Chicken Curry for the Crockpot

Slow cooked chicken curry
chicken curry for the crockpot or slow cooker
Makes about 8-12 servings depending on appetite:

1.2 - 1.5 kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs (US: 2 1/2-3 pounds)
150-175g cooked or canned chickpeas (US: 1 cup), optional
3 medium onions
6 large garlic cloves
400-450g mushrooms (US: 1 pound)
2 tblsp olive oil
seeds from 3 opened cardamom pods
1 tblsp cumin seeds
small stick of cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1-2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cayenne pepper OR chilli powder (or more, if you want it hotter)
1 tblsp garam masala
1 sachet coconut cream or about 100-125ml coconut milk or yogurt (US: 1/2 cup)

Note: you will need a medium or large crockpot or slow cooker for this recipe. If you only have a small one, you will need to halve the amounts of the ingredients.

In a large saucepan or frying pan, heat the oil gently, then brown the chicken pieces, a few at a time, turning so that all sides brown - they won't be cooked through, just lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon when done, and place in the crockpot, then continue with more pieces.

While the chicken is cooking, peel and finely chop the onions; peel and mince the garlic; wash and slice the mushrooms.

When all the chicken is in the crockpot, add a little more oil if needed. Put the cardamom and cumin seeds in the pan with the cinnamon stick; cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the chopped onions, mushrooms and garlic, and fry, stirring, until the onions are golden. Add the rest of the spices and chickpeas if used, cook for about 15 seconds, then stir in the coconut cream or yogurt.

Mix thoroughly, turn off the heat, and pour the mixture over the chicken pieces in the crockpot. It looks as if it will be quite dry, but actually creates quite a bit of liquid as it cooks.

I cook for about an hour on HIGH, to ensure the chicken is thoroughly cooked, and then about six to eight hours on LOW. But cooking times depend on your crockpot, and are flexible.

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This recipe is based on the 'Authentic chicken curry' recipe at the Cooks.com site. The first time I made it, I followed their directions fairly closely (other than using chicken pieces instead of a whole chicken, olive oil instead of corn oil, and more garlic than the recipe suggested).

I thought the initial recommendation of blending the yogurt, garlic and onions in a liquidiser was messy and didn't really work well. We liked the resultant curry, but thought the cloves gave too strong a flavour which didn't quite work for our British tastebuds. We also thought the spices could have been stronger, and the whole was too meaty. Using some chick-peas gives more of a balance.

So the second time I made the recipe as above, other than forgetting the mushrooms, and it worked well. It would have been better still with the mushrooms!

We serve it with pitta bread or naan, mango chutney, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, with raisins, sunflower seeds and dessicated coconut to sprinkle over.


Tomato and Apple Chutney

Tomato and apple chutney
tomato and apple chutneyMakes 5-6 340g jars or around 2kg (US: 4 pounds):

1kg apples (any kind), peeled, cored and finely chopped (US: 2lb)
1kg red tomatoes, sliced thinly or chopped (US: 2lb)
350g onions, peeled and chopped into small pieces (US: 3/4 lb)
3-5 cloves garlic, skinned and crushed
225g raisins or sultanas (US: 1/2 lb)
350g demerara sugar (US: 3/4 lb)
1 tblsp turmeric
1 tblsp curry powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt 
850 ml malt or wine vinegar (US: 3 1/2 cups)

Put the apples in the preserving pan first, with a little water, and stew gently to soften. No need to do this if the apples are soft already,but if you use cooking apples or hard ones such as Granny Smith, it's worth doing.

While they are stewing, prepare the tomatoes, onions and garlic. Add to the pan, stirring, then put in all the other ingredients. Bring to the boil, stirring. Reduce the heat, and simmer for about an hour and a half or a bit longer, until there is a thick consistency with no extra liquid.

Put in hot, sterile jars and cover with non-metal lids.

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I looked at many different recipes for chutneys, wanting to make some using a bag of inexpensive tomatoes and some spare apples. Some of them required the tomatoes to be skinned first; I didn't want that extra step. Some of them insisted on malt vinegar, but that's quite hard to find in Cyprus. Some of them used more complex spices, or spiced vinegar. Some used mustard seeds in a muslin bag, but I don't have a muslin bag. None of them was exactly what I wanted.

But gradually I realised that there was a theme to all the chutney recipes: fruit, dried fruit, sugar, spices and vinegar. So long as the vinegar is good quality, it doesn't really matter whether it's malt or wine. I used white wine vinegar, but if you prefer a deeper colour, brown malt vinegar or red wine vinegar is fine. So long as one doesn't mind the (very soft) pieces of skin in the eventual mixture, there's no need to skin the tomatoes. And the spices come in so many possible variations that anything can be left out.

So I based my recipe on one I found in my ancient Good Housekeeping book (the version from the late 1970s), adjusted to take account of all the above, and tried it. The pan looked most unappetising when it had pieces of tomato and apple floating around in it at first, but gradually it took on a deep orange/red hue, and started to look like chutney. The taste is amazing. It goes extremely well with bread and cheese.


Mango and Apple Chutney

To make about five to six 340g jars (around 2kg):

2 onions
2 apples - either cooking apples (not too huge) or granny smith or similar
1.8kg ripe mangoes (about five medium)
3-5 garlic cloves
125g raisins
350g demerara sugar
1 tblsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
0.5 tsp salt
600ml malt vinegar

Peel and chop the onions fairly finely. Put in a preserving pan or other large heavy-based saucepan. Peel the apples, cut into quarters to remove the core, then chop and add to the pan.

Then prepare the mangoes. This can be a bit of a messy process. I found the easiest way was to make several deep cuts into the fruit, up to the large stone, then remove a wedge at a time. Chop the pieces of mango, easing away from the skin, and add into the pan.

Peel and crush the garlic cloves, and add them. Then put into the pan the raisins, sugar, spices (yes, it really is a whole tablespoon of dried ginger!), salt and vinegar. Heat, stirring lightly, until the mixture starts to boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about an hour and a half, stirring occasionally.

In the last twenty minutes or so of the cooking, it's important to watch the chutney and keep stirring, so that it doesn't stick. When ready, the excess liquid should have evaporated and the mixture will be dark and pulpy.

Spoon into hot, sterile jars with plastic or plastic-lined lids.

Once opened, a jars should be kept in the fridge and finished within around a month. Excellent served with curries, or any cold meat.

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The ingredients for this recipe came from the new 'Good Housekeeping' cookery book, but the explanation is my own. I made this when I saw fresh mangoes in the supermarket, and realised it would be a great deal less expensive than buying ready-made jars of mango chutney, which are quite pricey.

Getting the mango flesh was decidedly messy; if anyone has a fool-proof and simple method of removing the peel and stone so it can be used, please let me know.

The taste isn't quite the same as commercial sweet mango chutney, but we liked it anyway.


Vietnamese coconut chicken for the crockpot

To serve about 6-8:

2 tblsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
about 1kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 small thin green chillies, finely chopped
100g creamed coconut
500ml water
salt and pepper

Stir-fry the onions, garlic and chicken pieces in the oil for about five minutes or until the onions is softened, and the chicken starting to change colour. Put in the slow-cooker pot (crockpot). Next, put all the spices and the chillies in the same pan, with the coconut and water. Heat, stirring gently, until the coconut has dissolved, the pour over the chicken. Season with a little salt and pepper.

Cover, then cook for about three hours on High, or 6 hours on Low, stirring about half-way through, as the chicken thighs break up into smaller pieces.

Serve with rice or naan, thick yogurt, cashews, chopped cucumber, raisins, etc.

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This recipe was adapted from the excellent book 'Slow Cooking Curries and Spicy Dishes ' by Carolyn Humphries). Although the recipe claims to be sufficient for a 6.5 litre crockpot (which mine is) I felt the quantities were on the small side; for this recipe I have doubled the amount of chicken, and increased one or two other ingredients. It would be fine for a smaller crockpot; however, next time I make this, I will double everything, using 2kg chicken.

This would probably work in a conventional oven, cooked on low heat for about two or three hours, or even on the stove-top, although chicken thighs tend to be much more tender when cooked in a slow-cooker.

The original recipes uses a stalk of lemongrass, something I am unable to find, and fresh coriander which I don't like - so I left both out. It also uses cream, but I always prefer to use Greek yogurt.

The aroma while cooking is incredible!