I have always been one for making my own spice and herb mixes and using a hit and miss approach to overall flavour. There are some tried and true combinations, of course, which we were either taught or have picked up along the way. In the last few years the old herb and spice companies have found a market in our fast and furious world and have come up trumps – some better than others. When I was young, there was Oxo stock cubes and that was about it. Oh – I know there was Bisto and other gravy makers but that was here and I wasn’t – I don’t remember Bisto in Australia.
Oxo has reinvented itself as has Knorr and Schwartz and the innovative improvements are welcome. There are some terrific commercial combinations available at the supermarket as these companies compete for this market. This makes for good news for us the consumers. I still find that I cannot help myself fiddling with the flavours as I cook. I have a vast array of spices in my spice cupboard and a great deal many herbs chopped in season (this is Scotland after all) and frozen in individual containers (thanks again, dear companies, for marketing your wares in individual containers that I can re-use when freezing my herbs).
This recipe is sort of home-grown using a base of the spice mix made by Schwartz. Added spice values are flexible. You have to continually test the dish as it is cooking and adjust the seasonings and spices to suit your particular taste. I do this all the time and wouldn’t make a good wee chef because I don’t replicate exactly from one offering to the next.
I realise that some of you will throw your hands up in horror and scream ‘Not cream and sour cream and oil and finishing butter’. However I have always eaten these foods and have been on the go enough to not have had any problem with weight or cholesterol (when checked at the chemists). So I say go for it and then go for a run, a dig in the garden, a swim or push those biceps.
125gr diced chestnut mushrooms
450gr thickly slivered chicken breast
1 Indian Mild Masala Curry Flavour Shot by Schwartz
1 tbsp hot curry powder – if you like it hot as I do
1½teasp ground paprika
150gr tomato and basil pasta sauce or 400gr chopped tomatoes – a mix of what you have in the pantry
2teasp double tomato concentrate
2 cloves squeezed garlic
1½teasp ground garam masala
½pint or so of milk
¾ cup Aborio or parboiled rice. Basmati isn’t any good for this but other long grains are okay.
Some double cream and some crème fraiche
2teasp chopped parsley
Pepper and salt to season and some butter to finish
Stir the Flavour Pot and pour into a large (preferably) non-stick frypan. At this point, if you like (love!) onion, use a red onion thinly sliced and cook until softened. Otherwise add the diced mushrooms and cook for 2-3mins. Add the garlic. You may need some more oil. I am using groundnut oil at the moment.
Add the tomato type mixture you have decided on and the milk. Stir and bring to a simmer. Stir in the chicken and cook on high for 3mins then lower heat and
simmer for 10mins or so. This is a good time to start tasting and adding. Add some tomato concentrate, paprika, garam masala. Start adding pepper and salt to your taste.
Start adding the rice – you will need some water to hand. Here the intensity starts. Stir the rice throughout the dish and add water when it looks as though the rice has soaked up all the liquid. Don’t let it burn. Repeat, adding water, cream and soured cream but don’t let the dish become thin. It should take about 20 mins for the rice to absorb the liquid. If aborio, it will take a bit longer.
At the end add 1teasp butter to finish, ½doz. drops of nam pla (fish sauce) – I am like Nigel Slater and believe that virtually any dish benefits for the addition of nam pla. Add the parsley and enjoy. I serve myself some leeks and either beans or peas in side dishes – for effect and texture variety and I love vegetables anyway!