It is winter her in the Cape Town area. We are making hot food, soul food. ‘Tis the time for stews, while all my foodie friends in the northern hemisphere are raving about summer fruit and vegetables, and fruity drinks alfresco.
This dish is the direct result of a challenge on handwriting, where I stuck my neck out on a dish that I have never made before. A green curry using spinach. Yes, that stuff that nobody wants to eat. So much for keeping a low profile. An abject lesson in system linkage; news tends to travel across social boundaries. I should have known.
|The blended spinach. I doubled this quantity|
A quick Google search came up with a load of recipes of varying ingredients. I decided on my own fusion of flavours. A basic dish using spinach, coriander leaves, and mint as the base for the sauce. Add to this some roasted cashews for flavour, a dash of lemon juice and yoghurt for the sauce and we are in business. I decided against lamb for the meat, as it takes long to cook. More of this option later. I opted for chicken breasts with the bone on. The marrow and the cartilage add flavour and some texture to the sauce. The sauce needs to be mushy, so take care not to burn the sauce.
This was an out-and-out experiment. One of the better experiments in the kitchen I have ever had, if you will. The dish is easy to make, and the result is astounding. A serious contender for the top of my default recipe log.
|Dry roasted cashews|
Asian spice dish recipes tend to come with a list of ingredients that is quite long, as they use their own mix of spices to make their masalas. I have a masala that I make according to a Cape Malay recipe from Cass Abrahams, which I use for all my curries. You may use your own. The supply of chillies suitable for curry is intermittent here in my neck of the woods, so I standardised on a curry paste that will keep a month or two in the refrigerator. You can find the recipe here.
The green ingredients for this dish are all leafy. So, we blitz the sauce with a blender to get a smooth consistency. For flavour, I added dry roasted cashew nuts. Just a ¼ cup will do.
The meat can be either chicken or lamb. I opted for chicken on this round, as the chicken cooks quite fast. This time I used chicken breasts cut into bite size portions. I left the skin on, as the fat adds some flavour to the dish. You will need a napkin and a dish for the bones, and you will need to use your hands. Remember to lick your fingers clean before you start eating…
|The blended coriander and mint|
Fry the meat in batches until it gets brown, then keep aside. If you want to use lamb, do the same, but then simmer the meat in some water until it is tender. The sauce of this dish is too thick to stand long simmering, it may burn. Keep the stock from the lamb, you will need it to dilute your sauce as required.
I blended the green ingredients separately, but there is no need for that with a little planning beforehand.
Here is the recipe.
750 g chicken breasts, bone in, cut into bite sized portions
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
¼ tsp fenugreek seeds (methi)
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
1 medium size very ripe tomato, finely chopped
½ cup fresh coriander leaves
1 cup fresh spinach destemmed and coarsely chopped. Maybe more. I used about 120 grams.
1-2 tbsp chilli, garlic & ginger paste
2 tsp dry masala powder, your choice of flavours
½ cup plain yoghurt
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup cashew nuts, dry roasted
1-2 tsp garam masala to taste
Oil/ghee for frying
This is the easy and fast version, not what I did.
Fry the chicken in batches in ghee/oil until it gets brown. Set aside. Fry the onions until they start getting brown, then add the curry paste or fresh spices and the chopped coriander and mint leaves. Remember to add a little salt. Stir fry for thirty seconds or so, the add the spinach, tomato and some yoghurt. The acid in the tomato will pick up the caramelised meat from the bottom of the pan, adding to your stock. The mix will be quite dry, so you may need to add a touch of boiling water or yoghurt. Not too much, the sauce needs to be mushy. Add the dry masala and the roasted cashews. Stir carefully to prevent burning. Then blitz with the blender until you have a smooth, mushy sauce.
Now add back the meat and turn down the heat to very low. Add the lemon juice. Simmer this for about half an hour or until the meat is tender. In the case of lamb, you would have cooked the lamb until tender before adding to the mushy sauce. When the meat is done, add the garam masala, mix through and turn off the heat. Let the dish rest while you cook the rice. My version came out slightly off-green, as my spice paste is made from red chillies.
While the dish is resting, cook the rice. I used basmati rice. Don’t even bother to flavour the rice, the main dish has overpowering flavour. However, with the thick sauce a roti may just be the optimal answer.
Now dish up. I did not have the inclination for any additional side dish tonight. This was enough balm for the soul on this cold Cape winter night.
Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2020-06-03