Never the same twice curry

I made this curry for the second NCT reunion. For those uninitiated in the world of NCT it stands for the National Childbirth Trust. The plan is to make life long friends, go through the horrors of childbirth together, watch your children grow up and generally offer support and comfort through life's ups and downs. Now some of this is true, but I think there's a darker side to the NCT. A competitive undercurrent that begins with the birth and well, I'm not sure when it ends. Here's a list of things to be competitive about, gathered from many a friend who's dipped their toe into the NCT world:

- The birth and degree of pain relief you had. Real mothers feel the pain you see.
- Tears. Not the things made of saltwater. I'll say no more.
- Breastfeeding versus formula. Good Mummies most definitely breastfeed even if they hate every minute. It is The Law.
- Sleeping through the night. Those who don't get their little ones sleeping through by 6 weeks are incompetent.
- How quickly you lose the baby (and family size pack of Malteasers) weight. It should just fall off you. Effortlessly. Especially if you breastfeed.
- Weaning - baby led or pureed? Heaven forbid you buy jars. Only pouches can be seen in public and only in an emergency. The jars can be used in secret, just don't recycle them or the neighbours will know. (Same goes for wine bottles - 3 acceptable per week. No more.)
- Work or stay at home? Feel guilty about either for different reasons.
- Is your toddler toddling yet? Still holding onto the sofa? Oh such a shame! Obviously a late developer.
- Is your child talking yet? If not asking for aioli by 14 months he/she might need to see a speech therapist.

And so it goes on and on until we're all driven to Valium or gin or both. Unfortunately children bring out a competitive streak in a lot of women. I'm not sure if they do in men. I might need to consult Mr B and get back to you. Of course this research isn't as robust as it could be. Although, a chap I work with did confirm my theory recently when he mentioned every time his girlfriend went to an NCT group meeting she came back in tears. (That's the saltwater stuff, not the other type.)

Right, as I said, I made this curry for an NCT meet up we held at our house. It was actually a very enjoyable affair, possibly because it was a bring a dish occasion so the competitiveness centered around the food offerings rather than the babies. It was made even more enjoyable by our friend Mark commenting that this curry was one of the best he'd ever tasted. Now, this might well not be true. He might have been being nice. I like to think it was a bit of both.

The problem is (as hinted at in the title) that I make this curry differently every time as I don't measure anything properly. It's quite exciting really. Like playing Curry Russian Roulette. Actually I need to get out more. Onto the recipe.


- 2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped finely
- 3 tbsp of sunflower oil
- a pinch of salt
- a piece of ginger as big as your thumb, peeled and chopped finely
- a fresh chilli or 5 depending on how you like the heat, chopped finely
- chicken thighs, about 8 (Either be lazy and buy without skins or remove skins yourself. Easy to do but not for everyone. My friend Claire doesn't like handling raw meat. Fair enough.)
- two 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
- one large tin of coconut milk or shave off a fair chunk of a block of creamed coconut
- veggies that need using up from your fridge (This one included red peppers and, dare I say it... courgettes. I faithfully promise that was the last of the bumper bag from Asda.)
- spices

Put the oven onto Gas 5 and take a large casserole dish. The type you can fry stuff in on the hob as well as put in the oven. If you don't have one just use a frying pan and transfer to an oven proof dish later. I'm just thinking of the washing up as we STILL don't have a proper kitchen or dish washer.

Put the dish onto a medium heat on the hob and add the oil, salt and onions, stir until coated and gently fry until golden and caramelly - this can take about 20 mins but is worth it. Then add the garlic, ginger, fresh chilli and the spices. This is where the Curry Russian Roulette begins.

You could use teaspoons, but as I have those large bags of spices (from our fab local shops) rather than the ones in easy to measure from glass jars, I like to simply shake and stir. This does mean you sometimes end up with a bit more of one spice than another depending on how heavy handed you are. This time I used cumin seeds, ground cumin, ground coriander, curry leaves, turmeric, chilli powder and garam masala. Sometimes I also use cardamon pods slightly crushed, mustard seeds or whatever else takes my fancy from the Tupperware spice box. Or you could just use curry powder and I am sure no-one would be any the wiser.

Let all the spices fry a little in the oily garlicky onions. You might need to open the window as chilli can make Mr B cough when it's fried. Though he also gets hay fever and is allergic to cats so not sure if it's all related.

Next add the tinned tomatoes, coconut milk, chicken and veggies. The chicken thighs are so much nicer than breast of chicken as they stay all juicy and lovely rather than that little bit dry in the way that breasts sometimes end up. The thighs will have bits of fat on the outside before you put them in but that's okay as most of it melts away when cooked for long enough.

Let the curry come to a simmer on the hob, then cover with a lid or foil and place in the oven for about an hour. It can take longer in the oven meaning it's perfect for NCT reunions, parties, family lunches or any other time when you don't know the exact time you're going to eat.

We eat ours with basmati rice done the Mr B way (which I need to post as he's asked me to) though it's pretty good with naan or even on it's own. I quite like it with frozen peas thrown in towards the end but then I love peas very much.

P.S. The fresh coriander garnish (love that word, reminds me of HE lessons with Mrs Hill) is from the herb garden Lady V bought me which is still going strong. No-one is more surprised about this than me.
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