Thursday, February 17, 2011

Miss me? (Chicken, Chickpea and Pea Curry)

Yes, I know, it's been awhile. But the reality that you should all be aware of by now is my job is one where, to me, free time is as precious and rare a commodity as a listenable Justin Bieber song. But with the week that it's been and the workload required for our Valentine's day menu I've been spending so much time in work, that I'm one step away from just curling up in the prep kitchen with a sleeping bag at the end of the each night. So I apologies if the veg patch that is my blog has sprouted a few weeds and started smelling faintly of cat piss.

The result of which is my kitchen at home has been receiving as much attention as the fruit bowl in the Cowen household. So while the entire blogsphere has been clambering over itself to deliver their take on what they intend to dish up on the day of Val. I’ve been solely focused on overcoming one restaurant-related headache after another. So attempting to post anything related to this holiday is akin to requesting a dissertation on the virtues of modesty from Kanye West. But now the dust has nearly settled (we’re still running our special menu this weekend) I find the only thing I’ve to offer is the one meal I’ve cooked for myself in the past eight days that wasn’t ordered in or came from a frozen box (Oh Green Isle’s Gigantic pizza, don’t ever change!)

But the one meal I made is a demonstration of a piece of advice that is integral to been a better cook. In short, I'm feeling generous this week. Perhaps the hours have resulted in a fatigue-induced lobotomy, but I feel like sharing something with you all. Some advice, that if you've any interest in feeding yourself beyond ready-meals and potato waffle sandwiches, might help actually help you. This advice could be summed up in a one word. A word that applies to and encapsulates everything involved in cookery. It is a word that whether it be students in a grubby bed-sit with a copy of 'Jamie's 30-Minute meals', or amongst the brigades of the most avant-garde, pyrotechnical three-star kitchens of Paris, New York or Tokyo, holds just as equal relevance and importance. The word; technique. My advice; that if you want to be better cook, concentrate on learning techniques, not recipes. Now, considering that on the face of it techniques are, essentially, recipes I wouldn't be surprised if the following didn't come off slightly convoluted but I'll explain as best as I can. Also bear in mind that I'm so very, very tired.

You see, nearly every action or process you undertake in a kitchen, be it cooking cheese on toast, sweating onions, making a salad dressing or preparing a 'torchon' of foie gras (don't expect a post on that anytime soon), are all the implication of a technique. Some more complex and difficult then others but the notion is the same. The difference between them and what is commonly conceived as a 'recipe' is that they are not specific to a dish. What I've always dug about Jamie Oliver, as much as it pains me to say it, is that he's one of the few mainstream cookbook writers who've grasped and applied the concept of not just teaching someone a dish, but teaching them a means to creating their own. Best example I can think of was in his book 'Cook with. . .' which was laid out in a way that the a chapter would begin with a base method, for say, pasta or gnocchi. And then the following recipes were ways in which that could be implied. That's essentially the distinction I'm trying to make. Learning the base of one thing, but using that as a starting point. An endless path of adaptation and altering to your own palate.

Let’s take one of the simplest such bases in a kitchen: a vinaigrette or dressing for salad, one part acid mixed to 3-4 parts oil. Google ‘salad dressing recipes’ and you’ll get near seven million results, and even if there are millions of dressing recipes out there I can tell you that at least most of will have the above at their core. So here I’ve made a curry. But I’ve posted a curry before and on the surface they seem pretty different but at their core in essence, is a method of making curry. Before I used just rice and peas, because it’s all it had. This time I’ve used chicken, chick peas, and mushrooms, because at the time it was all I had. So if you’re making this and you’d didn’t have any of those and instead had just a load of veg, or instead of chicken had lamb or even fish, with the method as a guide it’d still be ace.

After all, we all remember the Oxfam ad, 'Give a socially inept, World of Warcraft hooked, college student a Dominos Pizza and he'll be able to feed himself for the evening. But give him two slice pans of bread, a block of cheese, a tub of Ballymoley Relish and a George Foreman grill and you give him the means to feed himself for a week.' Although if cheese toasties are your sole meal for seven days straight, self-satisfaction aside, few could argue that this is an improvement.

Chicken, Chickpea and Pea Curry:

The method and quantities are near identical to this. But as I’ve said, that’s kinda the point. Amounts are per person:

1 onion
3 medium cloves of garlic
2-3 mushrooms
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp coriander seeds
3 whole cloves
1 tsp fennel seeds
4-6 cardamom pods
1 tsp tomato puree
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp tumeric
1 tbsp gara masala
½ tbsp chilli powder
1 diced chicken leg, de-boned. Thigh meat or even breast can be used.
1 spring onion
½ tin chickpeas
1 cup of frozen peas
1tbsp of cold butter
salt and black pepper for seasoning

  1. Lightly fry the whole spices/seeds in a pan with a little oil.
  2. Add onion, garlic and mushrooms and sweat for a few minutes.
  3. Stir in ground spices, then add tomato puree and about a cup of water.
  4. Add diced chicken; simmer for about 4-6 minutes.
  5. Drain chickpeas and stir in.
  6. When the chickpeas are warm add in peas and butter in bring back up temperature. Add spring onions and serve.


  1. This recipe is delicous. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Glad you digged it! I work with a lot of Indians so they've showed me a few things. Although if they saw this they'd probably say 'that would never be done like that back home!'