There’s so much I could say every time I sit down to write about a dish-the health benefits of the ingredients and spices, the cultural history behind the food, and my own personal experience with it and what brought me to be inspired to create it. I hope to expand my knowledge in the future about nutrition and all of its applications holistically but for now I rely on what I’ve learned through my own passion and interest to supplement my writing. Here, we have a curry dish which is a hit or miss in its appeal to the masses. A particularly enveloping spicy aroma can be magical or irritating for some. I for one am a recent fan for its warming and tantalizing properties. I was first introduced to the magic of curry dishes upon my travels during my study abroad experience in London, England. The British seem to be huge fans of their curries (although I did encounter some who fell on the side of distaste of the rising national dish), chicken tikka masala being one of the most popular that I came upon in my dining experiences that although spicy, lacks heat. My taste buds are slightly weathered to the beast of the heat of chili but the recipe below uses a green curry paste which certainly has a kick. Reflecting on these ingredients, I realized that I was familiar with other types of curry but was unsure of the difference or significance of flavor between them so here’s a quick hit and run guide:
- red curry utilizes dried red chilies and is the most popular in Thai dishes
- yellow curry paste is made with curry powder (a mixture of spices typically including coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, and red pepper. Some variations may include ginger, garlic, cinnamon, clove, mustard seed, fennel seed, caraway, cardamom, and black pepper) or light colored chilies
- green curry paste uses fresh green chilies and is the most potent variety in regards to its heat
On a relaxed afternoon after class I found myself wandering around Bloomsbury’s shops. The combination of so many inviting and charming food stops on every corner and Bloomsbury’s Le Cordon Bleu school that I would pass on my bus ride every morning led my mind to ponder on a life that allowed exploration and dedication to culinary adventures. Panikos Panayi’s book, Spicing up Britain drew me in during a peep in at a book store and it sparked my ever growing interest in the food culture of the nation of which my heritage is most comprised of. I wanted to further delve into the country’s food history and get educated so I could form an opinion on the cuisine around me. Panayi’s book (which, shame on me, I’ve yet to set out to finish it since stepping foot off that plane at JFK!) delves into Britain’s history of food markets and shops, London’s Italian district, and primarily the influence of British colonization in India on the UK’s food culture. India was introduced to potatoes and the like while Britain adopted the strong, aromatic spices and herbs of India. I am enamored by the honor that is living in another people’s culture and learning about another way of life. Britain is an array of different cultures in and of its self- Scottish, Welsh, and English cuisines all offer a unique perspective on the life and tastes of its respective people.
Before I departed for England everyone warned me of the lack of interest and variety in English food and that I shouldn’t expect much from my food experiences. I was also forewarned that I would be bombarded with curry and Indian food and that I would be sick and tired of my dining out options by the end of my stay. Au contraire my friends! I’ve never been so overwhelmed on the excitable end of the spectrum by England’s culinary offerings. Sure there are your standard fish and chip shops, Sunday roasts, meat pies and tea time pastries, and all of these things can be done with extreme finesse or entirely without care depending on where you go. The most valuable bit of information I took away from my living in London and my general experience of the English culture to take back into the kitchen was that this is a country that prides its self on unfussy cuisine that most of all emphasizes the quality and flavor of the ingredients at hand. This is a notion that I jive with entirely and hope to explore further with this blog.
In this recipe, we have a lean protein from the chicken, lots of fiber from the green beans and sweet potatoes which boast their vitamin A and beta-carotene upon cooking, as well as healthy saturated fats from the coconut milk and coconut oil that serve as a wonderful source of energy. The majority of the fats of coconut come from lauric acid, a medium chain saturated fatty acid that is particularly heat stable which makes it a better choice than olive oil for high heat cooking (from my research around the internet olive oil is best served for cold purposes such as a finish on a meal or in your salad dressing). Last but not least, the spice in this dish is not to be overlooked! Curry powder reaps the benefit of the addition of turmeric, a spice that not only imparts a beautiful golden color, but has an active ingredient, curcumin, which is has a legend of healing in herbal remedies with its antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal properties. This curry recipe is simple, fulfilling, and rich in flavor and nutrition. The aroma is so savory and comforting it makes a perfect one pot dish to cook up on a cold day. To serve with the curry, a side of rice is a prime choice as a bed under the dish so you get the most out of the creamy broth. The floral aroma of jasmine rice goes beautifully with a curry. For 1 cup rice, boil 1.5 cups water or chicken broth with 1 tbs coconut oil. Add rice, stir, and cook covered about 2o minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice steam for about 10-15 minutes, covered. Give this a shot, you can’t mess it up!
Thai flavored Sweet Potato Chicken Curry (adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine)
Serves approximately 5
2 tbs coconut oil
2 medium sized onions, halved and sliced
1 can coconut milk (full fat preferably)
1 cup chicken broth
2 tbs green curry paste (lemon grass, garlic, chili, thai ginger, kaffir lime leaves, turmeric, salt)
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 lbs) cut into bite size pieces
2 large sweet potatoes cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut in half
Thai basil leaves for garnishing (regular basil works too!)
Kosher salt for seasoning
1/ In a large pot, heat up the coconut oil and add the onions, cooking until soft. Add the curry paste and cook until assimilated with the onions.
2/ Whisk in coconut milk and chicken broth (water works too-but why not bump up the flavor!). Add the sweet potatoes and cook about 10 minutes, uncovered until just soft-you don’t want to overdo the cooking here since we still have green beans to add and chicken to cook. The mixture should reach a creamy consistency.
3/ Stir in the greens beans and cook for about two minutes, covered. Finally, fold in the chicken and cook about 4 minutes until the chicken is cooked all the way through. Season to taste and add the basil with the heat turned off.