The last time I had a ready-meal was a couple of years ago. A curry, I seem to remember. With a couple of bits of dried chicken, floating like islets in an ocean of vinegary sauce. Horrific. So when I was pulled over by a friend who works at my local M&S, urging me to try a new Fragrant White Chicken Korma, based on the ITVs Food Glorious Food winner Rahila Hussains recipe, I wasnt remotely tempted.
As a lover of cookery shows, Food Glorious Food wasnt even on my radar. Aside from clashing with Masterchef on BBC1, anything brought to screen by Simon Cowell had to be the Devils work, in my book, so a winning recipe in the form of a ready-meal wasnt for me.
But my friend was insistent. Shes a brilliant cook herself and as she raved abut the kormas nuttiness and cardamom-packed flavour as well as the fact that 40p from each sale went to Great Ormond Street Childrens Hospital I eventually succumbed.
And Im glad I did.
Oh. My. Golly. Gosh.
It was delicious. Fragrant and spicy, nutty and creamy. For a ready-meal it was a revelation. Great big chunks of marinated chicken thigh that hadnt been pre-cooked, so you could put them in the oven for as long as you needed to suit your tastes (I like mine to have just turned from pink to opaque around 20 mins).
The sauce clung to the chicken pieces like mussels on a rope, making it easy to scoop up with a naan or tortilla wrap.
I served mine with M&S onion bhajis (not as successful, sadly: they were limp and floury) but for 3.99 a ready-meal like this could put us homecooks out of business.
If you dont live near an M&S (or simply cant bear the thought of a ready meal), you could make Yorkshire-born Rahilas recipe from scratch.
The 44-year-old Business Studies & Law teachers recipe is her based on months of research in a bid to re-create her late mothers recipe. Its an unconventional and unusual recipe, packed full of nuts which give a luxurious texture and without the turmeric normally found in a korma. Using yoghurt instead of cream not only makes the dish lighter but also healthier than a typical curry.
Rahilas Fragrant White Chicken Korma
3 tbsp vegetable oil
25g butter (optional)
1 tsp coriander seeds, freshly ground
1 tsp cumin seeds, freshly ground
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 heaped tbsp minced garlic
1 heaped tbsp ginger, grated, then finely ground
1-2Â½ tsp salt (or to taste)
1-2 tsp ground white pepper (or to taste)
1 x green chilli, finely chopped and ground
1kg chicken thighs, deboned, skinned and all fat and sinew removed, chopped into 2.5cm dice
1-2 tbsp fresh coconut, finely grated (alternatively, use desiccated coconut)
1-1Â½ tbsp pistachios, finely ground
1-1Â½ tbsp almonds, finely ground
1-1Â½ tbsp cashew nuts, finely ground
3 x green chillies, halved lengthways, 1 of the chillies deseeded
250ml 500ml water
300g natural yoghurt, lightly whisked
14-16 x green cardamom pods, shells removed and seeds ground
1-2 tbsp coriander, finely chopped (optional)
Plain boiled rice, plain pilau rice, roti or naan
1. Heat the oil and butter (if using) in a pan, add the freshly ground coriander and cumin and allow to fry for 30 seconds or until colour changes slightly.
2. Add the onions, fry lightly until they are soft and a slight golden colour. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for 2 minutes on a low heat. Stir in the salt, white pepper and ground green chilli and cook for 30 seconds.
3. Add the chicken and turn the heat up. Stir fry for 15-20 minutes, or until the oil separates from the meat. Do not allow the meat to brown.
4. Add the coconut, pistachios, almonds, cashews, halved chillies and the water you need enough water to nearly cover the ingredients. Bring to the boil then simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes.
5. Stir in the yoghurt and ground cardamom seeds and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the oil separates.
6. Garnish with the chopped coriander and serve with plain boiled rice, pilau rice, roti or naan.