Early this month, I received a personal message from a blogger friend. Some readers might know her by her pseudonym; Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders.
It was really sweet of Miss B to ask me if I would like to have some of her freshly harvested “Spaanse pepers” or cayenne chillies. She ended her note with “Can I mail you some?”
Nope, Miss B was not joking!
The chillies arrived in my letterbox one day after Miss B went to the post office! Wow! That really showed the efficiency of the Belgian Post. Well done!
Everything looked, smelled and felt so fresh with those green chillies. They were nicely tucked in a few layers of absorbent papers. I had a few things in mind what I could do with them…
Of cold and heat
In Belgium, the new school (not tertiary) semester started on the first Monday in the month of September, meaning the end of the school summer holidays anno 2013 for my two boys. How they loathed going back to school and facing the early morning wakes and cycling to school in the cold and rain.
September is also the month when the yo-yo effect of the mercury level played havoc with our immune system. My older son was down with a rather bad cold recently but yet he did not miss any single lesson. Good boy 😉
To prevent further aggravation and spread of the cold to his younger brother and the rest of us, I decided to cook a tasty plate of hot and fragrant chicken curry – a sure way to curb a nasty cold 😉
A Far Eastern Odyssey
I love watching the many food travel episodes of Rick Stein on BBC. Not long ago, I bought a copy of his cookbook – a translated version in Dutch – “Rick Stein Ontdekt De Oriënt” (Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey). His travel escapades included living, eating and cooking with the locals of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bali and Bangladesh.
By the way, there was one curry dish that stood high on my to-do list for months already. It was the Sri Lankan Chicken Curry. I was intrigued by the use of pandan leaves in the curry dish recipe. Maybe I have eaten curries with pandan that I was not aware of in the past, but for sure, I have never actually used pandan leaves in any of my curry dishes until now 😀
This recipe is adapted from Rick Stein’s Sri Lankan Chicken Curry. I have made some changes and modifications indicated in blue italic.
(Serves 4 – 5)
- 2 Tbsp coconut or vegetable oil (I used corn oil)
- 1.5 kg chicken, cut in 8 parts (I used 1 kg ready-to-use boneless chicken cubes)
- One 15cm cinnamon stick, broken into smaller bits (the last thing I would do was break the cinnamon bark into tiny bits! My three guys would curse me for that, hence, I left the cinnamon stick whole )
- Freshly milled black pepper
- 10 green cardamom pods, bruised (I used 8 cardamom pods, removed the seeds and ground them with a pestle and mortar)
- 10 cloves (I used 8 cloves)
- 350 g onions or shallots, thinly sliced (I used I big onion, blended)
- 40 g garlic, crushed (I used 8 cloves garlic, blended)
- 25 g fresh ginger, peeled & grated (I used 5 cm piece ginger, blended)
- 2 Tbsp Roasted Sri Lankan Chicken Curry powder (I used Yeo’s Malaysian curry powder, which included the following ingredients: coriander seed, chilli, fennel, cumin, turmeric, white pepper, aniseed, cinnamon and clove)
- 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder (I used 2 heap tsp of Mum’s homemade chilli powder
- 1 tsp turmeric powder (I used a 4 cm piece of fresh turmeric, blended)
- 200 g tin tomato (I used 4 fresh tomatoes, quartered)
- 20 curry leaves (I used dried curry leaves)
- 4×4 cm pandan leaves (I used 4 long sprays of screwpine or pandan leaves)
- 1 fat lemongrass stalk, halved & lightly bruised (I used 2 stalks of lemon grass, lightly bruised, plus 1 stalk, blended)
- 3 green cayenne chillies, split open lengthways (I used 8 fresh green chillies which I got from Miss B, blended, plus 1 extra split open lengthways)
- 400 ml coconut milk (Unfortunately, I could not get fresh coconut milk, hence, I used 1 can of 400ml coconut milk)
- 1 Tbsp lime juice (I used 1 Tbsp concentrated tamarind paste)
- I used Himalayan salt, to taste
1) Peel and cut roughly the onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric and lemon grass. Remove the stalks from the green chillies and then blend all these together in a blender to form a paste.
2) Heat the oil in a wok or deep frying pan. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and fry over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
3) With the oil left over from the pan, sauté the blended paste until fragrant. Add the par cooked chicken cubes, cinnamon stick, freshly ground cardamom seeds, cloves, lemon grass and knotted pandan leaves (Note my wok was smoking away when I took the picture 😀 )
4) Simmer for a few minutes and add the curry powder, chilli powder, quartered tomatoes, coconut milk and one green chilli, slit open lengthways with seeds intact. Stir to combine and continue to simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, covered, over low to medium heat. Season to taste.
5) While the chicken was simmering away, I steamed the pandan-infused jasmin rice (I ran out of basmati rice)
6) Five minutes before plating up the fragrant pandan chicken curry, I added the tamarind paste.
The tamarind paste and pandan leaves made all the difference to this dish. I swear it was a top notch chicken curry, quite unlike the ones I have tasted. It was really quite addictive, I must say.
Oh by the way, my son’s cold was long gone. It could be that he ate one whole raw green chilli! I’m not kidding here.
Summary facts about green chillies (searched from the internet) –
- Green chillies are a good source of Vitamins A, C, K and Capsaicin
- Green chillies are actually immature chilli peppers, harvested before fully ripening. That accounted to the green chillies turning red in my fridge after one week!
- Green chillies are low in calories, virtually fat-free and rich in nutrients.
Vitamin A is essential for the health and maintenance of red blood cells, necessary for proper growth and development and to support immune system health.
Vitamin C helps synthesize collagen, promote the healing of skin wounds and aid in the development of strong bones.
Vitamin K in green chillies may help decrease your risk of osteoporosis and of heavy bleeding.
Capsaicin is the substance that occurs naturally in chillies, giving them their spicy flavour, meaning the hotter the chilli, the more capsaicin it contains. Capsaicin acts as a natural pain reliever.
Note: If you have a chronic digestive disorder, for example irritable bowel syndrome or heartburn, spicy foods may exacerbate the symptoms, so please stay away…
Pandan leaves are not only used as fragrant aromatic agents or natural food colourants, but are also used for myriads of health benefits. It’s interesting to know after googling the web that these amazing screw pines can be used as a cosmetic and natural medicine such as darkening our grey hairs, warding off dandruffs, improving rheumatism and muscle pains by concocting a massage ointment using pandan leaves, etc..
Oh by the way, if you have forgotten how these stunning wonder plant look like, here you go … again!!
I’m linking this post to the following events –
Stay well! Stay healthy!
See you soon…
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