Ever had guests phoning up and inviting themselves over for a visit?? This is not a problem for hosts that think offering their guests a cup of tea and a biscuit will suffice, oh no! Most hospitable Asian hosts will tell you that if guests are visiting, especially near a meal time, be it lunch or dinner, it would be unacceptable and utterly rude to not offer food, even if they turn it down. The offer must be there and the guests should feel welcome. Within minutes, you will be chatting, eating and that feeling of sheer panic you had an hour ago will be a distant memory.
There are two dishes which have been real lifesavers for me. The beauty of these dishes is that it does not involve defrosting any meat, which is a real nuisance especially when it entails repetitive frantic kettle boiling in an attempt to defrost that chicken! These lifesaver dishes also do not involve chopping masses of onions or veggies. The secret here is using accessible store cupboard / freezer ingredients. So what are these dishes, you may well ask?
Chickpeas and fish (not together!)
I always keep a couple of boiled chickpea tins (black or white, doesn’t matter) in my store cupboard. I also have some frozen white fish fillets such as cod, haddock or coley in the freezer. These are inexpensive and can be bought frozen from nearly all supermarkets.
So let the curry in a hurry process being:
1) First of all, remove the fish from the packaging and immerse in warm water until covered to let the defrosting begin, which will not take more than 30 minutes.
2) Drain two tins of chickpeas in a colander / large sieve.
3) Heat a little bit of olive oil in a medium saucepan (that has a lid) and add a teaspoon of cumin seeds, a pinch of coarse black pepper and two crushed garlic gloves and stir fry for 30 seconds.
4) Add the other spices, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp red chilli powder and stir fry for 20 seconds before adding a splash of water from the kettle to prevent the spices sticking to teh pan.
5) Add half a tin of chopped tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes on a high heat stirring at all times. If the sauce appears to thicken, add half a cup of water and reduce the heat.
6) Add the drained chickpeas and leave on simmer, whilst you peel and chop a medium sized potato.
7) Add the potato and let the chickpeas and potato simmer for 10 minutes or until the potatoes have softened.
8) At this point, the fish will have defrosted and separated into the originally cut fillets
9) Drain the fish and place on a large flat plate.
10) Use your fingers to evenly sprinkle these ingredients over the fish: 1/4 tsp of sea salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp red chilli powder, 1 tbsp tandoori masala, 1 tbsp coriander cumin powder. There is no need to sprinkle over the other side as when the fish cooks, the spices will even out in the sauce.
11) In a large shallow frying pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and add a tsp of mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop, add a crushed glove of garlic and stir fry for 20 seconds.
12) Add the remainder of the chopped tomatoes and cook on a medium heat for two minutes and then add the fish fillets spiced side facing down and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes.
13) Check the chickpeas and potatoes, they should be cooked, and switch of the heat for the chickpeas.
14) Return to the fish and cook the other side for 5 minutes on a medium heat.
15) Transfer both dishes to serving dishes and garnish the chickpeas with a sprinkle of garam masala or chat masala and fresh chopped coriander and garnish the fish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and chopped coriander / spring onions. Serve fish with plain boiled pilau rice and chickpeas with some tamarind sauce if required.
Your guests will be impressed and you will be pleased as punch (or lassi!) for not slaving away in a kitchen for hours!