Friday, April 27, 2012

Dinner for Jo (Part 2): Indian spiced chicken thighs with roasted pumpkin & garlic mash

This is the second dinner cooked especially for Jo Bryant. In case you missed part one here’s a quick recap: Jo is a 29 year old British woman who is currently battling the rarest form of cancer out there, Cardiac Sarcoma, and though the doctors have, as she puts it, given up on her she is sticking to one unwavering mantra: Never, never, never give up. Jo’s blog, Tales from the Heart documents her fight – I highly recommend reading it. Jo’s strict diet rules out red meat, lactose, yeast, sugar and acids so these recipes are to help her stick to the rules without compromising on flavour.

The last dish, a Thai super food salad, was among the most flavoursome salads I’ve ever made. But it was still a salad and therefore by definition a worthy, goody two-shoes plate of food. From time to time Jo has to battle with the little demon insider her, begging her to call Dominos Pizza.  These are the days when a salad, however tasty, just won’t cut it and nothing but warm, stodgy comfort food will do. Especially during the current soggy April in the UK.

So this is comfort food that plays by the rules. Chicken thighs easily give the illusion of red meat. The pumpkin mash, especially with its garlicky kick, is rich and sweet. And the roasted veg soak up all those lovely chicken juices to pack them with flavour. You can serve it with any veg - I used courgettes and peppers because I had these left over from the previous dish.

When I tasted this, I felt as though I’d cheated the system. Take that, Cardiac Sarcoma, you can take our red meat and carbs and our cheese, but we are keeping comfort food on the menu! This dish will leave you full, happy and satisfied. Dominos Who?
Time: 45 mins
Rating: A little effort (but only a little)
Serves: 2


For the chicken:
2 large chicken thighs (boneless if possible)
2 cloves Garlic
2cm knob ginger
1 tbsp veg oil (or any oil of your choice)
½ tsp Chilli powder
½ tsp paprika
1 ½ tsp garam masala
Generous pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the mash:
1 small pumpkin (or butternut squash if you can’t find one)
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp vegetable oil
5g fresh coriander (small bunch)
Generous pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the veg:
1 red pepper
1 courgette
½ red onion


1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
2. Start by preparing the spice paste for the chicken. Finely grate the garlic and ginger and then chop them up a bit more til they finely minced.

Finely chopped/minced garlic and ginger
3. Put in a small dish and add the dry spices and oil. Mix well to form your paste.

The finished paste

4. Prepare the chicken: If the thighs still have bones, remove these (if you can be bothered, it’s fine if you can’t). Score the underside a little to let the spices in. Cover both sides with the paste using your fingers. Keep back about 1 tsp of the paste which you’ll use for the veg later. Put the chicken in the fridge to marinate for about 30 mins.

Marinating chicken breasts
5. Prepare the pumpkin: Remove the seeds and skin. Cut into large pieces and place in a baking dish with the garlic. Coat with 1 tbsp oil, and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast, stirring from time to time, for about 30 minutes or until soft all the way through.

Pumpkin about to go in the oven

6. Then prepare the vegetables, cutting them into bite-sized chunks. Put in a bowl and add the remaining paste, stirring well to coat.

7. When the pumpkin is almost done, take the chicken out of the fridge. Heat a pan and sear it, skin-side down for about 3-4 minutes until the skin is nice and brown– no need to add any oil, there’s some in the paste already. Turn the chicken over and cook for a further 3-4 mins and remove from the heat onto a plate. Put the veg into the pan that the chicken was cooking in and cook for 1-2 minutes just to coat in the juices.

8. Take the pumpkin out of the oven and transfer it to a saucepan. Put the veg into the dish you just had the pumpkin in (thus minimising on washing up) and place the chicken on top. Place in the oven and cook for a further 10-15 minutes til the chicken is cooked through and the skin nicely browned. Gently stir the veg from time to time during cooking.

The seared chicken and almost raw veg about to go in the oven
in the dish the pumpkin was in a moment ago

9. Back to the pumpkin: While the chicken is cooking, squeeze the inside of the garlic cloves out, discarding the skins.

Cooked pumpkin about to be mashed

10. With a potato masher, get to work on the pumpkin and garlic til you have a smooth mash. Put the pan over a gentle heat and stir regularly for about 3-4 mins. This is partly to reheat and partly to get rid of any excess moisture, leaving the mash nice and firm. Finely chop the fresh coriander and stir this into the mash.

11. When the chicken is done remove from the oven and dish up with the veg and mash.


  1. Oh, does this look like a wonderful dinner! Great photos, too! Thanks for sharing, Allen.

  2. Thanks very much, Allen - hope Jo likes it too :-)