A well-spent Sunday is one of my favorite things. No matter what we do on a Sunday, it always involves a long family walk in the forest or by the sea, with all our children and most of the dogs. It’s a heart-warming ritual, good for the soul and revitalizing for the mind. There’s an absence of structure and restrictions, where I want to forget about time and go with the flow.
Yesterday, we woke up rather late because the kids had their annual school ‘spectacle’ the night before. We started the day feeling light and happy, recalling all the highlights of their wonderful show. It’s so sweet to see how emotional children get when the show is over. They enjoyed the rehearsals, the costumes and the music – it’s been a big musical build-up. During our long walk in the woods towards the end of our lazy day, the dogs enjoyed harassing cows at a nearby farm, the kids tried to collect as many insects and flowers as they could find, and I, armed with my best pair of garden cutters even got myself a big bunch of fresh bay leaves.
On our way back home, we suddenly realized it was much later than we thought. We seem to have lost one hour of the day recently and I don’t think we will find it again until the fall. I started hearing small drum beats in my head, thinking that Monday was coming, the kids had to get organized for school, no one had done their homework. Oh well, sometimes it’s just fine to let go and take it easy. So we hurried home and each took care of our business, the kids did their math and grammar, my husband fed his ever-hungry dogs and I got down to cooking. Thankfully all I had to do was my quick and easy butter chicken, steam some rice and roll out my naan bread dough (previously prepared in the morning). I often make this on Sunday or Monday nights. This recipe is like a little weapon in my life, something I can take out and turn an unplanned meal into a smashing meal in less than 30 minutes. I always have all sorts of spices, cans of tomatoes, tomato paste and a few chicken filets in the fridge. I recently started using crème fraîche instead of greek yogurt, resulting in a richer and creamier sauce. If you want to make this dish extra-special, you should try the Peshwari naan bread recipe. Filled with pistachios, almonds, coconut, raisins and fennel seeds, these naans are a perfect match to the butter chicken dish. It’s best to prepare them in advance, but it’s well-worth it and very easy to make. I prepared the naan dough in the morning, so all I had to do was add the filling, roll them and put the oval-shaped wonders under the grill. All so smooth and easy like Sunday … evening.
4-5 chicken filets, sliced into small pieces
60 g/ 1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped finely
4-5 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 can chopped tomatoes (400 ml – drained)
4 tbsp tomato concentrate
2 tsp fenugreek
2 tsp paprika
3 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp chilli powder (or more if you like it hot)
3 tsp garam masala
200 ml/ 3/4 cups + 2 tbsp crème fraîche (you can also use sour cream or greek yogurt)
1 bay leaf
½ tsp salt
½ tbsp black pepper
A handful of fresh coriander leaves, to sprinkle on each serving
A small handful of flaked almonds, to sprinkle on each serving.
In a large pot, heat olive oil and brown chicken pieces for 3 minutes on a medium heat. Remove from pan and set aside. Add butter to the pot, once melted add the onion, garlic and ginger. Let the ingredients sweat for a 2 minutes, then add all the spices, salt and pepper, cook for 2 more minutes. Add the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, cook for another minute. Return chicken to the pot, mix all the ingredients together. Add the crème fraîche, stir again and lower heat. Simmer (uncovered) for 15 minutes, stirring once in a while. Add additional salt if necessary.
Sprinkle with fresh coriander leaves, flaked almonds and serve with freshly steamed basmati rice.
Peshwari naan bread (makes about 5 medium-sized naans)
240g/ 2 cups plain flour, sifted , plus extra for dusting
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp active yeast (grains)
1 tsp sugar
120 ml/ ½ cup milk, lukewarm
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp butter, melted, for serving
A handful of flaked almonds
A small handful of chopped coriander
150 g/ 2/3 cups mixture of dried coconut, ground pistachios, chopped raisins and ground almonds.
½ tsp ground fennel seeds (optional)
In a small bowl, mix milk, active yeast and oil together. Leave for 3 minutes.
In a large bowl, sift flour. Add salt, sugar, baking powder and mix well. Make a well in the center, add the liquid ingredients and start mixing the dough. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until you get a soft dough. Shape into a ball, leave in the bowl (oiled), cover with a clean cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour.
Divide the dough into 5-6 balls, cover, leave to rise in a warm place for a further 15 minutes.
On a floured surface, roll the balls to a small palm-sized circle, add a tbsp of nut mixture in the center (making sure to leave 2 cm/ 1 inch to the edge). Wet the edges with a bit of water, fold the circles in half. Roll again to an oval shape, so all the nut mixture get spread out in the naan.
Place the naans on a hot pre-heated baking tray, and place in the oven on the grill setting for about 2 minutes, until they puff and have a few brown patches.
When ready, brush naans with melted butter, sprinkle with flaked almonds and chopped coriander. Serve immediately.