I grew up in Fiji, where it is common for girls to learn cooking from a young age. My young cousins and relatives often helped in the kitchen and their parents often thought this is an essential for their young daughters to have. Somehow, this seemed to have completed passed by my parents. They did not believe their daughter should be in the kitchen cooking. Instead, I was encouraged to study, get an education and be career minded. This idea that housework is somehow not as important and the we often view home-makers as “less than thou” is best left for another post. Suffice it to say, I was envious of my friends and relatives who were free to help in the kitchen, learn to make “round rotis” while I was told to bury my head in books.
Sometimes, while my parents cooked I would steal a bit of flour and make a miniature basket and then fill it with flour eggs. Then I would go around offering eggs to those in the kitchen. Or, my favourite was pretending that the kitchen was a family restaurant and we all worked there. And I would be the one taking orders and going around supervising the cooking. Of course, my parents were unknowing participants in this imaginary scenario.
So, when I eventually moved out of home, I was faced with the challenge of cooking for myself and this amazing guy who had placed immense trust in my ability to cook. Needless to say, I had never cooked in my life before this. Maybe a fried egg here, or a sandwich there but nothing more than that.
We started off with bottled pasta sauces, to which I would add some spices and herbs and occasionally some tuna. PS, we have tried many different pastas and pasta sauces, and I must admit we still occasionally have this as a quick and easy meal. Our favourite is the Barilla range:
The first time I tried to make chicken curry at our apartment, my brother was visiting from Hamilton and we wanted to have a taste of home. What a disaster that was! I tried to make it like I remembered Mum cooking it but the sauce did not come together well, there was not enough flavour, the meat was dry and definitely not like home. I had to call Mum in the middle of the night, while the curry was still on the stove, asking for advice about how to save the dish and bring some flavour into it! To which my Mum most graciously replied with various tricks and tips.
But I did not give up so easily. And I discovered that my cooking improved dramatically over time. I love cooking, and could probably do it all day long. Now, my curries come together perfectly (most of the time) and tastes just like home, with my very own twists and touches.
I have not made Indian food in some time. Partly because it takes so long and partly because Max just loves pasta so much hehehe. But last night, I made my best chicken curry yet. It was just right, spicy, flavourful and soulful.
I hope you have the chance to try this recipe, and make it your own 🙂
Approximately 600 g chicken nibbles, or other pieces. I took out all the fatty skin bits – just left some skin on for flavour.
Half of a large onion, sliced
6 cloves of garlic and a slice of ginger, crushed
Spices: 3 – 4 pieces of cardamon, 3 cloves, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds, a touch of fenugreek (methi), 1 star anise, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 3 to 4 black pepper corns, 1 to 2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon tumeric powder
1 tablespoon garam masala
PS, all these spices can be bought from an Indian grocery store quite cheaply and most can also be found in the herbs and spices at the local supermarket (at a much higher price).
4 small Agria potatoes (can use any other kind if you want instead), cut into quarters.
|This is just one potato – I forgot to take a picture of the other 3 hehe
6 small tomatoes, diced
Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a pot. I used canola oil as it is cholestrol free and soybean oil seems to upset Max’s tummy.
When the oil is hot, add the spices (but not the powdered ones!). Stir for a few seconds then when add the onions
Once the onions are soft and beginning to become clear, add the garlic and ginger
Fry until the garlic becomes fragrant, then add tumeric powder. PS, if it is starting to stick, add a dash more of oil.
Cook for a minute or 2…or 3. Until the mix is nice and golden. It’s important to make sure that the tumeric is cooked otherwise it has this strong, bitter taste.
Add chicken and fry for 5 – 10 minutes then add the potatoes.
Add some water if necessary (our stove is ancient, as you can see, so it tends to burn food quickly – so I add a bit of water to avoid this) and fry for few a bit longer, until chicken is cooked and potatoes start getting soft.
Since it was Father’s Day, I took this chance to talk to Dad and my family during this time while cooking, almost like being home with them.
Add tomatoes and let it cook for couple of minutes then add half glass water and cover.
Add the garam masala and coriander, leave on heat (uncovered) for 1 to 2 minutes then turn stove off put lid on and it’s done!
We had the meal with brocoli and brown rice: