And anyway, who ever has all the ingredients for a standard recipe when you want to start cooking? You have to make it up as you go along.
So here is the basic leftover stew, made yesterday with chicken thighs (cheapish, but from some chickens that had had the chance to walk around a bit, peck, fluff their feathers and do things that chickens like to do) carrots, onion, loads of herbs like parsley, thyme.
If you’re a dozy gardener and have left one or two heads of celery over the winter, they start to sprout new leaves in the spring, which are just fab for flavour. I chucked some in. It made a light gravy, sauce if you’re posh, or jus if you’ve been watching Masterchef.
Any old chicken stew will do, though.
To the curry. Wash your hands. It’s important to approach your glass of wine with respect. Have one or two. Roll up your sleeves so that it looks like you mean business.
Then, in a deep frying pan, dry roast some cumin. Buy it in bulk in Costcutter and you’ll be amazed how cheap it can be.
Turn the heat down, and add oil, grated ginger and loads of chopped garlic - the last of last summer’s crop. You chose how much of each, but be bold.
After a minute or two when the oil has gently absorbed those flavours, add a sliced onion, and a pepper or two if you have them hanging around.
Stir fry. Sling it into the leftover stew, to which you have added, oh, a couple of dried chilies, a dash of curry powder, star anise (luckily still in date, if the date is 2008 – well, come on, how often do most people use star anise?) and the juice of an old lime. Needs using up. Gone all hard on the outside, but what the heck. The juice is still juicy. A lemon would do. Or even juice from a bottle. It adds up to something absolutely delicious, nutritious and seems practically free, because most of the ingredients either came from the store cupboard or outside the back door. Green, fresh. Slightly sour. Enjoy with plain rice. Don’t forget the coriander if you have some.
Out of the freezer comes a tub of dall, part of a huge batch made a month ago, mostly out of yellow lentils and tomatoes. Then a dry cauliflower and potato curry is whizzed up. A very long time ago I made Madhar Jaffray’s version and it’s evolved (in other words I remember the gist of it) from that.
Ground cumin and coriander are added to pepper and turmeric, and the whole lot is fried up with the vegetables. OH YES! With chutneys and yogurt and coriander. With a couple of small nans stuck into the toaster, this second, earthier course is ready. It’s comfort food, and although it leaves quite a bit of washing up it’s very very satisfying. Nothing is measured or timed because it just doesn’t matter.
Gregg and John would have an absolute fit, but it’s perfect for the end of a hard day in the garden.