Autumn has always been one of my favorite times of the year. I love the weather turning cool, the leaves burnishing and the idea of getting back to comfort food of a lighter persuasion than wintry fare. The colors of the fall give rise to its vibrant seasonal ingredients which I love to use, one of my favorites of which is the bulbous butternut squash. It is smoother and silkier than pumpkin and works really well in Indian food. This chicken curry is a hearty, one-pot meal which is savory, slightly sweet, slightly tangy, very nutritious and highly satisfying, which makes it one of India’s (and England’s) best loved dishes. Serve with rice or naan bread. --Anjum Anand
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds, ground
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/4 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp pure red chile powder, or to taste
6 large cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
6 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced
Salt, to taste
2 medium tomatoes, puréed
2 lb chicken pieces, skinned
1 cup red lentils, rinsed well and soaked in water while you prepare and cook
3 1/4 cups water
4 small eggplants, halved lengthways (optional)
1 lb butternut squash, peeled and flesh cut into large chunks (optional)
1 tsp tamarind paste, or to taste
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp brown sugar or jaggery (optional)
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
Using a spice grinder or good pestle and mortar, make a fine powder of the whole spices. In a blender, make a fine paste of the ginger and garlic, the powdered spices, and a small splash of water until smooth.
Heat the oil in a nonstick saucepan and fry the sliced onion until well browned, around 8 minutes. Add the spice paste and salt and cook until all the moisture in the pan has evaporated, then fry the paste for another 2 to 3 minutes over low heat, stirring continuously. Add the tomatoes and a good splash of water, cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium–high heat or until the sauce is cooked and the oil starts to bubble at the sides.
Add the chicken and brown for a few minutes. Drain the lentils from their soaking water and add to the pan with 3 1/4 cups water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Add the eggplant, cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, then add the squash, if using. Cover again and cook until the chicken and vegetables are tender, another 10 minutes or so. Give the pan an occasional stir to make sure the lentils are not settling at the bottom.
Add the tamarind paste to taste, the garam masala and sugar. Check the seasoning and, using the back of the spoon, crush some of the lentils to thicken the gravy. Add a splash of warm water if it is too thick. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve.
More Recipe Excerpts from Anjum's New Indian
Dried Pomegranate Chicken
Lima Bean Sundal
Sindhi Lamb Curry