The things I love, that make me happy, are so very humdrum and mundane that it makes life quite simple, really. None of them require vast amounts of money or long-haul flights. Well - my yearning for some consistent sunshine could be remedied by both of those, but it doesn't do to dwell too much on the weather these days. Instead I like to distract myself with the more minor content-making things in life: food blogs; recipes that only require me to buy a couple of things in the shop (or even, though a rare treat, those that don't even require me to leave the house); curry; meals that are a total treat but still manage to stash a load of veggies in there too. So when I found a new blog to love and drool over - The Spice Spoon - featuring a curry that required only a few purchases that featured lovely fresh tomatoes (er, lets conveniently overlook the whole large quantity of oil thing, ok), well I was just about made up. Making curry from scratch always makes me marvel at how some spices and some veggies and sometimes a little meat come together in a seemingly simple way and then BOOM you have a totally exotic dish, a flavour that seems so very very far away from the simple few things you started out with. And you don't have to buy a jar with a load of numbers in the ingredients list or pick up the phone and call someone who is more than a walk away and sit there wondering when it'll eventually get to you and hoping that it will still be nice and hot. Just stock up well on spices and it's right there in your kitchen. And for Murghi ka Saalan - though maybe we should just stick to calling it chicken in the Pakistani manner - all you need in your eastern arsenal is turmeric, chilli powder and cardamom pods, so if you don't already have them you won't exactly have to get yourself in the red building up your spice collection.
I got a little impetuous with the onions in my garden, and got stuck into them a little before they were quite ready to see what life is like above the soil, I'm afraid. Still, they were juicy and crisp and they did the job.
Look at them, all shiny and white and young and innocent, too young to die, fallen foul of a hungry woman (who was also too lazy to even write the word onions on a shopping list) brandishing a knife.
The gone-before-their-time onions (chopped) hit the pan after it has heated up for two minutes with three tablespoons of sunflower oil. Once they have turned golden they are joined by a thumb-sized piece of ginger, thinly sliced, and two thinly-sliced cloves of garlic. That little lot buzzes away for about fifteen minutes on the pan while it all carmelises.
Now, this is where it all gets exciting. Eh, well for me, anyhow; for everyone else it's really just where you add more ingredients. In goes six chopped tomatoes, 1.5 tsp salt, 1.5 tsp chilli powder and a pinch of turmeric. You could use passata or tinned chopped tomatoes, but for the little extra effort it takes to chop some tomatoes you can really taste the very very juicy difference. Bring the heat up a little so it bubbles away nicely and gets lovely and thick and sticky.
After about 20 minutes it goes into the blender to get nice and smooth.
When it goes back into the pan it's time to add the chicken (I used four chicken breasts, chopped into chunks), along with a half cup of water. Bring up the heat a little to medium-high and keep pushing that chicken around the pan until the oil starts to float on top on its own.
Add another 1.5 cups of water and two cups of water, cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
This is probably the time that it will take to scrub off all of the sauce that has taken flight to an impressive degree.
And it's not until you sit down to eat it that you can appreciate how deliciously fresh and spicy and tasty it all is. Honestly, has to be attempted to be believed. Take away schmake away.
If you have any time left after scrubbing the turmeric-tinged tomato concoction from off the hob and the countertops, this simple salad is a must: tomatoes, cucumbers and onions, nicely diced, with a blast of lime juice and salt.
Oh and a brilliant addition to the feast was some plantains, brought by my lovely dinner guest. As far as I can recall I actually shoveled them into my mouth exclaiming "these are GREAT howdidyoumakethem" before I even picked up my fork to go near the curry, never mind consider that maybe someone other than me might like to eat them.
Finally, my number one piece of advice when cooking this dish: make a nice generous quantity so that you can come home to seriously tasty leftovers for dinner the next day.