One of the loveliest gifts I have ever received was a wooden chest full of spices. The ornately carved lid opens up to reveal rows of jars of spices straight from the Pushkar Camel Fair in Rajasthan, India. Every time I open that box I thrill. I can imagine the noise, the dust, the endless rows of camels and the riotous colours of their ornamentation. The kitchen is where I do my traveling, my ingredients bringing me a piece of the world I have not yet, and may never, see.
This curry is about as simple as you can get, comfortably exotic and absolutely satisfying. It's based on a cauliflower curry that my mother often made when we went camping. It relies on the flavours of garam masala, a blend of sweet spices that are appealing to nearly everyone.
Coconut Chicken and Cauliflower Curry 6 servings
3 tablespoons Canola or other vegetable Oil
2 pounds boneless Chicken Thighs
1 large Onion, diced
2 large Carrots, peeled and cut into 1"sticks
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated Ginger
2 small Zucchini or 6 small Pattypan Squash
1 head Cauliflower, broken into 1" florets
1 tablespoon Garam Masala
1 can Coconut Milk
2 cups Brown or White Rice, cooked according to package directions
Possible Accompaniments: Chutney, Chopped Cilantro, Chopped Cashews or Almonds, Toasted Coconut, Lime Pickle
Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok (something big enough to hold all the listed ingredients) over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper and brown well on both sides. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Add the onions and carrots to the oil remaining in the pan and cook for five minutes, stirring constantly. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for just a minute longer, then add the cauliflower and zucchini. Sprinkle in the garam masala. Stir in the coconut milk and the reserved chicken. Cover the pan and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. Uncover and continue to simmer until the sauce has thickened somewhat. Season to taste with salt and serve over rice with as many accompaniments as you can muster.