18 July 2013

Curry baked chicken with Slow cooker split pea dhal

I seem to have a "thing" going on with chicken right at the moment.

I think what it is, is that I've suddenly hit upon the ruse of instead of buying just chicken breasts (which the menfolk both prefer), I also buy one or two chicken legs at the same time (which I prefer).  This means that :
a) the chicken breasts go further - we get 5 for £5, so they are good for at least 2 recipes, if not 3;
b) I get to enjoy chicken dishes more and 
c) I have the benefit of having some chicken on the bone to cook alongside the breast in casseroles, which helps the flavour along a lot.

Chicken legs are a lot cheaper to buy than breasts too - and every little helps.

So, because I can now have lovely chicken leg meat instead of boring old "every forkful is the same" breast meat, it has rekindled my love of chicken.

Yes, you're right, I should have thought of it before now - but there we are.  Some things take a while to sink in.

You'll remember the Curry Baked Chicken that I made along with the Vegetable Curry?  Well, if not, you can find it here.

The chicken for this recipe is almost the same as that, the only difference is that I forgot to marinate it for as long.

However, it really didn't seem to matter - it was just as delicious.

Now I don't normally repeat recipes so soon, but that chicken was so good it had to be made again - and it was a no-brainer when I was considering having my first go at making dhal.  The yummy chicken, some plain white basmati rice and the dhal as the side dish - perfect.

As I say, I have never made dhal (or daal or any other way you might want to spell it) before.  I've seen it made often enough and it appeared to either be incredibly complicated with an ingredients list as long as your arm, or incredibly easy and how I could imagine it would be made in an Indian household.  But which way to go?  Well, it doesn't take Einstein to work out that I'd be more interested in the home style method of cooking than the restaurant method of cooking - so I set about researching my recipe.

I hadn't considered using the slow cooker at all, but I found a couple of recipes that utilised their slow cookers to great effect.  I was intent on making yellow split pea dhal and, after further consideration, it made sense to me that long slow cooking could only be good for such a dish.  It allows the full flavour of each ingredient to develop over time and because you're using dried yellow split peas unsoaked, I figured that they'd need a bit of time!  I couldn't see Indian families usually whipping up a dhal in a half an hour (although I'm sure it happens) so settled upon using the slow cooker.

For all that the ingredients list is fairly lengthy, believe me, it's brief in comparison with some of them!  I took what I considered to be the best of the ingredients listed for many recipes and felt that this collection would turn out a good flavoured dhal that would suit our taste.  I was right - and it did!

In fact, the dhal was so good that once the weather turns back to being cold, wet and miserable, I have every intention of making another batch simply to have for lunch over successive days.  There was quite a bit left over from this batch, which I boxed up and kept in the fridge and it fed me for two lunchtimes, during which time it just got better and better.

Both hubby and son & heir approved of the dhal and ate every little bit.  Hubby felt that the split peas could have had a little longer in the slow cooker as they were still a teensy bit firm - and I'm sure it wouldn't have hurt them to have gone for an hour or so longer.  I may try that next time and put them on for 5 hours instead of the 4 they were cooked for this time, although I actually liked them with the bite that they had.  Never having ordered dhal from an Indian restaurant, I was scratching around in the dark a little bit as to the best texture - but everyone enjoyed it, so I think I did good in the end!

If you are a regular dhal maker, I'd be most interested for you to make this recipe and let me know what you think.  Alternatively, if you've never made dhal before and you have a slow cooker, do give it a go!  I'm sure you won't regret it.

CURRY BAKED CHICKEN WITH SPLIT PEA DHAL      (Serves 3 - with dhal left over)

Ingredients :

300g dried yellow split peas
700ml hot water
1 tablespoonful of sunflower oil
2 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 red chilli, seeds optional, sliced finely
a thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, grated
2 heaped teaspoonfuls of ground cumin
2 heaped teaspoonfuls of ground coriander
2 heaped teaspoonfuls of ground turmeric
a large handful of fresh coriander - mostly stems - chopped
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoonfuls of vegetable stock powder
10g salted butter
a pinch of sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 skinless boneless chicken breasts (or 2 breasts, 2 legs)
2 dessert spoonfuls of Greek yoghurt
1.5 dessert spoonfuls of mango chutney
1.5 dessert spoonfuls of curry paste
1 garlic clove, chopped finely.

Method :

1.  Place the split peas and the water into your slow cooker and turn on to High.

2.  Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onion.  Fry on a medium to high heat until transparent and just starting to brown.

3.  Add the garlic, chilli, ginger and spices.  Stir well to combine and continue to cook for another few minutes, to cook out the spices.

4.  Add the fresh coriander and the tomatoes, along with the vegetable stock powder.  Stir well to combine and heat through.  Once hot, decant into the slow cooker and stir to combine.

5.  Replace the lid on the slow cooker and cook on High for 4 hours.

6.  When the 4 hours are almost up, start with cooking the chicken by cutting each chicken breast into three pieces.

7.  Place the yoghurt, curry paste, chutney and garlic into a bowl and stir to combine.  Add the chicken and toss liberally in the mixture.

8.  Place the chicken in separate pieces onto a baking tray and spoon the remains of the mixture over the top of each piece.  Bake at 200degC/400degF/Gas 6 for 20-25 minutes, until the chicken is white throughout and the surface has begun to caramelise.

9.  In the meantime, give the dhal a stir and taste for seasoning.  Add sea salt and black pepper to taste, plus the butter.  Allow the butter to melt, then stir through.

10.  Serve the chicken and dhal with some plain boiled basmati rice.

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