Sunday, 5 February 2012

Frankenstein Bhuna Curry

"Bhuna" is a very popular curry - so popular, in fact, that no one can quite agree on what goes in it anymore. That makes me feel pretty guilt-free about making up my own recipe after getting a jar of Patak's Bhuna curry paste and being seduced by the aroma. I read several bhuna curry recipes, and none sounded quite as yummy as the one I put together from various recipe pieces. Franken-recipe!

The idea behind a bhuna curry is more about the cooking process than about the spices, anyway. Frying spices in oil first makes them toasty and loaded with flavor. Meat (chicken and lamb being the traditional choices) is then added to the pot and cooked in it's own juices, making a relatively dry but rich tasting curry.

However, toasting the spices can be a little time consuming: using the curry paste makes the process speedier (a.k.a. weeknight dinner material!) and it's just as tasty. And since we like it hot in my kitchen, I loaded my version with a few extra spices!

Olive oil
3 or 4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 yellow onions, chopped
3 to 5 scallions, finely sliced
1 thumb-size piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 fresh chile, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 package mushrooms, sliced
2 chicken breasts, cut into finger-sized strips
1 (14 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 heaping tablespoons Patak's Bhuna curry paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup plain yogurt (optional)

Preheat a few glugs of olive oil in a large casserole-type pan over medium-heat. Add the garlic, onion, scallions, ginger and chile and fry until the onions are soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the curry paste. Mix with the other ingredients to cover everything with the spices and fry for another 3 minutes. Add the green bell pepper and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the mushrooms and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes. Add the chicken strips and stir for about 5 minutes, until the meat is browned. Add the crushed tomatoes, white wine and half of the lemon juice. Mix well, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 25 minutes, until the chicken is tender and cooked through. Let simmer uncovered for the last 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rest of the lemon juice and the yogurt (or spoon a tablespoon or two of yogurt over the curry on your plate). Serve over basmati rice, with extra lemon wedges for squeezing over.

You'll get yourself a fresh, tangy and spicy curry with a thick, sauce-like texture that may be a pleasant surprise if you are used to the stew-type curries. The contrasting texture of the veggies and chicken is awesome. If you fancy using lamb instead of chicken, substitute the 2 chicken breasts for 1/2 pound of lamb stewing cubes, and simmer your curry for 45 minutes, instead of 25.

I must apologize to the vegetarians: this curry is not as tofu-friendly as I expected, as tofu has no natural cooking juice. If meat is a big no-no in your kitchen, cut 1 block of extra-firm tofu in small cubes or triangles and use diced tomatoes instead of crushed. Fry the tofu with the veggies until it's crispy on a few sides, proceed with the recipe and let the curry simmer for 20 minutes. It won't be quite as saucy, but you won't miss out on the flavor.

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