Ever wondered why people in hot climate countries eat so many curries and spicy meals?
No, me neither, but this current spell of scorching summer weather has got me thinking why that would be.
Hard to believe, but eating a spicy meal or curry actually cools you down, and millions of people can’t be wrong.
Seemingly spicy food actually raises your body’s temperature, through increased circulation, to that somewhere near the actual temperature outside. This makes you perspire, which is your body’s way of cooling itself down.
And the effect lasts as your body regulates itself to the ambient heat.
But all this preamble is just an excuse because I really fancied a curry and couldn’t wait until the usual cool Scottish summer kicks back in.
I like any kind of curry and this is a particularly good one with a rich nutty sauce to accompany spiced chicken koftas.
Kofta is the Asian and Middle Eastern name for meatballs made from spiced minced meat, usually lamb, pork, beef or chicken, depending what country you are in.
I’ve used minced chicken here (or you could easily substitute minced turkey), spiced with ginger, garlic, turmeric, garam masala, coriander and mint. These are served in a creamy curry sauce with a base of cashew nuts and spices including chilli, cumin, coriander and ginger.
All the flavours subtlety combine with each other to give a warm, gentle curry that will raise your body temperature just enough to enjoy a cold beer.
I don't normally recommend wines (because I don't feel I’m qualified, I just like what I like) but I must mention a white wine that goes brilliantly with this curry.
It is a mix of Gewürztraminer and Riesling grapes and is called Williams Well from M&S, about £9.50. Just make sure it is well chilled and it will go with most spicy foods.
You can also make an excellent vegetarian kofta, where instead of minced meat, you use some mixed veg (such as green beans, peas, carrots, spinach), very finely chopped and bound together with mashed potato and a small handful of breadcrumbs. Add similar spices as the recipe below with possibly a chopped green chilli for an added kick if you like.
INGREDIENTS serves 4
FOR THE KOFTAS
500g minced chicken or turkey
Approx 1 inch piece of root ginger, peeled & finely chopped or grated
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp tumeric powder
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
salt & freshly ground black pepper
Minced chicken, herbs & spices for the koftas
Mixed together ready for the fridge
FOR THE CURRY SAUCE
4 tbsp whole unsalted cashew nuts, toasted
2 cloves garlic
Approx 1/2 inch piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded & roughly chopped (use half if you like a milder curry)
Mix all the kofta ingredients together in a large bowl, cover and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the cashew nuts, garlic, ginger, red chilli and onion into a blender or mini food processor. Add a tablespoon of cold water and blitz to a smooth puree. Give a splash more water if it looks a bit dry. Set to one side until needed.
Remove the chilled kofta mixture from the fridge, and form into small golf ball sized globes. I use a small ice cream scoop to make this easier and to keep the balls the same size.
Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large frying pan and fry the koftas for about 10 minutes or so over a medium heat or until they have a good rich colour and are cooked through. Remove from the pan and cover until you need them.
Give the pan a quick wipe out, and melt the remaining butter over a medium heat, and add the reserved cashew nut/onion paste.
Cook for a few minutes until it smells aromatic, then sprinkle over the ground cumin, coriander and curry powder, stir through and cook for a few minutes more. Add a tablespoon or so of water if it looks like it is sticking or seems too dry.
Pour in the light chicken stock along with the cinnamon stick and bay leaf, mix everything together and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and let it gently bubble away until the sauce has thickened somewhat (increase the heat a little to reduce it further if necessary). This may only take a few minutes or could take up to ten.
Finally, add the cream and the ground cardamom and reduce again to thicken if needed. The sauce should be the consistency of double cream.
Taste for seasoning and adjust, adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice at the end. Taste again.
Return the koftas to the pan and coat in the sauce, warming through gently.
Serve in bowls sprinkled with some extra toasted cashews and coriander leaves along with basmati rice (white or brown), or flatbread and some poppadoms and mango chutney.