This is one of my favourite recipes, but normally we get a range of carby delights from our Indian takeaway to accompany it – naan bread, pilau rice, sag aloo etc. None of that for me at the moment, so I rang my oldest friend Sage (who is indeed most sage on matters of Indian food, amongst many other things) and asked her what vegetable dish would work with this wonderfully rich chicken dish. The spiced cauliflower that she told me how to make is a perfect accompaniment; it was bloody delicious.
The recipe for the chicken is another one from my trusty 200 Slow Cooker Recipes book. It’s called Kashmiri Butter Chicken, and the original recipe contains butter and cream. It didn’t need any butter today as the chicken gave off lots of delicious golden fat (which I later used to make the cauliflower dish as well), and it was so rich that I didn’t put any cream in either. This way, it’s suitable for paleo/primal diets too. You could, of course, add the dairy if you prefer, and I’ll tell you when. I’ve changed the recipe over the years, so I’ve put the recipe here as I make it, rather than exactly how it is in the book. I’ve increased the amount of spices as I love the flavours so much; it’s a spicy rather than hot dish with a wonderful depth of flavour. I grind my spices in an electric spice/coffee grinder, but you could use a pestle and mortar or buy ready ground. Make sure they’re fresh though, as ground spices quickly lose their flavour.
If you don’t have a slow cooker/crock pot, I don’t see why you couldn’t make this in an oven in a covered dish on a low heat. The point is that it’s cooked so slowly and gently that the fat dissolves from the meat into the sauce, and the tender meat just falls away from the bones. Maybe 150°C, 300°F, Gas Mark 2 – you want it to be just barely simmering, not boiling or the meat will be tough. Keep checking it and adjust your oven temperature accordingly. It won’t take as long in the oven either; probably 2 – 3 hours as opposed to 5 – 7 in the slow cooker. If you haven’t got a slow cooker, why not?? You can get one for about £25 and they are brilliant – you’ll save lots of money by buying cheaper cuts of meat and cooking them until they are melt-in-the-mouth tender.
The recipe stipulates skinless, boneless chicken thighs, but I much prefer to use on the bone with skin on, as you get much more flavour. When the dish is cooked I fish out all the thighs, scrape off the sauce and remove the skins, bones and the two bits of cartilage you find in each thigh (I can’t bear fatty/gristly meat, or finding bones in my food, so I’m quite painstaking in this). It’s easy to do as the chicken will have been cooked so long that there’ll be no fat left on the chicken and the meat will just fall off the bones. Yum!
If you follow a low GI/GL way of eating, you might want to limit the fat content in this by going for the boneless skinless option or skimming off more of the fat during cooking.
- 4 large escallion shallots (the equivalent of 2 onions)
- 3 garlic cloves
- 4cm fresh root ginger, peeled
- 1 large red chilli, or the equivalent in chilli flakes
- 8 chicken thighs
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
- 2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
- 6 cardamom pods, crushed
- 1.5 tsp paprika
- 1.5 tsp ground turmeric
- quarter tsp ground cinnamon
- 300ml / half a pint of chicken stock
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
Top and tail your shallots/onions and peel off the skins. Cut the bottoms off your garlic cloves, bash them with the back of the knife and slip them out of their skins. Put the shallots, garlic, chilli and ginger into a food processor / blender, and blast it into a puree, scraping the sides down with a spatula to ensure it’s all evenly blended.
Heat some oil until hot in the largest frying pan you have, and add the chicken thighs. Don’t crowd them in; it’s better to do them in batches if your pan isn’t large. Cook on a high heat until they are golden brown, then turn them over and do the other side. They won’t take long if they’re skinless, if you’ve kept the skins on they’ll take a maybe five minutes or so. The idea is to brown them on the outside, not cook them. Add the chicken to your slow cooker/crock pot and pour off and reserve most of the fat (there won’t be much if you used skinless thighs)
If you want to use butter in this dish, add it to your frying pan now, otherwise leave a couple of tablespoons of chicken fat in the pan and add your onion puree. Cook it over a moderate heat, stirring frequently so it doesn’t catch, until it’s just turning golden brown (about 5 mins). Add the ground spices and cook for a further minute, stirring well, then add the tomato puree and chicken stock.
Bring to a simmer then pour over the chicken, making sure you push the chicken pieces down under the sauce. Cook on low for 4 – 7 hours. If there’s lots of fat collecting on the surface and you don’t like things too oily, use a ladle to skim off a little of the oil. The recipe recommends stirring 5 tbsp double cream in at the end. If you’ve used skinless, boneless thighs then this would be a nice addition, but if not, the dish is plenty rich enough, I think.
- 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 2 tsp black mustard seeds2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp turmeric
- pinch of sea salt
- couple tbsp oil or chicken fat
I used the reserved fat from browning the chicken wings to do this; I had a taste and it was glorious, really chickeny and golden. Heat in a pan on a moderate heat then add the cumin and mustard seeds. Let them sizzle for a minute or two, then when the mustard seeds start to pop, add the turmeric, cauliflower and salt.
Give it a good stir, then cover and cook on a low heat until the cauli is al dente or tender, whichever you prefer. I added a tbsp of water to the mix to help the cauli steam, as I wanted it tender rather than al dente on this occasion. Check it frequently and stir so it doesn’t stick.
This was the perfect accompaniment to the richness of the chicken. I also did some spinach (first time I’ve ever used frozen spinach – blimey it’s convenient, no faffing about with wilting and sqeezing out the liquid, just bung it in and let it thaw on a low heat in the oil) in a little chicken fat with more black mustard and cumin seeds.