The Chronicles of Naania

Last week I spent several days with my dear friend Allison. It was just the sort of spontaneous visit that we both needed. We had both been feeling pretty restless in our summer downtime, and the mini-vacation filled with cooking, wine, and a bit of gossip really hit the spot.

To get out of our late-July slump, we decided to enter into a completely magical land in the kitchen. Like young Lucy in The Chronicles of Narnia, we were seeking something exciting, and we found it by daring to try something foreign and new. In making this chutney and naan combination, just as Lucy found when she climbed through the wardrobe, the most interesting parts were the unfamiliar. We paired spices whose uniqueness created perfect complements. Some of the color and flavor was completely accidental, as when the lid fell off the curry powder and a heaping amount turned from a mistake into a brilliant innovation.

The result was delicious, and Allison and I contentedly parted ways with renewed spirit (and palate)!

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Mango ginger chutney:

3 mangos

1 red onion

~1/4 cup fresh ginger root

1/2 cup lemonade

1 tsp olive oil

1/4 cup brown sugar

Spices (about two shakes of each): ground ginger, garlic powder, curry powder, cumin, chile flakes, cinnamon, salt, pepper)

Instruction:

1. Peel and slice mangos, discarding of pit. Thinly slice red onion, and finely chop fresh ginger root.

2. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add all spices and onion, allowing the latter to soften for about five minutes. Stir in brown sugar, ginger root, and mango. Allow sugar to melt – about two minutes.

3. Add lemonade and bring mixture to boil. Lower heat to a simmer and leave (uncovered) for about 45 minutes. Turn off heat and leave chutney in pan – letting it come to room temperature.

Naan bread:

2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp yeast

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp curry powder

1/2 tbsp cumin

3 tbsp olive oil

¾ cup whole milk

1 egg yolk

Instruction:

1. Whisk olive oil, milk, and egg yolk. Set aside.

2. In food processor, pulse flour, yeast, sugar, salt, curry powder, and cumin. Begin to process while gradually adding wet ingredients. Stop when dough has just come together (about five seconds after all ingredients have been added).

3. Turn out onto floured surface and knead until smooth – about two minutes. Transfer to oiled bowl and cover with tea towel. Leave in a warm place for about two hours.

4. Punch air out of dough and knead again. Divide into four equal parts and form each part into a smooth ball. Transfer to a lined baking sheet and cover with tea towel again.

5. After another hour, roll each ball out into a disk – about quarter-inch thickness. On very hot grill (about 450 degrees), place each disk, grilling each side for about two minutes. Serve warm with chutney.

Enjoy naan bread and mango ginger chutney with C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

The Things They Curried

A couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend and I decided to make my favorite comfort food, chicken divan, for dinner. However, we made the fatal error of forgetting to take stock of the cupboards before going to the grocery store. Edward insisted that he had the essential flavoring agent – curry powder – at home. This was a fair assumption, as his apartment has accrued dozens and dozens of spice bottles over time. When we got back and realized that the one spice missing from the collection was, in fact, curry powder, we set about making our own blend. We went online and researched the different spices in a typical curry powder, but we left the proportions to our own taste buds. Our end result was a spicy, chili flake-focused, ingredient that gave the otherwise simple casserole a heated kick.

Like Tim O’Brien’s writing style in The Things They Carried, making a list was what truly showed me the complexity of the flavors in curry powder. Instead of chucking in a tablespoon or so of one thing, I was able to break that thing down into turmeric, cumin, and many other elements. It wasn’t until I broke down the main ingredient of chicken divan that I could appreciate all that goes into making the dish truly comforting. (Though now the comfort comes with a fiery dose of chili flakes from time to time.)

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Filling:

4 chicken breasts

4 cups chicken stock (enough to cover the breasts)

3 cups broccoli

1 can of cream of chicken soup

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 1/2 tbsp curry powder (DIY: turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne, chili flakes, salt, pepper)

Topping:

2 cups breadcrumbs

1 cup cheddar cheese

1 cup parmesan cheese

3 tbsp melted butter

Instruction:

1. Poach chicken breasts in stock (12-15 minutes). When cooked, use two forks to shred meat into bite-sized bits. Steam broccoli.

2. Combine cream of chicken soup, mayonnaise, and curry powder. Add chicken and broccoli. Season to taste with salt.

3. Make topping by combining breadcrumbs, shredded cheese, and melted butter. Grease a baking dish with butter and spread filling evenly. Top with breadcrumb mixture. Drizzle top with olive oil. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Enjoy chicken divan with Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!