Curries used to be a regular thing in our house, especially on a Saturday evening when I had the time to spend the preceding afternoon in the kitchen, presiding over a collection of pans and saucepans bubbling away on the stove and breathing in the intoxicating aromas. Perhaps I should expand on that opening statement and add the word ‘hot’ before curries, as that is what they were, hot and spicy, a tongue tingling combination that 30 years ago I would have baulked at. Back in those early days of curry naivety, even the mildest of kormas seemed spicy and sophisticated to the uninitiated and the thought of enjoying something so hot it would bring sweat beads to my forehead and a burning sensation to my lips was unimaginable.
Unlike bat-wing arms, greying hair and an ever-expanding waist line, my changing taste buds have been one part of getting older that I have happily embraced and although I fare way behind the big boys on the Scoville heat chart, coping with something around the embarrassingly low 5,000 mark, I do now enjoy things a little spicer than in the days of old.
However, my son, who is now eleven, has a relatively sensitive palate and does not yet share our love of spicy food. He will gaze suspiciously at any dish served with rice or flatbreads and ask “Is it spicy?” before tucking in. I do use a lot of different spices in my cooking as I love tinkering about with food from all over the world. Heavily spiced Middle Eastern dishes are cooked quite often which he will eat willingly and with enthusiasm so it is not the flavours of the spices that offend, it is just the heat.
On the odd occasion my son does not join us for dinner he always quips “You and Dad can have something spicy tonight.” which gives me the opportunity to turn up the heat in the kitchen.
I like a curry to be just hot enough so the heat is an enjoyable sensation. I do sometimes envy those who can bear the intense heat of the superhot chillies, but the thought of experiencing nausea, stomach cramps and even a trip to the nearest hospital do nothing for me personally. The fact that capiscum is used in the form of pepper spray as a weapon, albeit non-lethal, may delight the ‘chilliheads’ who go to lengths beyond the call of duty to impress friends and loved ones with their chilli eating skills. Having to munch through a selection of fiery Bhut Jolokia chillies in a matter of seconds sounds like a form of torture to me, I think I would rather go straight to hell. These sizzling hot chillies from Nagaland in northeastern India register up to 1.5 million on the Scoville scale and warrant their own annual Naga King Chilli Eating Competition, an event that I suspect brings more smiles to the faces of the spectators than the competitors. Incredibly the Naga King Chilli has now lost its hottest pepper in the world title to a grim sounding Carolina Reaper, an American bright red ball of fire registering over 2 million SHU (Scoville Heat Units). I think I will pass, unless I need a good drain cleaner.
We recently acquired two new young hens who started laying more or less straightaway after arriving, resulting in a glut of eggs impossible to use up just by making the odd omelette or cake. Using up a few in one dish really helps out with the overflowing egg basket.
If you cook curries regularly you may already have all or most of the spices I have used. Having to buy all the spices from scratch for a new recipe can work out quite expensive at first but the sealed jars do last quite a long time in the store cupboard. Hopefully they will get used before you have to discard them.
This vegetarian egg, chickpea and spinach curry is a bit of a made up combination but it works really well. It takes little time to cook compared to meat curries, especially if you have already boiled the eggs (they will keep in the fridge for a couple of days). It has a little pepper hotness about it but the heat is balanced by the delicious creaminess of the coconut milk. You can put in a little more or a little less dried chillies if you prefer. I serve it with either plain rice or flatbreads to mop up the delicious sauce.
- Sunflower Oil for frying
- 1 Tbs Black Mustard Seeds
- 1 tsp Dried Crushed Chillies
- 12 Dried Curry Leaves
- 3 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
- 1 Large Onion, chopped
- 1 Tbs Cumin Seeds
- 1 Tbs Ground Coriander
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp palm sugar (ordinary sugar will do)
- 1 Can Chopped Tomatoes
- 1 Can Coconut Milk
- 1 700g Can Chickpeas, drained
- 150g Fresh Washed Spinach
- 4 Hardboiled Eggs, peeled
- A few chopped fresh Mint leaves to Garnish
- Heat a glug of oil in large frying pan, add the mustard seeds then after a few seconds when they start to pop add the chillies, garlic and curry leaves. Cook for a minute and then stir in the chopped onion and cook for 10 minutes until soft.
- Add the rest of the spices, tomatoes and chickpeas and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
- Pour in the coconut milk, stir and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the spinach, stir until wilted then gently place the eggs on top. Cook for a further 5 minutes or so to heat the eggs through.
- Sprinkle with a few chopped mint leaves before serving (not absolutely necessary but it does make a difference).