Fine dine for your Valentine

If there is one day of the year you do not want to dine out, it’s Valentine’s Day. Kitchens are often crazy with bookings, tempers short, service sketchy and the food mediocre. Plan an alternate date when the kitchens are more controlled. That doesn’t mean you cannot make the evening special. In fact, with this exotic menu provided from Foodland Ontario, you can prepare all the food in advance and have a cozy dining-in experience with tempting results. The menu demands a romantic setting, good wine (a Gewurztraminer goes well with Indian food) or beer. Of course, someone has to bring you flowers. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Chicken Korma (Murgh Korma)
The flavours of this aromatic stew are perfect for a blustery night, and are complemented by basmati rice sprinkled with coriander. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces are a wonderful time-saving ingredient.

1 tbsp (15 mL) each, ground coriander and ground cumin
1 tbsp (15 mL) turmeric
1 tsp (5 mL) each, salt and black pepper
1/2 tsp (2 mL) cayenne pepper
2 lb (1 kg) boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup (50 mL) vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped fresh ginger root
2 bay leaves
8 whole green cardamom pods (optional)
1 cup (250 mL) canned crushed tomatoes
1 cup (250 mL) sodium reduced chicken stock
1/4 – 1/2 cup (125 mL) coffee cream
Optional Garnish: chopped coriander
plain yogurt

In large bowl, combine coriander, cumin, turmeric, salt and black and cayenne peppers. Cut chicken thighs into two or three pieces; toss with spice mixture to coat. In deep large frying pan or large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat; cook onions until wilted and lightly browned, about five to eight minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, ginger, bay leaves and cardamom pods (if using); cook five minutes. Add chicken. Cook, stirring until lightly browned, about five minutes. Add tomatoes and broth, bring to boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until juices run clear when chicken is pierced. Add cream; cook uncovered five minutes. Discard bay leaf and cardamom. Serve sprinkled with coriander (if using).

Raita Slaw
Raita (a traditional Indian cooling sauce of cucumber and yogurt) blends well with the spiciness of the main course. Here it is combined with cabbage and carrots to make a salad that accomplishes the same thing. To toast cumin seeds, cook in small skillet over medium heat, stirring until lightly browned and fragrant, about two minutes. Cool before using.

3/4 cup (175 ml) plain yogurt
1/3 cup (75 mL) reduced fat or regular mayonnaise
1 cup (250 mL) diced cucumber (with skin on)
3 tbsp (45 mL) fresh lime juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) liquid honey
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) toasted cumin seeds
1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped fresh mint
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper
4 cups (1 L) shredded green cabbage
1 medium carrot, coarsely grated

In large bowl, combine yogurt, mayonnaise, cucumber, lime juice, honey, cumin seeds, mint and pepper, mixing well. Add cabbage and carrot; toss to coat. Chill at least one hour before serving. Toss again before serving.
Apple Honey Cake
The combination of spices, apples and honey make this irresistible.

1 1/3 cups (325 ml) all purpose flour
2/3 cup (150 mL) ground almonds
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each, baking powder and baking soda
3/4 tsp (4 mL) ground cardamom
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each, ground cloves, nutmeg and salt
1 egg
1/2 cup (125 mL) packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 mL) each, milk, vegetable oil and honey
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 cup (125 mL) liquid honey
2 tbsp (25 mL) apple juice or water
1/8 tsp (.5 ml) ground cardamom
1/4 cup (50 mL) toasted sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350˚F (180˚C). Line 9 inch (23 cm) square baking pan with parchment paper allowing a 2 inch (10 cm) overhang. In medium bowl, combine flour, ground almonds, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt; mix well. In large bowl, beat egg with brown sugar until thick and creamy. Combine milk, oil and honey; add to egg mixture. Stir in dry ingredients. Fold in apples; spread in prepared pan. Bake in 350˚F (180˚C) oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Meanwhile, in small saucepan, bring honey, apple juice and cardamom to boil; reduce heat and simmer about five minutes or until slightly thickened. Stir occasionally. Place cake on wire rack and gently poke several holes in cake with fork. Carefully pour warm glaze over cake. Sprinkle with toasted almonds.  Let cool for about 10 minutes; lift cake out of pan using parchment handles. Cut into 16 squares and serve warm or at room temperature.

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