Saturday, January 12, 2013

Experimental Cooking 2013: Really Simple Sri Lankan Chicken Curry with Coconut Milk & Cashew Nut Rice

The second meal cooked from Lorraine Pascale's "Fast, Fresh and Easy Food", this proved to be an interesting experience. The meal looked interesting, and we had almost all of the ingredients in the house, so I figured "why not?" But...

I have two big observations about this meal. Firslty, it took considerably longer to cook than the 20 minutes listed in the book. To a very large extent, this was because I was uncertain that the chicken was cooked through, so gave it a good while longer, but it was also partly because the recipe assumed I was doing prep for later stages while earlier ones were cooking, where in fact those earlier stages were cooking too fast for that - if left alone, they would rapidly be burning.

The second observation was that the resulting meal really looked very little like the picture in the book, although it tasted fine.

I'm pretty sure I know how to sort both of these issues out, and the key is in preparation. As I noted, the book assumes you will be preparing later stages while the earlier ones are cooking, but the heat involved makes this an impossibility. The solution, is simple:

Before you start cooking anything...

  1. Put all the spices into a single bowl - the curry powder, garam masala, cinnamon, ginger, and chilli powder. These are all going in together, so get them measured out and gathered together so you're ready to go.
  2. Cut the chicken into small pieces, and season with salt and pepper. Again, put these on a plate ready to go.
  3. Make sure you open the tin of coconut milk ahead of time.
  4. Trim and chop the spring onions, and finely chop the garlic.

Having done that, you'll now be in a position to work very quickly as you go - when the instruction is to add a whole bunch of ingredients, you can get the last one into the pan before the first one is burnt!

On balance, this meal was actually suitably easy to prepare, and tasted quite nice. And given that the issues I had with it are easily fixed, we'll almost certainly be adding this to our repertoire of curries going forward.

#1: "A Blink of the Screen", by Terry Pratchett (which has already laid down a very strong marker for book of the year!)

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