chicken and chickpea curry with lemongrass and coriander


in april i fell in love with nigel slater’s vegan chickpeas with pumpkin, lemongrass and coriander. this perfectly balanced curry became an instant favourite and inevitably i began to play around with the recipe.

actually, i didn’t really play around with it as the flavour combination was already perfect, i just experimented by adding chicken and prawns. both versions worked really well, with the prawns creating a lighter more summery dish than the comforting chicken variation. both of which are perfect for these early summer days when the weather can’t make up its mind whether it wants to be hot and sunny or cold and wet.

chicken and chickpea curry with lemongrass and coriander (serves 4)

2 white onions

2 tablespoons sunflower oil (plus a little later)

4 cloves of garlic

a thumb-sized piece of ginger

3 large stalks of lemongrass

3 chicken breasts, skin removed and cut into bitesize pieces

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

the ground seeds of 6 cardamoms

2 hot, red chillies

500g peeled and seeded butternut squash, cut into bitesize pieces

400g tin of cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed

250ml vegetable stock

400ml coconut milk

1 tbsp yellow mustard seed

a large handful of coriander leaves

to serve:

basmati rice for 4

2 limes, halved

peel the onions and chop them quite finely. pour the oil into a deep casserole and add the onions, letting them cook over a moderate heat till soft and translucent. meanwhile, peel the garlic and the ginger, remove any tough leaves from the lemongrass, then make all three into a rough paste in a food processor. stir into the softened onion, add the chicken pieces and continue to cook. add the ground coriander and turmeric, then peel and lightly crush the cardamoms. add them, together with the fresh chillies, seeded and finely chopped. keep the heat fairly low and on no account allow ingredients to brown.

add the butternut squash to the pan, along with cooked chickpeas and the stock. bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and continue to cook at a gentle bubble till the squash is tender. stop as soon as the flesh is yielding to the point of a knife - you don't want it to collapse.

stir in the coconut milk and continue to simmer. put a splash of oil into a nonstick pan and tip in the yellow mustard seeds. as soon as they start to pop add them to the curry, together with the leaves of coriander. serve with the rice and the limes, halved, ready to squeeze over at the last minute.