Monday, 3 February 2014

Malaysian Style Chicken & (Sweet) Potato Curry

In my student days I shared an apartment with, amongst other people, a guy from Malaysia. One of his favourite things to make was a Malaysian style chicken curry with potatoes. He did a pretty simple version with purchased curry powder (and if you are going to do that, I recommend Yeo's). He also used regular white potatoes, which is in fact the way the dish is supposed to be made. He would then serve it with mountains of white rice, which seemed like too much starch to me. For some reason this dish has always stuck in my mind, probably because there's nothing like coming home on a cold wintery day to an apartment rich with the smell of chicken curry - and not getting any because it isn't yours!

At any rate, as I tried to think of Yet Another Thing to Do with skinless boneless chicken breasts, this curry rose up in my memory and suggested itself. I did want to eat it with some rice, so I decided to replace the white potatoes with some sweet potatoes which I thought worked really well. Since I also thought it needed something green to finish the meal, I threw in a packet of our frozen green beans - about 2 cups, if you wish to add them too. And finally, I said light coconut milk because that's what I used, but I'm sure regular coconut milk would be better. As for the lemon grass, by "optional" I mean "if you can get it".

Makes 4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time, not including cooking the potatoes

Malaysian Style Chicken & (Sweet) Potato Curry

Precook the Potatoes:
500 grams (1 pound) sweet potatoes or potatoes

If using sweet potatoes, cut them into bite-sized chunk and toss them with just enough oil to keep them from sticking to the pan or foil. Put them in a roasting pan in a single layer, or wrap them loosely in foil, and roast them at 375°F for an hour to an hour and a quarter, until soft. This can be done up to a day ahead.

If using potatoes, cut them into bite-sized chunks and boil them until just tender. Drain well. This can done up to a day ahead. 

Tie Up the Spices:
2-3 whole star anise
6 green cardamom pods
1 2" stick of cinnamon
1 stalk lemon grass (OPTIONAL)
4 - 6 dry kefir lime leaves
a foot square piece of cheesecloth

Put these spices - the lemongrass cut in 3" pieces, assuming you can get such a thing - onto a small square of cheesecloth, and tie it up around them, so that it can be put into the pot while the curry cook, and pulled out, drained, and discarded when it is done. 

You don't have to do this; but it will make life much pleasanter for the diner when the time comes. At the very least, if you have a spice-ball (large tea-ball) that will hold the smaller bits, do use it!

Make the Curry:
500 grams (1 pound) skinless, boneless chicken breasts (2 large)
4 large shallots
OR 2 medium onions
3 cloves of garlic
1" x 2" x 2" piece of ginger
1 to 2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Malaysian curry powder
2 cups chicken stock
400 ml (1 tin) light coconut milk

Cut the chicken into large bite-sized chunks. Peel and chop the shallots or onions. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and mince the ginger; there should be about the same amount of each of these.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add the chicken, and cook, stirring frequently, until seared all over and lightly browned in spots. Add the onions or shallots, and continue cooking and stirring until they are well softened and slightly browned as well. Mix in the ginger and garlic, then the curry powder. Continue cooking and stirring for another minute or two, then add the chicken stock, coconut milk, and the packet of spices. Add the cooked sweet potatoes or potatoes (no cooking liquid included).

Simmer, stirring regularly, for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked and the sauce slightly thickened. Serve with rice.

Last year at this time I made Ginger-Orange Beets and Empire Cookies. I made a discovery about Empire Cookies this Christmas, by the way - you can use the recipe to make thumbprint cookies; you know, form little balls, poke a hole in them with your thumb or the end of a wooden spoon if you want to be classy, fill it with jam, and bake for more or less the same amount of time, depending on how big you make them. No glaze required and generally an easier project with the same great flavour.

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