My thirteen year old daughter and I have been having Kitchen Survival Skills lessons. Not only is this preparing her for life beyond the shelter of Mum and Dads roof, it's also allowing me time to do some Mummy Pampering and exercising.
Last night, we peered into the depths of the refrigerator and freezer and discovered the following lonely items:
1 chicken thigh fillet
1/3 of a cauliflower
The last of a packet of frozen peas
1 shallot (spring onion)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 green apple
The last of a batch of savoury Easiyo
The pantry revealed:
Half a packet of long grain rice
A jar of dried coriander leaves
None of those things alone were going to feed all of us, so some imagination was required.
In the end, we decided to make Chicken Biryani.
Well, that is until we found we had no curry paste, and no curry powder. We'd also run out of chutney as we eat it with everything here, and I hadn't made another batch, so an alternative to the chutney would need to be found. We also had no dried fruit, not sultanas, not currants nor craisins or dried apricots. So the sweetness would have to come from the green apple. No cucumber for the raita either, so for crunch and colour, we decided to make an Apple Raita.
So, Kitchen Survival Skills lesson number one was to make our own curry powder.
We didn't have the original packaging as I decant everything into pretty jars, so whilst the obvious solution was to read the list of ingredients, we couldn't do that.
We talked about what curry powder looked and smelled like, and decided we'd use Ground Coriander, Cumin and Ginger, along with Mustard powder, Turmeric and Chilli flakes.
Coriander seems the dominant flavour and fragrance in the empty Curry Powder jar, so into a small bowl goes:
Homemade Curry Powder Blend
2 teaspoons Ground Coriander
1 teaspoon each Ground Cumin, Ground Ginger, Turmeric and Mustard Powder
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
A sniff of the empty jar, and a sniff, taste test in a bit of natural yoghurt, and a visual onceover of our copycat seems to indicate that we're on the right track.
Three lessons learned.
One, mysterious ingredients like special spice blends and curry pastes can always be replicated simply by reading ingredients lists on the packaging (had we had them!)
Two, in the absence of packaging to refer to, using your eyes, nose and tastebuds to replicate a missing ingredient can often save a trip to the supermarket
Three, if you're short on space or finances, and looking at it in reverse, a simple preblended ingredient like good old fashioned commercial Curry Powder has all of the earthy ingredients common in many ethnic dishes, and paired with some fresh home grown herbs, can elevate many a dish from dull to yum!
The problem of the missing chutney was solved by deciding to do a sort of raw chutney/salsa with the tomato, and adding a sweet raita using the apple instead of cucumber.
Here's how our ingredients list looked after preparation:
For the Biryani:
1 chicken thigh, diced finely
1/3 cauliflower, broken into small florets
2/3 cup frozen peas
1 onion, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced finely
5 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 cups uncooked long grain rice
3 chicken stock cubes
1 litre hot water
Splash of oil
For the Condiments:
Do this first:
1 tomato, diced finely
1 shallot, sliced thinly
1/2 teaspoon dried coriander leaves
Combine ingredients in small bowl, cover and refrigerate
Do this second:
1/3 cup natural yoghurt
1/2 green apple, diced very finely
Combine ingredients in a small bowl, cover and refrigerate
Here's what we did last:
Preheat the oven to 180C. Make sure the shelves are positioned to accommodate your covered casserole dish or Dutch oven.
We used a Dutch oven, so onto a Medium High hotplate it goes, with a splash of oil in the bottom.
Add the onions and garlic and stir them around until they are translucent but not brown.
Add the curry powder, and stir till fragrant, about one minute.
Add the diced chicken and fry till well browned on all sides, about two minutes.
Add the cauliflower, peas and stock cubes. Stir it all around to coat it well in spices, then add the rice and the hot water.
Stir, bring back to a simmer, then cover it and put it in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven OFF and leave it to finish for another 15 minutes. This is a lesson in cooking on stored heat. A real bonus in times of rising energy prices.
Dinner's ready. We served it in bowls, garnished with the Raita and Raw Chutney which just gave it a bit of extra special something.
The Teen Chef had seconds, as did the Musician Husband, and there's still plenty leftover for lunchboxes or afternoon snacking. And all from a few scrappy bits-o-nothing from the fridge and pantry.
Teen Chef commented that "this would be nice even without the chicken, Mum".
Frugal Kitchen Survival Lesson accomplished!