there’s always that block of cheese.
Note: start by preparing the rice then make the curry. Both should be ready at about the same time.
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups water or chicken stock
good pinch of salt
Add the rice to a large bowl and cover with two inches of water. Let stand for 20 minutes and then drain well in a fine strainer under running water to wash away excess starch. Meanwhile, bring the two cups of water or stock to a boil over medium high heat and add a good pinch of salt. Add the drained and rinsed rice to the pot and bring back to the boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook gently for 12 minutes then remove from heat to continue to steam for 10-15 minutes before removing the cover. Fluff with a fork and serve.
Chicken curry for one
Note: I use Grace brand creamed coconut which you can find in a small box in the imported food aisle of most large grocery stores.
1 tbsp vegetable oil
pinch whole cumin seeds
1 whole clove
1 1-inch piece of cinnamon
4 cardamom pods (crack them with the flat side of knife)
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground to a powder.
1 teaspoon hot Kashmiri chili powder or other Indian hot chili powder, or 3 small hot chilies, ground to powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric
salt and pepper
2 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and finely sliced
1 cup water or chicken stock
1 tablespoon creamed coconut
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon toasted almonds (optional)
Heat the oil in a medium or large fry pan over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the cumin seeds, clove, cinnamon and cardamom pods. Let simmer for a couple of minutes to activate the flavours. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté another minute. Grind the coriander seeds (and chilies if necessary) in a mortar and pestle and add them to the pan along with the turmeric, salt and pepper. Saute another minute. Add the tomatoes, carrot, water or chicken stock and creamed coconut. Bring to a simmer. Add the cubed chicken and continue gently simmering for 15-20 minutes to blend all flavours and cook the chicken. Serve with rice, garnished with fresh cilantro and toasted almonds.