My love of cooking began with my love of cookbooks. A recommendation from a seasoned home cook in my first office job saw me purchasing Stephanie Alexander’s A Cook’s Companion and after that first rainy saturday of pouring through the pages I was hooked. I loved everything about it; the exhaustive preparation and storage instructions, the encyclopaedic glossary, the pairing and variation notes in the margins that so encouraged experimentation – and the way the chapters were set out by ingredient for easy “what shall I do with what’s in the fridge?” cooking. As a novice cook I remember feeling a rising excitement about all the possibilities as I perused the pages; my fish-finger sandwich days were over.
The most profound lesson I took from A Cook’s Companion though was not to be found in the reference notes, glossary, or even in the ingredient lists or directions. It was found instead in the headnotes. As Stephanie shared vivid personal anecdotes, observations and intimate confessions about her passion for cooking, she highlighted for me the fact that food extends beyond plate and mouth. It affects more than our satiety levels and offers us more than a convenient bundle of fuel and nutrition – it also punctuates and enriches our experiences until experiences become memories; and food the evocative pinpoints for them. Did you ever go to the beach when you were little? Did you stand barefoot in the sand earnestly monitoring a waffle cone for drips of vanilla or chocolate, eagerly licking them up before they ran into cone-softening streaks? Or did your family all draw together around newspaper bundles to tuck into a fish and chip supper before driving home to waiting baths and pajamas? Was there a certain special cake that your candles were pushed into every year? Or a dish your Nanna made you when you visited? Isn’t it surprising how biting into a favourite meal can send us hurtling back through our memories and taking in all the feelings that go along with that? What do you call that?
I expect this chicken curry will serve as a pinpoint for slow, cosy nights curled up on the couch with Joel and Basil the Cat.
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 sprig curry leaves; approx. 13 leaves
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes
- 2 medium onions, sliced
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 600g chicken, cubed
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 400ml can of full fat coconut milk
- Melt coconut oil or ghee over a medium heat in a sauté pan or deep saucepan.
- Reduce heat to low and add cinnamon sticks, curry leaves, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and chilli flakes to the pan. Continue to cook over a low heat for one minute.
- Drop the sliced onions into the pan and fry until soft and translucent.
- Throw in the minced garlic and dust the onions with the curry powder and turmeric, stir to coat.
- Add the chicken and tomato with 1 cup of water.
- Increase heat to bring the water to a rolling boil, then knock the heat back down to bring the water to to a slow simmer. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, approximately 25 - 30 minutes.
- Stir in the coconut milk and season with salt to taste.
My vegetarian friends could easily substitute a hearty tempeh or root vegetable medley for the chicken in this recipe.
Nutrition per serve: 541 calories / 2264 kilojoules, 39g fat, 40g protein, 7.5g carbohydrate, 2.5g fibre, 5g effective carbs.