Fijian Goat Curry and Fijian Pea and Courgette Dhal

Fijian Goat Curry

Fijian Pea and Courgette Dhal

My new book, Curries and Spicy Dishes for your Slow Cooker is available in the shops from today.  

Warming, delicious and deeply satisfying, slow cooked soups and stews feature in cuisines around the world.  The epitome of comfort food, I love slow cooked dishes, but until I began writing this book I was not particularly a great fan of the slow cooker.  I’ve owned one for decades and I’ve found it to be very useful at times but it was not one of my regularly used appliances.  I’m not quite sure why, but my perception was that the cooking environment in a slow cooker was not the best for many of the slow cooked dishes that I’ve cooked regularly over the years.  Well all that’s changed.  True, I’ve had to modify recipes and there has been a bit of trial and error to get the best results, but I now find myself using the slow cooker almost daily.  It is so convenient and easy; a few minutes of preparation at the beginning of a busy day and the slow cooker delivers a perfectly cooked meal with little additional time, care or effort.  

Fijian cuisine is a delicious fusion of the robust spicy flavours of India with local foods like coconut, fish, sweet potatoes and cassava.  Cooking styles are simpler compared to Indian cooking methods, with everything being more or less ‘thrown together’ rather than the frying of ingredients layer by layer typical of Indian cooking – perfect for easy slow cooker meals. These two dishes are particularly quick and easy to prepare.
Of course, if you don't have a slow cooker they can be simmered on the stove.

Fijian Goat Curry

For such a simple recipe this produces delicious results.  Goat meat is best, but lamb can be used instead.

Serves 6-7

Preparation time: 30 minutes                  

Cook time: 3-4 hours on High,                 6-7 hours on Low,          2.5-3 hours on top of the stove

10 cloves garlic, coarsley chopped
1 red chilli, de-seeded and coarsely chopped
1 large onion, half finely chopped, half coarsely chopped
2 strips lime zest
3 cups (750ml) water
1 tsp chilli powder or to taste
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp sugar
1 lime, juiced
2 tsp salt or to taste
1 kg (2.2lbs) goat meat (with some bone) cut into chunks
2 cups (500ml/1 pint), sweet potato cut into 2.5cm (1inch) chunks
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5cm (1inch) chunks
1 cup coriander, leaves and stems
2 tbsp curry powder
½ cup yoghurt, stirred until smooth.

To serve: rice, coconut chutney, a fish or vegetable dish, raita.

Place the garlic, chilli, the coarsely chopped onion, lime zest and two cups of water into a blender jug and blend until smooth.

Transfer to a medium sauce pan and bring to the boil.  Add the chilli powder, turmeric, sugar, lime juice and salt and let the sauce simmer for 2 or 3 minutes.

In the meantime, place the vegetables, meat and half the coriander into slow cooker.  Pour over the hot sauce, cover and switch onto desired setting.

About 40 minutes before the end of cooking stir through the curry powder.  Cook on high, uncovered for the remainder of cooking time, stirring now and again to allow the sauce to thicken a little.

Stir through the remaining onion, coriander and yoghurt just before serving.

Coconut Chutney:  Combine 2 cups (500ml/1 pint) grated fresh coconut, a small bunch of coriander, 1 coarsely chopped green chilli, 3 tablespoons lemon juice and a teaspoon of salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped.  Allow the flavours to develop for an hour or so before serving.

Fijian Pea and Courgette Dhal

In Fiji this hearty vegetarian dish is made with a type of gourd called lauki.  In the Indian version a type of squash (sometimes called Chinese Melon) about the size of a small marrow with a pale green skin is used.  Yellow or pale green courgettes (zucchini) are fairly good substitutes.  It is a tasty dish that is quite spicy to provide a lively lift to the relatively mild tasting basic ingredients.

You can reduce the cooking time by about half by soaking the dhal in cold water over night.

Serves 6-7 as a main, more as a side dish

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 6-7 hours on High,                   12-14 hours on Low,       3-4 hours on the stove (after soaking)

1 ½ cups (500ml) split channa dhal (split chickpeas or yellow split peas)
5 cups (1.25 litres) hot water
1 tsp turmeric
2 yellow or pale green courgettes (zucchini) or 4 button squash
2 tsp salt or to taste
3 tbsp ghee or extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, finely sliced
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp mustard seed
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 tsp chilli flakes
2-3 green chillies, finely sliced
Thumb sized piece of ginger, finely sliced
1 lime or lemon, juiced
2 tbsp chopped coriander

Wash the dhal in two or three changes of water and drain.  Add to slow cooker with the water and turmeric.  Cover and switch slow cooker on to desired setting.
About 30 minutes before the end of cooking, halve the courgettes lengthways and cut each lenth into 1cm thick slices.  Or slice each button squash into 6 slices. Add to slow cooker and stir in the salt.  Cook on High for the remainder of the time.
Meanwhile, heat the ghee or oil in a fry pan and add all the remaining ingredients except for the lime juice and coriander.  Stir fry on medium heat for about 5 minutes.
Stir onion mixture into dhal with the lime or lemon juice and coriander and serve.

Shakuti Chicken, Mixed Veg Curry, Nan

Shakuti Chicken

Mixed Veg Curry

Nan, fresh and piping hot

First day of June and winter in the southern hemisphere.  On Mt. Sugarloaf about 10K's northwest of Orange with an altitude of 750 metres above sea level the weather is unusually mild in contrast to the beautiful, crisp, cold and frosty mornings we were having last week.  Following the productive summer months my pantry is again full of preserves, chutneys, pickles, jams and jars and jars of tomatoes.  Summer came late this year but thanks to the over abundance of tomato plants that I put in I still managed to bottle something like 60 bottles to use over winter - minestrone soup, tomato soup, sauces and stews, once you've got used to cooking  them with home grown tomatoes, canned just don't do.

I love summer vegetables and fruits, especially the tomatoes, capsicums, melons and figs.  Oh the figs.  Left to ripen until they are dark and soft and so sweet it's like someone has injected honey into them.  Yum.  But, I must say I'm not disappointed when winter comes around because I love winter veggies even more.  I've planted an abundance of chard, kale, sugar snaps and snow peas, broccoli, broccolini , cauliflower and of course spinach and they are so good grown in our cold climate.  Whenever my mother observed a heavy frost in the winter she would say it is like nectar to the veggies and I've found she is absolutely right.  The same veggies after a couple of frosts are so much sweeter and tastier.

Looking forward to delicious, warming winter dishes.

 Shakuti Chicken

Sometimes called Xacuti or Chacuti, the symphony of flavours created by the fragrant spice mix in this delicious Goan dish of tender chicken will get your tastebuds dancing.  To make it richer and creamier, substitute some of the water with coconut milk or cream.

Serves 5-6

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cook time: Just under an hour                  

Shakuti Spice Paste
1 cup grated coconut, fresh or desiccated
6-8 Kashmiri Chillies
1 tbsp coriander seed
2 tsp cumin seed
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 x 2.5cm (1 inch) cinnamon
4 cloves
2 tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp grated nutmeg
1 tbsp oil

1.5kg (3 1/3 lbs) chicken, preferably free range, skinned and cut into small pieces
4-5 tbsp ghee or good quality oil
2 large onions, finely sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, grated or finely sliced
1 thumb sized piece ginger, grated or finely sliced
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp chilli powder or to taste
2 tsp salt or taste
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes, or equivalent canned
8 golf ball sized potatoes, peeled or 2 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 cups (1litre/2 pints) hot water (approx)
2 tbsp tamarind puree or lime juice
2-3 tbsp finely chopped coriander stems and leaves

To serve:  Basmati rice, flat bread, pickles, raita.

Heat a little of the ghee or oil in a large, heavy based pan and lightly brown the chicken pieces, in two batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding.  Transfer to a clean plate.

Heat remaining ghee or oil in same pan and fry the onion until lightly browned, about 6 or 7 minutes.

Add the garlic and ginger and fry for a minute.  Stir in the turmeric, chilli and salt, cook for a few seconds and add the tomatoes.  Cook until tomatoes are pulpy and add chicken and juices.

Add water and potatoes.  Stir well, bring to the boil.  Turn the heat down to low, cover pan and simmer for about 45 minutes or until chicken and potatoes are very tender.

Meanwhile, dry roast the coconut in a small hot pan over low- medium heat, stirring continuously until golden. This will only take 2 or 3 minutes.  Transfer immediately to a plate lined with kitchen paper and cool.  Repeat with all other ingredients (except for the nutmeg) for the spice paste until mixture is aromatic, about 2 minutes.

Grind the cooled spices with the nutmeg to a fine powder using an electric coffee grinder or pestle and mortar.   Combine with the oil in same pan and fry over medium heat for a further 2-3 minutes or until deeply fragrant. 

Stir the spice paste and tamarind or lime juice into chicken and simmer for a further 5 minutes or so, adding a little more water if sauce is too dry.

Stir in the coriander just before serving.

Mixed Veg Curry 

Serves 4-5 as a main dish, more as a side

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes (approx)

4 tbsp olive oil or ghee
2 medium onions, finely sliced
1 x 2.5cm (1 inch) stick cinnamon
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp salt or to taste
chilli powder
2 carrots sliced
3 medium potatoes, cut into 2cm (just under 1 inch) chunks
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups (500ml/1 pint) hot water
1 small head cauliflower (about 800g/2lb), cut into large florets
½ tsp garam masala
1-2 green chillies, finely chopped
1 cup frozen peas

Heat the oil in a heavy based pan and fry the onion for 3-4 minutes over high heat until starting to brown at the edges.

Add the cinnamon stick, fennel seed, turmeric, salt and turmeric and fry for about 10 seconds.

Add the carrots and potatoes and stir fry for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and fry for a minute and add water.  Bring to the boil and simmer covered for 15 minutes.

Stir in cauliflower florets, partly cover pan and simmer for a further 22-25 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Stir in the garam masala, chillies and peas.  Cook for a further 5 minutes.


Making good nan bread is really easy, particularly if you have a bread maker.  Just put everything into the bread pan and let the bread maker knead for about 5 minutes only – just enough to provide a smooth dough. You can leave the dough to rise in the bread pan with the machine switched off.   
The dough can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days.  It will rise, quite quickly at first until it cools down, so check it frequently and punch it down. 

Makes 6 nan
Preparation time: 10 minutes plus about an hour to prove the dough

300ml (11fl. oz) water, approx
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp instant dried yeast
1 tbsp oil
450g (1lb) white bread flour or plain white flour
1 tsp salt
Extra flour for dusting

Warm the water slightly, pour into a large bowl and add the sugar, yeast and oil.

Add the flour and sprinkle the salt over the flour.  Using your hand, mix and bring the ingredients together, adding more water or more flour until you have a soft but non-sticky dough.

Place the dough onto a clean, lightly floured surface and knead it for about 5 minutes until smooth.

Placed the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a damp tea towel or greased cling wrap.  Place the bowl in a draught free place for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

De-gas the dough by punching it down and knead briefly.  Divide into 6 equal portions and roll into balls. 

Using a little flour for dusting, roll into a thin round or tear shape and cook on a hot tawa or frying pan for about 2 minutes each side.  Brown spots should appear and the nan should puff up.

Alternatively, cook underside on the tawa and place under a very hot grill for about a minute to cook to the top.

Wrap in a clean tea towel to keep warm while cooking the remaining nan.

Brush with melted buutter or extra virgin olive oil and serve.