January can be a gruelling month. It’s usually cold and very often wet, so I find the best tonic for lifting dampened spirits is to enjoy good food with good friends. The best dinner parties are often the simplest and this month I’m loving an incredibly simple curry. Tomatoes (which are arguably not at their best this time of year) come alive when roasted and bring a jammy acidity to a basic curry base. This is a good one for cleaning out the spice cupboard – I use cumin, coriander, turmeric and garam masala in regular rotation at this time of year and recommend making space for them in your kitchen. Use them in curries, dahls, soups and sprinkled over roots before they roast in the oven.
I’ve suggested adding squash to this curry. I like to roast it in the oven and place it on top as it looks rather pleasing this way when served. However, one of the joys of this curry base is its versatility. It is very good with fish and chicken, or even with no accompaniment at all – I’ve added a note on how to best enjoy it as so. I suggest a green bean salad to go alongside the curry for a bit of crunchy sweet and spice, while a proper pudding to finish is sure to bring joy – a tart filled with rich chocolate ganache and a ribbon of marmalade.
I love this with a glass of bubbles and have been enjoying this natural sparkling wine from Christophe Lindenlaub. If you’re opting for a Dry January, I love these Agua De Madre sparkling kefir water drinks. The lemon and ginger one would be perfect with this.
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Charred Bean, Cashew & Coriander Seed Salad
This punchy bean salad is full of good crunch. Frying the coriander seeds gives them an almost popping crunch as well as bringing a wonderfully aromatic flavour to the dressing. I love a hit of chilli, but if you are not fond of spice, remove the seeds from the chillis or omit them from the dressing altogether. It will still taste delicious. You can prepare the beans and dressing the morning before your dinner party and keep cool until it’s time to serve. I think this salad tastes best at room temperature.
Roasted Tomato & Squash Curry
It’s the roasted tomatoes that give this curry its magic. Tomatoes tend to be slightly bland and flavourless at this time of year, but roasting them brings them back to life and creates a gloriously rich and glossy base for this winter curry. Delica squash has a buttery sweet flesh and a nutty skin that is delicious when roasted, but if you can’t get hold of it, onion squash, acorn squash or even butternut squash will do. I’ve kept this plant based but it works very well with a firm white fish such as hake. Just add the fish to the curry base once the spinach has wilted in, then cover and allow it to cook for five to ten minutes.
To make this with:
Chicken: Begin by browning 4 chicken breasts or thighs cut into pieces. Place oil in the frying pan, cook the chicken until it’s gained colour and remove. Then continue with the base. Add the chicken back to the pan when you add the roasted tomatoes.
Fish: Use 500-600g of firm white fish, or ask your fish monger for cod cheeks which work wonderfully in this. Once you’ve added the cherry tomatoes, allow the curry to simmer for 10 minutes. Then, add the fish, doing your best to submerge it in the sauce. Cover with a lid and allow the curry to cook for a further 10 minutes until the fish has cooked through.
Chocolate Marmalade Tart
Combining citrus and chocolate, I like to think of this as a dinner party-appropriate version of the Terry’s Chocolate orange. Although double layered, it is incredibly simple to prepare, with the filling only requiring a melt and a mix before being left to cool and set. If you are really pushed for time, you could even buy the pastry. I love to serve this tart with a dollop of crème fraîche.
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