Quarantine Cuisine: How La Palma chef Craig Harding makes his clean-out-the-fridge chicken curry
We’re asking Toronto chefs to show us what they cook up using basic pantry supplies while they self-isolate at home
Like many of us, chef Craig Harding is confined to his home. We asked the social-distancing chef to whip something up with ingredients he already had on hand. His recipe: a slightly tweaked version of his mother-in-law’s chicken curry.
Craig Harding—chef-owner of La Palma and Constantine—has been roughing it at his cottage since mid-March. Although he’s typically not a handy guy—“I can’t even hang a picture straight,” he says—he’s been spending his quarantine time learning how to landscape. “I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos, learning how to build stairs and retaining walls,” says Harding, who’s been working up a hearty appetite lugging large rocks and digging holes.
One of his go-to meals is this chicken curry, which Harding adapted from his mother-in-law’s recipe. “It’s a versatile, clean-out-the-fridge dish and you can easily make it vegetarian,” he says. Although Harding recommends tossing in bitter greens and playing with the spicing (he’ll sometimes add chilies or cumin) he doesn’t tend to go too off-book when making the curry. His wife, interior designer Alexandra Hutchison, is a purist, and prefers the curry made the way her mom cooked it for her when she was growing up.
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cups chicken stock
2 chicken breasts
1 large onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 potato, diced
1 cup frozen peas
1 can of chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp powdered ginger
1-2 tsp salt
1 flurry of fresh cracked pepper
1 lime, juiced
Add the olive oil to a heavy-bottomed sauce pot and brown the diced chicken. Once it’s done, set it aside in a bowl.
To minimize dishes, reuse that big pot. Crank the burner up to medium heat and then throw in some butter with your onions and crushed garlic. Add in the spices (coriander, curry powder, cinnamon, ginger), then season with salt and pepper. Leave this delicious-smelling medley to cook for three to five minutes, stirring regularly to prevent sticking.
When the onions are translucent, it’s time to add the flour. To avoid clumps, stir constantly for 90 seconds (so the only thing that’ll be burning are your biceps). When that’s done, toss in the carrots, peas and potatoes. Give it another stir.
Now it’s time to deglaze, which just means pouring in the liquids (chicken stock and tomatoes, in this case) and scraping all the brown bits off the bottom. Different people like different curry viscosities. If you think your curry’s too thick, add a little water. Cover and cook on a low simmer for 60 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.
Add chicken and peas and cook for another 15 minutes. (This is a good time to make some basmati rice so that it’s ready just in time to serve the curry.)
Finish with lime juice and a taste test, to see if it needs more salt.
Hutchison often makes naan to go with this dish. You can buy some Indian flatbreads, or try to make them yourself. As mentioned above, basmati rice is a good side, too.
“It’s actually tastier the second night,” says Harding. He’ll often make this curry the day before he plans to serve it.
Harding also recommends garnishing your bowl with a bit of yogurt and some fresh coriander. “It’s not required, but it really adds something to the dish.”