Sweet Chicken & Butternut squash curry

I’ve often written about my love of curry on this blog and whilst I generally opt for a mouth-tingling hot variety I’ve recently had to scale down the fire for the love of my family! Cooking for a toddler and a curry-hating husband I’ve had to get creative with flavours and spice to find a variation that suits all tastes and I’ve surprised myself with a newfound love of milder, sweeter curries (albeit eaten with a generous helping of spicy lime pickle!).

The driving factor with a mild curry is to get a good mix of spices and flavour without the heat of chillies that you tend to find in hotter curries. The best way to achieve this is to experiment with different spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardomon, ginger, garlic, fennel, mild chillies. Most of these, plus others, are stocked in supermarkets but if you have a local Asian store close to home it’s a great hunting ground for new spices. There is no real rule to the amount of each spice you use to create your curry as much depends on personal taste but I would start with a teaspoon of each and then add more as required. (After a few curries you’ll get a mix you’re happy with).

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The other great thing with curry is you can often easily substitute ingredients. I’ve used butternut squash in this version but it works just as well with sweet potato, cauliflower, pumpkin or turnip. The vegetable really adds consistency as much as flavour and helps make the dish go further if you have lots of mouths to feed.

ingredients: 4 chicken breasts, 1 small-medium butternut squash, 1 onion, 2 sweet apples, 50g sultanas, 500ml chicken stock, 50g pumpkin seed, 50g flaked almonds, 2 cloves garlic, small piece of fresh ginger, mixed spices (I used 1 tbsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp madras powder, 1 tsp mild chilli flakes, bunch fresh chopped coriander, bunch fresh chopped mint leaves). Optional: tin of coconut milk / yoghurt/ cream / creme fraiche.

preparation: 25 mins prep + up to 2 hours slow cooking.
1. In a large pan fry off the chopped onion and garlic until nicely brown and just under burnt. This adds to the overall flavour of the curry.

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2. Once browned, add in all of your spices and continue to stir and then add in the chicken and seal.

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3. Once the meat is sealed add in the large chunks of butternut squash, chopped apple (leave the skin on), the stock, sultanas and chopped ginger.

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4. Bring to the boil and then add in the fresh coriander and mint before turning the heat off.

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5. Transfer into a slow cooker or an oven proof dish with lid and continue to cook slowly for a couple of hours until the meat is tender. (Slow cooker setting “high” or oven 160C).

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6. Half an hour before serving stir in the almonds and pumpkin seeds. You want them to maintain a bit of crunch! If you want a sweeter, creamier curry you can also add in the coconut milk/cream/yoghurt at this stage. Depending on which vegetable you’ve used in the curry you may also need to thicken your curry more with some corn flour. Squash and root vegetables tend to cook down and thicken the sauce whilst cauliflower won’t as much.

7. Serve with rice, naan bread, mango chutney, lime pickle, yoghurt dressing.

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