A thing I swore I'd do, when I decided to learn to cook was to stock up on stuff. You know what I mean - all those ingredients that you never have, like fenugreek, tamarind paste, white pepper and fish sauce. It would make the difference, I reasoned, between staying within a limited zone of recipes I could attempt, and really going wild.
Even then, I still hesitated often at the spice rack in Waitrose over a glass jar of coriander seed, or turmeric, thinking "Am I really going to buy this? I'll only use it once, probably."
But eventually I bought it all. I've even got some star anise, although I'm not sure when I'll use it. They all sit in my "Curry Box", which is a large tupperware box I put all my curry spices in so that they don't stink the place out or lose their zing.
And I'm so pleased I do have my vast collection of spices, because it meant that when I came across Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe for Murgh Makhani (that's Butter Chicken to you and me) I had absolutely eveything I needed to make it, despite the jaw-droppingly long list of ingredients and the instruction to marinade stuff overnight (BORING!)
And my GOD GOD GOD this is an amazing curry. Yeah, fine, my Curry without the Bleurgh is perfectly okay if you're looking for a quick, simple spice hit of a weeknight.
But in fact, this is what you really want.
This is what you're craving in those moments when you really, really want a curry. This is like the kind of curry that arrives at your door on a wet winter's night from the slightly-more-expensive curry place round the corner and you carefully lift up the white lid from the aluminium tray while someone else runs to the kitchen for plates and cutlery and beer and you look at what's inside and you think "Oh my god... this is going to be special."
So my advice to you, if you like curry that is, is to use making this as an excuse to go out and raid the spice rack of your local supermarket, because basically once you've got all you need to make this, you can make pretty much any curry there is, probably. And this curry is so gorgeous, so rich and aromatic and cosy and pleasing that you'll want to make it again, loads and to hell with whatever Madhur Jaffrey thinks she's got to say.
So here goes. Ready? Try not to be scared. Have lots of sits-down and drinks of water. This sauce makes enough to cover an entire chicken, or 2 small pheasants. But don't fret about making too much, because you can freeze the leftovers to have with lamb or beef or some more chicken or whatever some other time.
If you're using chicken, get a lot of boneless thigh and breast pieces, because you don't really want to de-bone them after they've been roasted because they'll be covered in curry marinade. Alternatively, leave the bones in and eat round them. Anyway, you get the picture, you're a grown-up. I'm just limbering up to patronise a child for the next 40 years.
For the Tikka Marinade:
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp plain yoghurt
1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice (this is about half a lime/lemon)
2 tablespoons garam masala (you can make your own, or buy it)
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp fenugreek
1 golfball-sized piece fresh ginger, grated
1-2 tbsp groundnut/sunflower oil
3 fresh chillies, finely chopped. Seeds in or out, up to you
Tired yet? Bit more to go...
For the Tomato Sauce:
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes and their juices
thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, squashed
2 fresh chillies, chopped, ditto thing about the seeds
1 tsp salt
For the Makhani Sauce
2tsp ground cumin
2 tsp tomato puree
4 tsp honey
150ml double cream OR yoghurt
1 tablespoon fenugreek
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tsp black pepper
PHEWEEEEE. But please, please, I'm begging you - don't be put off. I know it's a lot of stuff but honestly, that really is the heavy-lifting over and done with. The rest is just an assembly job and it's an AMAZING curry.
So here's how it's done (if you're using chicken, I recommend taking the skin off first, because this is quite a rich dish anyway and you don't want the skin schmaltzing everything up).
1 Make up the tikka marinade and leave your chicken pieces in it all day or overnight.
2 Put the chicken in a roasting pan, marinade and all, cover with tin foil and roast for for 5 mins at 220C and then 20 mins at 200C
3 While that's happening, make up the tomato sauce and simmer on the stove for 20 mins
4 While THAT'S happening, melt the 125g butter in a pan or casserole big enough to hold all your chicken pieces, then add the 2tsp ground cumin and leave to foam gently.
5 Pass the tomato sauce through a sieve directly onto the butter-and-cumin mixture. Once the chicken's had it's turn, switch off the heat but leave it there while you finish off pushing the tomato sauce through the sieve.
6 Now add to the tomato-and-butter mixture the rest of the Makhani sauce ingredients and simmer together for 5 mins. Now take your chicken out of the oven and add that, tikka marinade and everything, to the tomato sauce. Cook all this gently for another 8-10 minutes.
Then congratulate yourself. You have just made one of the world's greatest curries.