I am currently obsessed with curry leaves (blame lockdown). I was delighted when I found out Waitrose and Sainsbury regularly stock the fresh leaves as the dried ones are barely worth bothering with, such is their disappointing lack of flavour. Indeed, if you have only tried the dried leaves you may well wonder what the fuss is about. I’m not sure I can describe with any accuracy the flavour of fresh curry leaves. They have a subtle but unforgettable flavour and once thrown into a curry or used to flavour oil you will want to keep a constant supply in your fridge. They keep forever in the salad drawer or try freezing the fresh leaves. I’m also rather partial to these roasted grapes-they are terrific smudged onto a cheese toastie.
- For the roasted grapes
- 250g red seedless grapes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Maldon salt
- For the curry leaf mayonnaise
- 300ml light olive oil
- 10g fresh curry leaves
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- Pinch cardamom powder
- 1 whole egg
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 ½ teaspoons mustard powder
- Scant ½ teaspoon fine salt
- Juice of ½ lime
- 450g cooked chicken, shredded
- 60g watercress
- Heat the oven to fan 220°c, mark 7. Place the grapes on a baking tray and toss in the oil. Sprinkle over a good pinch or two of Maldon salt and roast in the oven for about 8-10 minutes until the grapes are starting to collapse. Remove and leave to cool.
- For the curry leaf mayonnaise, pour the oil into a small saucepan and warm over a low heat for 3-4 minutes. Strip the curry leaves off the stalks and add to the oil along with the turmeric and pinch of cardamom powder. Continue to warm for about 2 minutes until the curry leaves start to bubble. Take off the heat and leave to cool completely.
- When the oil is cold pour into a blender (a Nutribullet-style one) and blend until completely smooth. Leave for a few minutes to allow any curry leaf sediment to settle at the bottom of the goblet.
- Meanwhile, put the egg, egg yolks, mustard powder, salt and lime juice in the small bowl of a food processor and blend for a minute. Gradually, a spoonful at a time, pour the curry leaf oil into the blender and keep the motor running until all the oil has been incorporated into the eggs and the mayonnaise has thickened. Discard any sediment.
- To assemble the salad: arrange the watercress over a large plate or salad bowl and lay the chicken on top, scatter over the grapes and season with salt and ground black pepper. Drizzle over some of the curry leaf mayonnaise-you won’t use all of it but you can keep it for about 10 days in a jar in the fridge. Serve immediately.