Monday, 1 November 2010

Re-inventing the Dharmachakra

Catching up with some one you haven’t seen in years can be terrifying (if not aging!) Will there be awkward silences and painted smiles as I stare into my drink wondering what to say next? Will I find new and interestingly subtle ways of looking at my watch to see what time it is? Will someone please call so I can pretend it is an emergency for goodness sakes?!

This was not the case when I bumped into a former work colleague from a previous life quite by chance outside the tube in Chiswick and agreed to meet him for a drink. Catching up on old times and discussing future ambitions, the years were condensed into minutes and the ‘quick’ drink turned into a couple of hours. So relaxed was the evening that when I got home, I realised I had completely forgotten about food.

I fancied something spicy (steady on!) I had just had a couple of drinks and was in that spice and carbohydrates I-have-now-had-two-glasses-of-wine-and-don’t-care-anymore mood, so why not? A Thai or Indian curry to take away. Dial a number, make a choice, wait for a delivery. But for one person they can be too expensive and wasteful (something I really hate). Pizza also came to mind. Again, I could order one for delivery. A flabby, bog standard one where the flavour of the cardboard has seeped into the pizza base. But why waste the money?

And there in the corner of the kitchen was the Eureka moment. That sign. That message. That mug. The one with “Make do and mend” on the side. Someone somewhere was telling me something. And so, taken with the idea of some culinary austerity, I opened the fridge: chicken breast, an individual naan bread and some herbs. My face fell flat. Not really very much is it?

However, with other ingredients lying around, a bottle of Pinot Noir and a swig of Dutch Courage, I decided on a course of action. Ok, it is not original. And ok, someone has invariably done it before. But yes, even though it was my own variation, I had reinvented the wheel.

Makes 1:
1 naan bread
1 chicken breast
Curry paste
Yoghurt (Garlic, Lemon, Coriander)
Mustard seeds
Fennel seeds
Chilli flakes

First, take the chicken, slice it and ‘marinade’ it in the curry paste, if you have more time then you can mix the yoghurt and curry paste together and let it sit for a few hours. My time was limited, so I mixed the garlic (purée for cheats) and lemon juice with some chopped coriander in a separate bowl.

Next, throw the seeds into a pan and heat until they start to turn. Remove and fry a sliced onion. Add the chilli flakes and the tomato, and reduce until thickened.

Fry the chicken in a separate pan. Spoon the tomato onion mix on the naan, and place in a heated oven about 5 minutes. Spoon on top of that the yoghurt (if separate) and then the chicken slices. Return for a couple of minutes and then scatter some coriander on top to garnish before serving.

Did it work?

I think so, in a I-have-now-had-three-glasses-of-wine-and-don’t-care-anymore way. There was flavour (woof! Thank God for liquid refreshment as I had rather overdone the spicy heat). Yes, there was flavour! The yoghurt thankfully, tempered the fire of the curry paste and the chilli heat in the tomatoes enough that you could taste the fennel, lemon, mustard seed and coriander. The naan could have been more crisp to stop it going a little soggy and the chicken would probably have been better mixed with the yoghurt so that it tenderised the meat, but that is for next time. Did it look ok? I forgot to take a picture but I can assure you that it was presentable (yes, in a I-have-now-had-four-glasses-of-wine-and-don’t-care-anymore way). The point was that it hit my cravings and kept me smiling from my catch up with H through the evening to my bed, or maybe that was the wine.

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