Sunday dinner: Chicken-apple curry served on squash

Eric Akis

Earthy squash and sweet/tart apple are tastes that work well together, and in today’s recipe, they share the stage with chicken curry. One gets mixed into the curry; the other acts as a base for it and also adds an attractive-looking element to the dish.

The squash plays the latter role and the variety I used was acorn. To prepare it, the squash is quartered lengthwise and its seeds and inner membranes removed. The pieces of squash are then baked in a covered pan with a bit of water.

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When tender, for each serving, a piece of squash is set in a shallow serving bowl and topped with some of the curry.

The curry is easy to make and involves simmering cubes of browned, boneless, skinless chicken breast and bits of apple in a coconut-milk-based sauce. In the recipe, I give you the option to use mild, medium or hot curry powder to flavour the sauce, leaving it up to you to decide whether you want a mild-tasting curry or a spicier one.

Have the ingredients needed for the chicken curry chopped and ready to go before you begin cooking the squash. That way, when you pop the squash into the oven to cook, you can immediately start to prepare the curry, which will take about the same time to cook as the squash, when the searing and simmering of the chicken is factored in.

You could also serve the curry and squash with steamed white or brown basmati rice and papadams or naan.

Chicken Apple Curry on Baked Squash

Earthy, baked squash is topped with a nicely spiced curry dotted with bits of apples and celery.

Preparation time: 35 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Makes: Four servings

1 medium to large acorn squash (mine weighed 750 grams)

1 1/4 lbs. (about 570 grams) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes

2 tsp cornstarch

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1/3 cup finely diced shallot or onion

1/2 cup diced celery

1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

2 tsp mild, medium or hot curry powder, or to taste

1 (400 mL) can coconut milk

1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice

1 medium red apple (unpeeled), cored and cut into 1/4-inch cubes

2 tsp lime juice

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or mint

• salt to taste

• unsalted pumpkin seeds or toasted sliced almonds, currants or raisins, and unsweetened coconut flakes, to taste, for sprinkling

• cilantro or mint sprigs, for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut the squash lengthwise into quarters and remove seeds and inner membranes from each piece.

Set squash skin-side-down in a 13- x 9-inch baking pan.

Pour 1/2 inch of cold water into the pan.

Cover the pan with foil and bake squash until tender, about 30 to 35 minutes.

While squash cooks, set chicken in a bowl. Add the cornstarch and toss to coat chicken with it.

Pour the oil into a large, wide skillet set over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chicken, in two batches, and cook until golden brown on all sides. Transfer first browned batch of chicken to a bowl while the second batch cooks.

When all of the chicken has been browned, return it all to the skillet. Drain away all but about 2 tsp of the oil left in the pan. Add the onion, celery and ginger to the skillet and cook and stir two minutes.

Mix in the curry powder and cook one minute more.

Add the coconut milk and apple juice to the skillet. Bring curry to a gentle simmer, adjusting the heat downward to maintain that simmer (small bubbles should just break on the surface). Simmer curry for five minutes.

When curry has simmered five minutes, toss the cubed apple with the lime juice, then add it to the skillet.

Simmer curry 10 minutes more. If curry has overly thickened, thin with a bit of water. If curry is not thick enough, simmer a few minutes longer.

Mix the cilantro (or mint) into the curry. Season the curry with salt.

To serve, set a quarter piece of squash in the centre of each of four shallow bowls.

Divide and spoon the curry over the squash. Serve the squash and curry with small bowls of pumpkin seeds (or almonds), currants (or raisins) and coconut flakes to sprinkle on at the table.

Garnish with cilantro (or mint) sprigs, if using, and dig in.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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