First of all, thank you all SO MUCH for voting me through to Round 4 of Project Food Blog. The response to my “Around the World on a Plate” dinner post was absolutely overwhelming – I am glad so many people enjoyed a virtual trip around the world…
Secondly, you didn’t think you I would take part in Project Food Blog and not involve my boys’ cooking club, Les Petits Chefs, did you?
Working with little people in the kitchen is all about being prepared and breaking everything down into micro-steps so I couldn’t think of a better fit for this challenge than a recipe created by 8 and 9 year-old boys!
The challenge prompt reads: “Sure, you can take a pretty picture. But your task here is to go above and beyond and use photography to create a step-by-step, instructional photo tutorial.” Staying true to the spirit of my blog, it wouldn’t be right for me to do an elaborately staged photo post where everything is perfect. The reality of cooking (even if you aren’t a 9 year old boy) is that it’s sometimes messy, mistakes happen and things don’t always go quite to plan. My hope with this post is to showcase what some think is a complicated recipe as being accessible for everyone.
Which recipe? Well, one of my club members, Ritvik, has just arrived in Canada from India and wondered if we would make curry. I asked if he had a recipe to bring in but he said he only ate it at his grandmothers’ house – back in India. The boys had been hankering to try a curry too, so I checked out Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and decided on Chicken Tikka Masala, where we would even make the curry paste from scratch! As you can see from my recipe breakdown below, it was an ambitious choice for an hour-long club!
Marcel and Ritvik worked on the tikka masala paste.
Jamie Oliver’s tikka masala paste
Ingredients (makes 3/4 cup)
spices for roasting:
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds (could not find seeds, we added powder to the mix. Boys disappointed there were not more things to “burn”)
2 cloves of garlic
1 thumb-sized piece peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used Penzey’s Black and Red spice blend)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 fresh red chiles
1 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons flour
First, peel the garlic and ginger. (I taught the boys to peel ginger with a teaspoon – “Cool!” – and to smash the garlic clove with the flat knife to peel it easily – “Awesome!”)
Put frying pan on medium to high heat and add the spices for toasting to the dry pan (“You mean, like, we’re gonna burn them? Cool!”). Lightly toast them for a few minutes until golden brown and smelling delicious, then remove the pan from the heat. (Boys learned that playing with food as it is cooking actually slows down the process. They couldn’t stop stirring!) Add the toasted spices to a pestle and mortar or put them in a spice grinder and grind until fine.
Above: Adding Black and Red, coriander, paprika and garam masala. We all had a good smell of the ingredients and some brave souls tasted them – yes even the Black and Red! No tongues were injured during the course of this recipe.
(And, you know we didn’t just use any food processor. Les Petits Chefs have inherited my Magic Bullet. Good times guaranteed, always!) We had some issues with the Bullet (“It’s not so magic after all!”), mainly because the ginger and garlic were not chopped that finely but in the end, with the addition of some extra oil – 2-3 tablespoons - it worked out. Ritvik said “It looks right” so we felt pleased!
Jamie Oliver’s Chicken Tikka Masala
Ingredients (serves 4 to 6)
4 boneless skinless chicken breast fillets
2 medium onions
1 fresh red chile (We used a banana pepper)
1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger
1 small bunch fresh cilantro
peanut or vegetable oil
a pat of butter
1/2 cup tikka masala paste
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14-ounce) can of coconut milk
1 cup natural yogurt
a small handful sliced almonds
to prepare your curry:
Slice chicken breasts lengthways into 3/4 inch strips (I had Charles cut small cubes of the chicken).
(Charles is an old pro at this – he requested the job – from last term in club. He and Sasa did a good job at cutting even pieces. Believe it or not, others were jealous of this job – apparently it’s fun when the meat feels “goopy”)
Peel, halve, and finely slice the onions (and – ahem, don’t touch your eyes…).
(Michael is new to the club and was not around to witness the great jalapeño caper we had with Liam last year. I made sure to tell him to wash his hands after he was finished but didn’t realise he would rub his eyes part-way through. Enter Ms Baby, administrative assistant extraordinaire and operator of the magic eye bath machine. It’s always an exciting day when someone gets to use the eye bath! No eyes were harmed in the making of this recipe)
Finely slice your chile. (and don’t touch your eyes!)
Pick the cilantro leaves and put to one side then finely chop the stalks.
(Henry was a little confused that we were using the stalks – we chatted about how they have a lot of flavour too!)
With the mise en place complete, we got cooking.
to make your curry:
Put a large casserole-type pan on a medium to high heat and add a couple of lugs of oil and the butter.
Add the onions, chile, ginger and coriander stalks and cook for 10 minutes until softened and golden.
Add the coconut milk and tomatoes (we strained the tomatoes – I don’t like sauce too watery).
Check regularly to see it’s not drying out and add extra water if necessary (We added some extra cilantro for colour here). When the meat is cooked and tender, taste and add more salt and pepper to taste.
Pack the curry in Tupperware to serve with fluffy brown basmati rice, lemon wedges and slivered almonds. (Hand to happy-looking mum coming to pick up her boy. Instruct other boys that they are not to eat it on the subway on the way home and to save some for their mums)
to serve your curry:
Serve with fluffy rice and a spoonful of yoghurt dolloped on top. Sprinkle with almonds (if desired) and some roughly chopped cilantro. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over. (for my portion I skipped the almonds and lemon)
Absolutely amazing. I was so happy with this – a little bit of spice, lots of flavour and colour. The boys (and mums!) reported they liked it though it could have used a bit more of a “thick” sauce (yup, more simmering required) and it was a little on the spicy side for some. Neil had some for lunch the next day and gave it two thumbs up. Yes, there was a couple of chunks of ginger on the larger side but on the whole, Bravo Petits Chefs – you outdid yourselves!
I hope you agree this post is true to the spirit of my blog. It’s what I do and what I love to do. I took most of these photos over the course of an hour whilst I was supervising 6 boys under the age of 10 wielding knives and spicy ingredients and dealing with hotplates and kitchen gadgets. If I can produce a step-by-step tutorial and the boys can produce an outstanding chicken tikka masala under those conditions, it’s do-able for anyone. In under an hour. I don’t know what more I could offer you.
If you liked this step-by step demystification of chicken tikka masala, I would appreciate your vote to go to Round 5. I have a great idea for a “pizza remix” – you definitely want to see it. Voting starts at 6AM Pacific Time on October 11th and run through 6PM Pacific Time on October 14th. Simply click here to vote. You have to be a Foodbuzz member to vote but it’s a simple sign-up process. Once you’re signed up, click the red heart to vote. Thanks in advance.
Disclosure: The gorgeous bamboo disposable serving dish of the end result was provided at no cost by RestaurantWare.com. If you would like to order your own bamboo tableware with 10% off, use the code eatlivetravelwrite at checkout.