Sweet and Spicy Chicken, Spinach and Mango Curry

I am extremely fortunate to be the frequent recipient of food gifts such as samosas and curries, made by one of the ladies in my team when she, her sisters and her mother get together for one of their traditional batch cooking sessions.  Lucky, lucky me!

SaagThe other day she presented me with a huge portion of freshly made saag (spiced spinach).

MangoesThat morning I’d noted that as we had two very ripe mangoes, dinner really ought to include them.  I had no further plans.

When I got home, clutching my saag booty, I discovered Barn had decided he fancied chicken, so had taken some breast fillets out of the freezer.  He had no further plans.Curry with riceAfter a bit of dithering, and having started out with a vague idea of mango chicken with saag on the side, this delicious curry was the meal that eventually evolved.

If you’re not lucky enough to have been gifted saag, and you can’t buy any locally, substitute with 2-3 ‘bricks’ of frozen spinach, defrosted and with water squeezed out.  Use an extra clove of garlic in the main recipe and add the following spices to the cooked onions:

2 teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ to ½ teaspoons cayenne pepper

It won’t be quite the same but you’ll be going in the right direction!

Cucumber dipThanks to the absolute authenticity of the saag, this dish was quite fiery, so at the last minute I threw together a cucumber dip to have on the side.

With no plain yoghurt or fresh mint in the house a proper raita was out of the question; we made do with diced cucumber and soured cream, generously seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  I say ‘made do’…it was gorgeous and worked perfectly to allow the sweetness of the mango to come through, just before the spices kicked in.

To serve two very hungry people

2 chicken breast fillets, cut into chunks
A large portion of saag (curried spinach)
A couple of dessert spoons of ghee or a good splash of oil
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
1-2 onions, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1-2 courgettes, cut into chunks
1 chicken stockpot
2 ripe mangoes, peeled and chunked
Juice and zest of 1 lime
A 2-3cm of fresh ginger root, grated
A couple of red chillies (how much you use depends on the heat of your saag and, of course, personal taste)
A handful of fresh coriander
Salt and pepper
To serve: steamed rice and optional cucumber dip

Ginger, lime and garlic

CorianderPut mango chunks, lime juice and zest, ginger, chillies, coriander, salt and pepper into food processor and blend until smooth.  Set to one side.

Sliced onions

Heat oil or ghee in a heavy based saucepan and cook onions over a low to medium heat, until soft but not brown.GarlicAdd crushed garlic.

If you’re using the spinach/spices substitute for the saag, now is the time to add those extra spices (ground coriander, turmeric and cayenne).

Cook over a low heat for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time.

Jasmine ricePsst!  This is probably about the right time to get your rice into the steamer 🙂

Red bell pepper

CourgettesBack to the pan with the onions…

Turn up the heat a little and chuck in the peppers and courgettes.  Cook for about 5 minutes.

Add chicken and cook for another few minutes, stirring and turning..

Chicken stockpot

Chicken and veg in mango saucePour mango sauce over chicken and vegetables, add chicken stockpot and simmer, with the lid off, for around 15 minutes or until sauce is becoming thick and sticky.

SaagTurn down heat, add saag, or spinach, stir well to combine, and simmer with lid on for around 15 minutes.  Keep an eye on things to make sure it doesn’t start to catch on the bottom of the pan.

Curry - platedServe with fragrant steamed rice and cooling cucumber dip.

Burp loudly when finished eating (unless in polite company, or you are the polite company, in which case, don’t).

Spiced Chicken Kebabs with Mango Salsa

We awoke early this morning to a stunningly beautiful, hot, sunny day – a rare enough occasion in these parts to instantly elevate the day’s status to ‘awesome’.

Days like this tend to trigger serious house and garden maintenance activity from both Barn and me – dust motes dancing in sun rays are only romantic in films and photographs, and prostrating oneself for sun worship amidst towering grasses and triffidesque weeds is not altogether appealing.

Today, by some unspoken agreement, and in a manner quite atypical of the Renegade household, we went with the ‘traditional’ breakdown of tasks: while he was outside, hacking around, always alert for the possibility of discovering lost tribes in the depths of the wilderness, I was hurtling around the house, corralling possessions back to their designated areas, collecting laundry from behind the bathroom door, and terrorising dust bunnies with the hoover.

In no time at all the house was guest presentable and the garden is now, if not tamed, at least subdued.  It’s amazing how quickly things can get done when the sun is doffing its hat and waggling its hot little fingers at you.

The view from the garden swing seat
The view from the garden swing seat

I think the smell of cut grass and the heat of the sun joined forces with the temptingly ripe mango to influence the dinner menu on Day 2 of the Cupboard Challenge.

Serves two
Plan ahead as this requires marinading time!

Chicken Kebab Ingredients
400g chicken breast, cut into chunks
1 courgette, cut into chunks
1-2 onions, cut into chunks

It would have been better with lime, but lemon was what we had...
It would have been better with lime, but lemon was what we had…

1 Scotch Bonnet chilli, finely chopped
2 spring onions, sliced
Zest and juice of half a lemon
Approx. 2 dessert spoons dark brown sugar (I used muscovado)
A good couple of glugs of olive oil
Approx. 4 tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce if not bothered about gluten)
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme
A good grating of fresh nutmeg

Although there's garlic in this picture, I didn't use it in the end, deciding the flavour would be too strong.
Although there’s garlic in this picture, I didn’t use it in the end, deciding the flavour would be too strong.

Mango Salsa Ingredients
1 ripe mango, diced
2 spring onions, sliced
zest and juice of half a lemon (again, lime would have been better)
Half Scotch Bonnet chilli, finely chopped
A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Sea salt and fresh black pepper

Chicken in marinade

Get the kebabs under way by putting all the marinade ingredients into a shallow dish and mixing well.  Add chicken chunks and smoosh around with your hands to ensure all the pieces are well coated. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours (I think 6 hours would be even better).

Mango salsa

Next up, put all the salsa ingredients into a bowl, stir well, cover and refrigerate for around 4-6 hours (depending how long your chicken’s getting).

While the chicken’s marinading and the salsa’s melding, go and read a trashy novel (or your personal equivalent).  If possible, sit in sunshine.

Courgettes and onions

Chickn and veg on skewers

When the marinading time’s up, or you’re ravenous and just can’t wait any longer, thread alternating chunks of chicken, courgette and onion onto skewers.

Chicken kebabs

Grill, or barbecue, turning frequently, making sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked.  Baste with marinade during cooking to keep the chicken moist and intensify flavour.

Spicy chicken kebabs, mango salsa and potato wedgesServe with oven crisped potato wedges, peppery watercress and the luscious mango salsa.  Or serve with other things, as you wish.

This whole meal tasted amazing; however, visually it would have benefited from additional colour.  If I’d had any I’d have added sweet red pepper, either diced in the salsa or chunked for the kebabs.  In the absence of red peppers, perhaps I should have used tomatoes?