winter-warmer chicken keema (ready in 30 minutes)

I’ve already mentioned that sometimes it’s hard for me to find time (and energy) to cook, and I know that’s a common problem, because I see it on Twitter all the time. It’s hard enough when you’re a full time working woman, who is primarily responsible for coming up with food in the evening (whether you’re single or in a relationship). Throw a baby or a toddler into the mix? And it’s 100 times harder.

So I’m starting a record of quick, easy to execute dishes that are comforting for a cold winter night, but don’t take hours and hours of cooking. Even one of my go-to dishes during summer, the grain bowl, takes too long to put together when I want to eat before 8.30pm (and the toddler just WON’T LET ME GO). And I’m lucky, I work from home, so I can (sometimes) get it together to put dinner on before my boy comes home from daycare, but we aren’t all that lucky.

This was dinner last night, and it was quick, easy and tasty. Yes, I’m big into Indian flavours at the moment – spices like turmeric, cinnamon and masala make sense in winter because they are warming and tasty, but they’re also good for boosting your immune system and keeping you healthy, so it’s a win-win.

Chicken-Keema-5

Chicken Keema (or a way of using chicken mince that isn’t meatballs) – link to original recipe here, which is where I took the pic from too.

INGREDIENTS
500g chicken mince (or pork)
2 tsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2-3 green chilies, chopped fine (I used jalapeños)
1 inch piece of fresh turmeric, finely minced (optional, my addition)
1 inch piece of ginger, finely minced(optional, my addition)
1 large garlic clove, finely minced(optional, my addition)
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp red chili powder or chilli flakes
1 tsp garam masala
4 tomatoes, diced (I used a tin of chopped Italian tomatoes, as I had no fresh)
Salt to taste
½ tsp black pepper
2-4 tbsp Greek yoghurt (optional, my addition)
1 cup frozen peas (optional, my addition)
1 cup broccoli and cauliflower florets (optional, my addition)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large, deep frying pan, heat oil. Once warm, add onions and chilies and sauté until onion is softened. Then add in the ginger, fresh turmeric and garlic, if using, and fry until fragrant.
  2. Add chicken mince and mix. Cook on medium low heat until chicken is cooked through (chicken will turn white)
  3. Now add all the spices and stir, until the spices are integrated and slightly toasted. Then add the tomatoes, fresh or canned
  4. Cook for good 20-25 minutes or until the liquid is completely cooked off. Keep stirring it in between. Traditionally, this is a fair dry curry, more about the mince and spices than the sauce, but I wanted it to be more saucy, so once most of the tomato had cooked off, I added in a few spoonfuls of Greek yoghurt for some saucy creaminess.
  5. The original dish also entirely lacked vegetables, and I wanted some, so I tossed in some frozen peas, and sautéed some broccoli and cauliflower in a pan, then threw them in at the end. If I’d been using my brain, I’d have added frozen broccoli and cauliflower straight into the curry, which would have saved on dishes and time, so do that rather.
  6. Serve over rice or with naan.
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ready-in-30 minutes red lentil dhal

{Image from Jamie’s recipe – you don’t want to see mine photographed}

So, I’ve been in a bit of a funk around cooking lately. My darling toddler has been extra clingy with me, specifically, and wants me to finish his bedtime routine off every evening. That takes 20 minutes out of my dinner making time (if we are going to eat before 9pm, and maybe, just maybe, squeeze in an hour of Masterchef!) All the normal things I make are ±45 minutes, and I’ve just not had time or been much in the mood for them.

A few weeks (or maybe months?) ago, I came across this recipe for red lentil dhal on Jamie Oliver’s site. After watching Save with Jamie last year (I also have the book), I have new respect for this guy, and my current funk persuaded me to follow the recipe (something I usually don’t do). It was amazing! Simple, quick and easy, and I’ve made it roughly once a week since that first time. It’s spiced without being spicy, though you could easily build the heat, and everyone from my lovely and fussy sister to my picky toddler loves it. It’s warm, comforting and the perfect thing to tuck into after a long day.

I have (OF COURSE) freestyled with it a bit, and I have to say, I think mine are improvements, not just tinkering for the sake of it. Make the recipe as stated in the link, but add in these things to take it to another level:

Extra ingredients:

  • 1 can coconut cream
  • 1/2 -1 tsp fenugreek
  • 1 tsp ground cumin

Optional ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas or 200-300g protein, like chicken breast or mini fillets
  • 1-2 diced carrots
  • 1/5 – 1 cup frozen peas

Method:

  1. When you’re cooking the lentils, I add in 2-2.5 cups of water to start*, then bring to the boil, skimming off any scum that rises to the top.
    • *My lentil cooking ratio is 1:2, so 1.5 cups lentils to 3 cups liquid, which I divide here between water and coconut cream, for a richer, tastier result.
  2. Then, when the initial liquid as cooked off and they are looking a bit dry, but not quite cooked yet, I add ± half a can of coconut cream, and cook until soft and porridgey.
  3. I never remember to buy cumin seeds, so I skip that step, and just add ground cumin to the onion/chillies mixture, along with some fenugreek, and a few lumps of asafoetida (which I picked up at Faithful to Nature ages ago, but which they don’t stock anymore). The asafoetida adds another onion-garlic flavour, and the other spices just add to the depth of flavour, instead of letting the turmeric run rampant.
  4. I cook the onion mixture at a fairly high heat for colour and caramelisation, but when it gets too dry, I splash in some more of the coconut cream.
  5. When the lentils are cooked, add them into the onion mixture, and cook until it is the desired temperature.
  6. If you are adding chicken or something that needs to be cooked, cut it into small, bite size pieces, and add it into the onion mixture, then finish cooking when you’ve integrated the lentils. If you’re adding chickpeas, just toss them in sometime towards the end, as they are cooked and will only need to be warmed through.
  7. You can also dice up some carrot, or toss some peas in, if you want to up the veggie ante, which I’ve done a few times.

Serve over basmati rice in a bowl, and eat with a spoon.