Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

A few Saturdays ago a friend suggested we meet at Royal India restaurant for their buffet lunch. It only took a few mouthfuls for me to get to my happy place. I don’t get enough Indian food. I know the country, like Italy, is full of different regional cuisines, and I have no idea whether Royal India specializes in one of them. Whatever they do, it was great.

I love the many different, often hard to identify, flavors and aromas of Indian food. I had more than one plate of samosas, dals, rice (pulao), butter chicken, naan, potato patties (aloo tikki, I think) and more I can’t identify or don’t remember.

Years ago, back in Arlington VA, I took an Indian cooking class taught by an older woman from Punjab. Each week we prepared a full dinner and then dined together. Those recipes are still filed away somewhere; it’s time I found them again.

If you Google “curry,” you’ll find lots of recipes. I put together this one after looking at several that featured chicken or cauliflower or okra. I took rough notes on ingredient combinations and typical cooking procedures. I ended up making adjustments as I was cooking.

I know Indian cooking regulars don’t use curry powder in their recipes, instead they toast and grind spices, but my Indian spice collection is long gone and I’m an amateur. However, my friend Jenni Field wrote about a visit to Savory Spice Shop in north Raleigh so perhaps I’ll make a field trip there soon and load up on spices.

There are no hard and fast rules about ingredients; use whatever you have in the vegetable bin that you think will work well together. If you have too many vegetables, you might have to add chicken broth to the pot, like I did, so you have enough liquid for sauce.

I settled on my selection because:

  • I had leftover chicken thighs in the freezer.
  • I bought three red bell peppers at the Asian supermarket for $1.50.
  • I found a decent-looking head of cauliflower on Harris Teeter’s discount produce rack for $1.
  • Jim’s sister in law, an organic farmer, gave me a bag full of okra. It also recently made an appearance in my Gumbo recipe.
  • I usually have spinach in the refrigerator because we add it to our nightly salads.
curry chicken cauliflower okra dinner indian stew recipe

Uh oh, objects appear more yellow than they are in real life.

Chicken, Cauliflower and Okra Curry

You’ll need a large Dutch oven or similar size pot with lid.

  • Canola oil
  • 3-4 skinless boneless chicken thighs, chopped into bite-size pieces – I used 3 but I think 4 would work too.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1” or more piece of ginger, diced or grated
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 4 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1 (14 oz) can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 (14-1/2 oz) can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 (14 oz) can chicken broth, low sodium, low fat
  • 1 head of cauliflower florets, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 10 oz okra, trimmed and sliced into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 packed cups spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Heat a little oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Don’t use too much oil because the chicken will give off fat. Add the chicken, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes or until browned. Transfer chicken to a plate. You can drain off the chicken fat and add more canola oil if you’d like, or leave the fat in the pot.

Sauté onion and pepper until onion is starting to brown, 6-10 minutes. Stir in ginger, garlic, curry, cumin, coriander, cayenne and jalapeno, cook for one minute. Add coconut milk, tomatoes with their juice, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3/4’s of the can of chicken broth, and bring to a simmer. Add the cauliflower and okra, cover and cook until slightly tender, 6-8 minutes. Add more broth if you need more liquid.

Add chicken along with any juices accumulated on plate, simmer, partially covered, until chicken is cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in spinach. Sprinkle with cilantro to taste. Serve with rice.

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