A slow-cooker In­dian feast

Toronto Star - - LIFE -

I wouldn’t be ex­ag­ger­at­ing if I said the slow cooker changed my life.

When my wife Brigitte and I re­dis­cov­ered our par­ents’ favourite kitchen tool and started cre­at­ing new recipes for it, my house­hold’s meal reper­toire grew ex­po­nen­tially. There’s no bet­ter way to save time and trou­ble while cook­ing amaz­ingly tasty meals for an ac­tive fam­ily. That’s why I’ve just re­leased my sec­ond slow cooker recipe book, Slower is Bet­ter, packed with 75 new recipes rang­ing from duck con­fit to the fluffi­est pineap­ple up­side-down cake you’ve ever had. Here’s a sneak peek: an en­tire In­dian feast pre­pared in the slow cooker while you oc­cupy your­self with, you know, life. Nuts for but­ter chicken The trick to this creamy and del­i­cately spiced but­ter chicken recipe is the half-cup of finely ground cashews. It’s an amaz­ing thick­ener that’s also packed with flavour. Af­ter you put ev­ery­thing into the slow cooker and tend to other busi­ness for four hours (or more if you leave it on warm), you’ll dis­cover that the rich­ness of the cashews has min­gled with the cream, tomato, ginger, gar­lic and garam masala to cre­ate an ad­dic­tively com­fort­ing dish.

But­ter Chicken

Ri­cardo Tested 3 tbsp (30 g) un­bleached all-pur­pose flour 1 tbsp (15 mL) garam masala 1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin 1 tsp (5 mL) curry pow­der 3 lb (1.3 kg) skin­less, bone­less chicken thighs, each cut into 4 pieces 1/2 cup (65 g) cashews 1 onion, chopped 4 cloves gar­lic, chopped 1 jalapeno pep­per, seeded and chopped 1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh ginger 2 toma­toes, seeded and diced 3/4 cup (180 mL) 35-per-cent heavy cream 2 tbsp (30 mL) tomato paste 3/4 cup (180 mL) plain Greek yo­gurt Cilantro leaves, to taste Salt and pep­per In the slow cooker, com­bine flour and spices. Add chicken and toss to coat with flour mix­ture.

In a small food pro­ces­sor or with a mor­tar and pes­tle, finely grind cashews.

Add nuts and re­main­ing in­gre­di­ents, ex­cept yo­gurt and cilantro, to slow cooker. Sea­son with salt and pep­per. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. It can be main­tained on warm for up to 4 hours.

When ready to serve, stir in yo­gurt. Gar­nish with cilantro leaves. Serve with In­dian-style pi­laf and naan bread. Makes 8 serv­ings. Red lamb curry The spice list is ad­mit­tedly long, but you’ll see, ev­ery sin­gle one has a vi­tal role to play. One taste of the fin­ished prod­uct and you’ll be glad you ex­panded your spice pantry. Plus, when you think about it, mix­ing the spices to­gether and brown­ing the meat is the only ac­tual work re­quired. The slow cooker does the rest while you’re busy at work, at the gym, at the gro­cery store or white­wa­ter raft­ing down the Grand River.

Red Lamb Curry

Ri­cardo Tested Curry paste 3 tbsp (45 mL) tomato paste 2 tbsp (30 mL) rice vine­gar 2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger

2 tbsp un­bleached all-pur­pose flour

1 tbsp chili pow­der

1 tsp co­rian­der seeds

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp mus­tard seeds

3 cloves gar­lic, peeled

1 clove Salt and pep­per Curry 31/2 lb (1.6 kg) bone­less lamb shoul­der, fat re­moved and cubed 2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil 2 cups (375 g) baby pota­toes, halved 1/2 cup (125 mL) chicken broth Curry paste In a small food pro­ces­sor, purée all the in­gre­di­ents un­til smooth. Sea­son with salt and pep­per. Set aside. Curry In a large skil­let over medium-high heat, brown half the meat at a time in oil. Trans­fer to slow cooker.

Add pota­toes and curry paste to slow cooker. Toss to­gether well. Add broth and mix thor­oughly. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. It can be main­tained on warm for up to 8 hours.

Makes 6 serv­ings. Squash and lentil curry The luxurious tex­ture of this sat­is­fy­ing veg­gie curry comes cour­tesy of co­conut milk and two types of lentils: green lentils that cook slowly to main­tain their tooth­some tex­ture and red lentils that par­tially dis­solve to add in­cred­i­ble body to the sauce. It doesn’t get eas­ier than this recipe: Mix to­gether, press “on” and walk away. My only tip is to not prep the in­gre­di­ents the day be­fore: The acid­ity in the toma­toes might make the co­conut milk cur­dle.

Squash and Lentil Curry

Ri­cardo Tested 3 cups (750 mL) veg­etable broth 1 can (398 mL) diced toma­toes 1 can (398 mL) co­conut milk 1 cup (200 g) dried green lentils, rinsed and drained 1/2 cup (95 g) dried red lentils, rinsed and drained 2 cups (280 g) peeled, seeded and diced but­ter­nut squash 1 onion, chopped 1 jalapeno pep­per, seeded and chopped 1 tsp chili pow­der 1/4 tsp ground cumin 1/4 tsp ground co­rian­der 1/4 tsp ground turmeric Salt and pep­per In slow cooker, com­bine all in­gre­di­ents. Sea­son with salt and pep­per.

Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. It can be main­tained on warm for up to 8 hours. Serve with naan bread. Makes 6 to 8 serv­ings. Side­kick: Ever strug­gle to make the per­fect pi­laf? No more! This bas­mati rice pi­laf is sim­ple and fast as can be to make (it only takes 20 min­utes in the slow cooker).

The rice comes out per­fumed with the com­plex aro­mas of fried onions, gar­lic, car­damom, cin­na­mon, cloves and bay leaf. With a gen­er­ous spoon­ful of my spe­cial cilantro sauce and the curry of your choice, ev­ery­one will lap it up and ask for sec­onds.

In­dian-style Pi­laf

Ri­cardo Tested 11/2 cups (345 g) bas­mati rice 1 onion, finely chopped 2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil 1 clove gar­lic, finely chopped 3 pods car­damom 1 clove 1 bay leaf 1 stick cin­na­mon, about 2 inches (5 cm) long 3 cups (750 mL) water Salt and pep­per In a bowl, place rice and cover with cold water. Rinse rice and re­peat un­til water runs clear. Drain well.

In a medium saucepan over high heat, brown onion in oil. Add gar­lic, spices and rice. Sea­son with salt and pep­per. Con­tinue cook­ing over medium heat, stir­ring un­til rice just be­gins to stick to bot­tom of pan. Add water. Stir and bring to a boil.

Cover and cook over low heat for about 12 min­utes or un­til rice is ten­der. Re­move from heat and let rest for 5 min­utes.

Makes 6 serv­ings. Try more of Ri­cardo’s recipes by vis­it­ing ri­car­docui­sine.com. Ri­cardo’s lat­est cook­book, Slower Is Bet­ter, is now avail­able on­line at StarStore.ca/Ri­cardo

CHRIS­TIAN LACROIX PHO­TOS

The key to Ri­cardo’s but­ter chicken recipe from his new cook­book, Slower is Bet­ter, is the finely ground cashews.

From squash and lentil curry to the per­fect pi­laf, Slower is Bet­ter has recipes for an en­tire In­dian feast.

Ri­cardo

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