It’s been a rich and indulgent few weeks over the festive and New Year period. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s taking a break from the booze and trying to include lots of goodness in the diet. Start as you mean to go on…I’m hoping to keep it up until at least the end of January!
We’ve had my Ma staying with us for the past week, so last night I tasked myself with creating a top notch curry for her, before she returns home tomorrow. It’s one of her favourites and always the meal of choice on a Friday. However, I was looking for a recipe to offer some rejuvenation after all the recent decadence. Spinach is always a safe bet.
‘Chicken with Spinach’ is our adaption of ‘Lamb with Spinach’ which can be found in the brilliant ’50 Great Curries of India’ by Camellia Panjabi. This was our first Indian cookbook and remains a point of frequent reference in our collection. The dish is widely known as ‘Chicken Sag’ and is a curry I would often order in a restaurant, before my palate became accustomed to large amounts of spice. I tend to go down the Madras route these days, although that said, you can of course tailor this to your preferred level of heat.
To make our version of this recipe (serves four) you will need:
For the marinade:
– Three large garlic cloves (peeled/roughly chopped)
– Two inch piece of ginger (peeled/roughly chopped)
– Two fresh green finger chillies (chopped) – adjust accordingly
– Half a teaspoon of ground cumin
– 200ml of plain natural yoghurt
For the main part:
– 700g of chicken thighs (skinless/boneless)
– 200g of fresh spinach leaves
– Two tablespoons of sunflower oil
– Two bay leaves
– Two green cardamons
– Two cloves
– One large onion (peeled/chopped)
– Two medium size tomatoes (chopped)
– One teaspoon of ground cumin
– One teaspoon of ground coriander
– One teaspoon of salt
– One tablespoon of tomato purée
– A pinch of freshly grated (or ground) nutmeg, a knob of butter (optional) and chopped fresh coriander (optional) to serve
– Firstly, cut the meat into inch sized pieces and place in a bowl.
– Put all of the marinade ingredients into a food processor and blend until well combined. Pour over the meat and mix until it is thoroughly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.
– Wash the spinach (if required) then blanch in salted boiling water for twenty seconds. Drain well and then puree in a food processor. Set aside.
– Heat the oil in a stove top pot and add in the bay leaves, cardamons and cloves. When the bay leaves start to sizzle, add the onions and fry for fifteen minutes.
– Introduce the ground coriander and cook for two minutes, continuing to stir. Add the ground cumin, stir for ten seconds, then a good splash of water to get the spices cooking.
– Tip the meat into the pot along with all of the marinade and cook for around ten minutes, or until all of the yoghurt has been absorbed.
– Sauté the chicken for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook for a couple of minutes. Pour in 250ml of boiled water and the salt. Cover and leave to simmer until the chicken is nearly cooked through (approximately fifteen to twenty minutes) then add the spinach. Check the seasoning and mix thoroughly.
– Continue to cook for around five minutes uncovered, or until the sauce is reduced to your liking.
– To serve, stir in the butter, sprinkle with the nutmeg and fresh coriander.
Apart from brimming with iron, this curry certainly delivers on taste and satisfaction. The nutmeg is a great little spice addition at the end to lift the dish. We made it with a moderate heat, but you can alter this as you please. It works a treat with a gently warmed chipati, some basmati rice, mango chutney and some lime pickle on the side. Hurray for spinach (and New Year good intentions!).