In A Food Rut? ✺ Chicken Curry with Spinach!

Without getting all TMI on you, I’ve been on a new food plan lately, with the most notable component being the elimination of sugar and flour from my diet. I decided to do this for a short period of time to reintroduce discipline into my eating habits. My plan is to bring back these items (I miss baking!) into my diet when I’m confident I can maintain a moderate approach to eating. Let’s just say the past six months have seen a conflux of stressors that resulted in my eating and fitness regimes to, ahem, fall by the wayside, resulting in there being more of me to love.

Of course, there are health benefits to this little project, and they’re important, but damn, I’d like to look better in my bathing suit this year!

My plan has been going quite well, actually. I’ve lost a decent amount of weight so far and I’m feeling quite in control of how I’m eating (maybe it’s time to think about baking again?). But the thing is, I just haven’t been enjoying food much. I’m eating good things, but I’ve fallen into a rut, turning to the same limited repertoire every day. It seems that my imagination has diminished along with my appetite.

So, I decided to shake things up and make something completely different yesterday, a chicken curry with spinach. I’ve only made curries a few times before, and I’ve been wanting to explore Indian cooking more. I recently bought Bal Arneson’s book, Everyday Indian, and turned to it for inspiration. (You may recognize Bal as the Spice Goddess on Food Network.)

The closest recipe to what I had in mind is her Papaya Chicken. Now, I didn’t have papaya or some of the spices and other ingredients called for. So, I found another recipe of hers for a South Indian style curried chicken on the Cooking Channel internet site and more or less cobbled ingredients from the two of them together, based on what was available in my pantry. I wanted spinach in my curry for the vegetable component of the meal, so I added that in as well.

Don’t let the long list of ingredients deter you. Most of it is spices; just make sure you assemble them before starting the cooking. (Mise en place, or setting out all your ingredients before you start cooking, is really important for a recipe like this.) And, if you find that there’s something missing from your pantry, don’t be afraid to improvise. This is actually an easy and fairly quick recipe to make.

What I ended up with was a mild curry dish (next time I may add some red chile flakes or more garlic and ginger to spice it up a bit more), beautiful to look at with its glorious colour palette, and tasty to eat. And, oh, it smelled soooo good. The Culinary Enthusiast was out cutting the lawn and he could smell it in the yard. I think he got the mowing done in record time so he could have dinner! He ate a small helping before heading to the gym and then polished off another large helping when he got home. A sure sign of success!

What a way to get unstuck from a boring food routine!

Chicken Curry with Spinach

Inspired by Bal Arneson. Serve with basmati rice. This made enough for the two of us, with leftovers for my lunch today (just as soon as I post this!).

  • 2 tbsp canola or sunflower oil
  • 1 onion, chopped or cut into quarters and sliced crosswise
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 red chile pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes (I used canned, and included the juice)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 8-oz bag baby spinach

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, and add the onion, garlic, ginger and chile pepper. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring until the onions are softened and starting to colour. Add the fenugreek and mustard seeds, and stir for a few seconds. (The mustard seeds may start to pop after a bit.) Turn the heat down to medium and add the rest of the spices, and mix well for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken to the pan, and stir for a few minutes until everything is well incorporated. Here’s what it looks like part way through this stage.

Add the tomatoes and their liquid, and stir around to deglaze the pan. Add the coconut milk and water, and mix well. Turn the heat down, and cook until the chicken is done, stirring occasionally. (I covered the pan, with the lid on an angle so the steam could escape.) A few minutes before serving, stir in the washed baby spinach and let it wilt down. I recommend serving this dish with rice, preferably basmati.

This was a great dish to revive a tired diet. What do you do to get out of your food rut?

24 comments

    • Wow, first time I’ve had yodelling in response to a post! Now I have the Sound of Music on my mind! Bit of an odd combination with the curry, but maybe this is a new form of fusion cooking!

  1. Marlene, I love the pictures of the spices and ingredients …nice colours and comp….oh and delicious food!

  2. Yum. This looks good 🙂 I have also recently removed sugar and flour from my diet. But now, I’m also on a spring detox/cleanse that restricts my food choices even more. Of course, natural spices, some rice and whole foods and lean proteins are by far more healthy. Once you get sugar out of your diet, your weight becomes more stable, at least for me. The added bonus? You can really taste the natural sweetness in other ingredients. 🙂 To your health! ~B

  3. This sounds like a great dish, Mar, one that I would really enjoy. I’m always afraid to try a curry recipe for fear that it will be too hot for me. Your statement that this dish may be a bit mild for your tastes is music to my ears. Like you, I can always add more heat but if I try a recipe and it is too hot, I’m far less likely to give it another try because the excess heat has ruined my palate. So thanks for sharing, Mar. It looks like there’s a trip to the spice shop in my not too distant future. 🙂

    • I really found this on the mild side, milder than I think I would get ordering mild in an Indian restaurant. (Wow, that’s a lot of mild in one sentence 😊 ) In fact, next time I’ll spice it up a bit more, and I don’t eat really spicy food! If you give it a try, I’d love to hear how it turns out!

      • I made this for dinner tonight, Mar, and it was delicious! My kitchen smelled like my favorite Indian restaurant and I couldn’t wait to eat. I used a jalapeño and didn’t get enough heat, so, next time I’ll try a Serrano. I’ll take baby steps to find the right amount of heat. My palate’s in no hurry. I’ve got a nice container of leftovers and I bet they’ll be even tastier after the spices have a chance to blend a bit longer. Thanks, Mar, for sharing a great recipe and dinner.

      • So glad to hear that you enjoyed this dish. I’m going to make mine a bit hotter next time too, but even without the heat, I love the complexity of all the spices. Thanks again for letting me know how yours turned out!

  4. I love a good chicken curry and the length of the list of ingredients is fine by me.. the more the better for a complex flavor, I say:) I’ve been trying to eat healthier as well and have had the same feeling as you.. bland bland bland. This post is so inspiring!! xo Smidge

  5. Oh Thank you … I just remembered I have three quarters of a package of baby spinach in my fridge that just has to be used really soon…. This recipe looks great. Your finished dish actually looks like you used fresh rather than canned tomatoes… I think I will use the fresh, myself.

    • I think fresh tomatoes would be a great idea! I didn’t have any, so canned was a good standby option. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

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