It’s a cold Sunday in January, just that moment in the afternoon where the sky turns grey and then, in an instant, it’s gone dark before you’ve realised. There is a hard frost on the forecast, and something warming is a must. I’m cooking the Sunday night tea, with leftovers assured for a mid-week re-heat.
The night before, I even remembered to soak the split peas, alongside defrosting the chicken thighs that were languishing in the freezer. I smile as I reach for my favourite pan and thank the home cookery gods.
The split pea recipe is based on a find whilst I was snaffling through Persiana Every Day, the cookery book I’d gifted to my wife at Christmas. We’d tried it once as a vegan dish for dinner with friends and then repeated it several times. Adjusting it for the ingredients we had to hand and our meat-eating gym bunny.
As flexitarians we can go either way with this recipe. My son will look at the dish and think chicken. I’ll know it was the pulses, the combination of mild spice, the cauliflower leaves as a back note, the greens for colour and the silky taste of coconut milk combined with tomatoes that makes the difference with this dish.
In the kitchen alone, the tunes go on and before I know it the seeds start to jostle for position like they are sitting on a snare drum and desperate to escape. I add in a little oil, a diced onion, the diced cauliflower leaves that would normally be destined for the compost. They gently sizzle until softened. The diced chicken thigh next on a high heat, constantly turning and mixing through so as to not burn the onions. Then the spice, and in this instance it’s some leftover paste in the fridge but could easily be something from a jar on the spice rack. The aroma of heat, warmth and happiness hits the air.
Another minute as the spices jostle for authority, the pulses are added, a tin of chopped tomatoes, a tin of coconut milk, the stock cube, 300ml of water stirred through and brought to a simmer. The lid is placed on for a good twenty-five minutes or so. Time to organise the cauliflower rice meantime.
There’s a final flourish at the end, the addition of a bag of spinach which will wilt down in a matter of minutes. This time I add shredded kale, placing the lid back on for another five.
I really hope that you try this recipe, it’s a toe in the water with spice, coconut and tomatoes. If you want to tweak it around the edges, change the spiciness then you can. Add a little crushed garlic and ginger at the start. You could use fresh chilli either at the beginning or as a garnish at the end. You can really make this your own, great for re-heating mid-week or tubed up for the freezer and brought out to cheer up that rainy day.
I need to finish it off, actually put the ingredients down etc. The bare bones of the method is there.