Due to the early advent of our latest granddaughter, Luna, our Christmas arrangements this year were a bit different to our normal ones. We usually get as many as possible of our immediate family together for a turkey meal on Christmas Day, and Boxing Day is normally a smaller affair, with a meal based on a roast Gammon Ham. This year, with Jane being away in France I went over to join our daughter Emma and her family on Christmas Day. Emma was cooking the "full works" traditional Christmas Dinner for the first time (she did a brilliant job!). The Boxing Day event was cancelled, but I was keen to return Emma's hospitality, so I invited her to bring her family over to my place to join me and my brother (who lives very nearby) for a curry on Saturday. Curry is not traditional Christmas fare, but it is something I reckon I can cook reasonably well, whereas roast Gammon is not something I am ready to attempt just yet. This is what I dished up: The star attraction was a chicken curry made in vaguely Indonesian style - in other words with lots of coconut milk, along with the obligatory onions, ginger, garlic, and chillis. I didn't put much chilli in this time, because I knew the children would be eating it. Playing up to the fact that Lara likes what she calls "yellow curry", I added a spoonful of turmeric powder to give it the necessary colour. I actually cooked the sauce in advance and used the food-processor to blend it into a smooth texture. I added the chicken later on, and allowed it to simmer for a couple of hours to absorb all the flavours. My second dish was a lamb curry, cooked long and slow in a tomatoey gravy flavoured with fragrant spices - cardamon, cinnamon and cloves - along with some paprika and some ready-made curry powder: In my opinion no curry is complete without dhal, so dhal it had to be... Actually I made two different lots. One was intended solely for the children, so I cooked it very plainly, without spices of any sort: But I also made a "grown-ups" version. This dhal was made with three different pulses: Moong (or Mung) dhal, the yellow Toor dhal and the little round red lentils. This combination gives the finished dish a really interesting texture. The dhal was flavoured with a "tarka" make with fried onions and whole spices that were "crackled" - in other words heated in a dry frying-pan until they begin to jump and pop, which really accentuates their flavour. Naturally the dhal needs something to mop it up, so I cooked some Basmati rice and some Naan bread: This was the first time I had made Naan bread, so I was pretty happy with the result. I have to say though that what you see in the photo above was actually my second attempt. I tried using a recipe taken from the BBC Good Food website, but it was a disaster, so I reverted to using the recipe that Jane always uses. It is one she got years ago when I was in the Army. It is hand-written and resides in a plastic wallet-folder along with many other tried and tested recipes that have stood the test of time. Should have used that one first really. There are a lot of rubbish recipes circulating on the internet! Just to complete the meal I offered a selection of bits and pieces that we always refer to as "sambals" - chopped tomato, sticks of cucumber and raw carrot, raisins, bananas, Cashew nuts, and (in the absence of the more appropriate poppadums) some Prawn Crackers. On the table I pre-positioned Mango Chutney and Hot Lime Pickle. So what do you think? Does that sound good? It was certainly appreciated, because there was hardly any left... This is the sort of food that I love cooking. It is not quick to do, since many dishes like this benefit from long slow cooking, but I had plenty of time available so this was not an issue. I enjoy cooking with spices too. It is something that gets better with experience. You learn what works and what doesn't - when to add hot spices and chillis, and when to add sweet, fragrant spices instead. Some people think that "curry" is one dish and that it has to be searingly hot, but I disagree. There are as many "curries" as there are "not curry" dishes, and in my book flavour is more important than heat. Dhal was Emma's first solid food, and it looks as if a liking for curry, rice and dhal is continuing into the next generation too!