Food during a weight loss phase doesn’t need to be boring or bland. I love a good, spicy, bold curry and I bet you will love it too. Tender chicken and butternut squash with a hot tomato based sauce make a tasty, calorie friendly dish for everyday. And it’s very easy to cook, just try it out and be amazed.
If you are a child of the eighties, chances are you know the old school westernised curry that was so popular at this time: lots of fruit like banana and (canned) pineapple in a heavy sauce thinkend with cream and/or potato starch. Spiced with a curry blend consisting mainly of curcuma giving a deep yellow colour and not very much else. Don’t get me wrong, at that time that was an awesome, exotic dish and I liked it a lot!
Until I saw Jamie Oliver on television. He showcased his favourite curry, full of spices I never heard of, without any cream or potato starch, without any fruits, but full of fragrance and depth. My mother and I were amazed and we soon set out to recreate this dish. Which wasn’t easy at this time, you couldn’t go to the next supermarket to buy curry leaves, you had to seek out specialty shops. But we did it, we recreated Jamie’s curry and it was an absolute game changer.
Later on, when Chantal and I moved together into our new flat, I had the “curry phase”: it all started with one really good indian cook book, quickly expanding to at least four more. And I cooked curry. Lots of curry. I tried almost all of them: watermelon curry, duck curry, shrimp curry, aubergine curry, egg curry and many, many more. Therefore I consider myself pretty good at making curry, even without a recipe, which isn’t easy in the beginning.
And I simplified some steps, especially for this recipe. I recommend you get a good curry paste, not a premade curry sauce. A paste is essentially everything you really need for a very good basic curry: spices, onions, garlic and some salt. Curry paste is awesome and I like to always have at least two different pastes at home.
Later down in the ingredients I mention SPICES. You don’t need them, you can only use curry paste, but some fresh spices push the dish over the top. If I only could add one spice, I would choose curry leaves. They kick your curry from “oh, thats really nice” to “oh my god, thats incredible”. Use them generously. Kaffir lime leaves are also fantastic, giving a fresh lemony flavour. And nigella seeds. You should use nigella seeds. Their flavour is difficult to describe and impossible to substitute. Once you fry them in some fat, they develop an incredible smell: somewhat nutty, spicy without being pungent, soft and at the same time strong.
The following recipe will yield a big batch of curry. It will keep several days in the fridge, only getting better. You can freeze it without losing anything. Curry is your best friend for an upcoming busy week. Meal prep at its finest.
- 2,7kg Chicken breasts
- 200g Onions
- 1kg Butternut squash
- 240g Yellow curry paste
- 60g ghee or other cooking fat
- 680g Passata or polpa
- 700ml Water
- Peel and finely slice the onions. Get a large cooking tray/pan, set it on high heat, add the cooking fat and let the onions fry. Don’t rush through this step: the caramelized onions are crucial for the flavor. Meanwhile slice the chicken breasts into nice, big chunks.
- Add any whole spices like nigella seeds, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks or curry leaves to the onions and let the hot fat wake them up a little. Add the chicken, push it firmly into the tray so that it has tight contact to the hot fat. Leave it there for several minutes to get a nice golden crust. Meanwhile cut the butternut squash into chunks approximately the same size of the chicken. You don’t need to peel a butternut squash.
- Add the curry paste and stir thoroughly. Let the paste fry a little, then add the squash, passata and water. Scrape the sticky bits from the base of the tray, then turn the heat down to a gentle boil.
- Let the chicken boil until tender. Don’t overdo this, nobody likes dry chicken. Also check that the butternut squash is nice and tender. This took me about thirty minutes.
Feel free to serve some rice with the curry if your macros allow for it. But you really don’t need any, this dish is perfect as it is. If you have any coriander green, add a generous amount of it to add freshness. If you like, you could also add some lemon juice or tamarind paste for a slightly sour kick.
100g of this incredible curry have the following macros:
- 80 kcal
- 11,7g protein
- 3,4g carbohydrates
- 1,9g fat
Change it up
You can play around with the fresh spices you add to the dish. Cardamom is always a nice addition. Cinnamon sticks also work great. Mustard and fennugreek seeds add a nutty flavour. Fresh ginger adds heat and fragrance. I can see lemongrass and fresh limes here too.
There is always the possibility to change the type of protein. Everything will work here: pork, beef and lamb work in any curry. Even game and other poultry is great. You might use fish, just do not fry it in the pan, only add it add the very end just to steam it slightly, watching it like a hawk to make sure you don’t overcook the fish. I would also opt for a fish with firm meat like haddock.
Change the squash for any other vegetable like (sweet) potatoes, fennel, aubergine or cauliflower. If you use very soft vegetables like courgettes, make sure not to overcook them (just like with fish).
Enjoy cooking and share your curry experience with us in the comment section below!