Friday, May 16, 2014

One of My Favorite Chicken Curries

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I love Indian food, and spices of all kinds, but some of the ones most commonly found in Indian cuisine are among my top favorites. When I find a recipe using all sorts of combinations of spices, I just have to try it. So, I have one recipe in a cookbook that has been a go-to favorite for a long time, because of the spice mixtures. I alter the recipe, as noted in yesterday's blog. Partly due to my husband's need for a sauce or something to put on the accompanying rice, I add in a can of coconut milk. Partly because making an Indian side dish to accompany the curry means an added amount of work, I just add vegetables to the curry itself and circumvent a side dish. 

Chicken Curry with Peas
While the basis of the curry recipe is there, it may be unrecognizable once I am done making it. And one way or the other, the flavors are just so tremendously good. Thankfully my husband does like the Indian flavors. If not I don't know what I'd do. He doesn't tolerate too much chili-spice though, but I can always sprinkle on some cayenne when I serve my plate. 

This chicken curry is wonderful, but when it comes down to Indian meals, lamb is my favorite. Unfortunately, lamb is very hard to find here, and if I do, it is prohibitively expensive. I used to just buy a boneless lamb leg and cut the thing up myself into chunks of varying sizes. Lamb has a lot of silver-skin running through it, along with fat, making it difficult to cut up. While trying to avoid the tough silver-skin, I end up with a lot of very small bits. Sometimes I run these little bits briefly in the food processor and use the resultant ground meat to make Indian meatballs or just lamb "burgers." Any chunks I can glean that are of uniform size I freeze in 1-pound portions in zip top bags in the freezer until the mood for Indian strikes.

Back to the chicken curry. If perchance you love spices as I do, and if you decide to make the Easy Garam Masala, Curry Powder and the Tandoor Spice, or just have your own on hand, then do try this recipe. I am using my variation on the recipe here, but feel free to adjust to your taste. Any one of the spice mixtures would be great alone, really. The dish is easily made into a "dry" curry by eliminating the coconut milk and only adding in little bits of water to keep the curry from burning while it cooks. In this recipe "amchur powder" is used for its souring effect. 

Amchur / Dry Mango Powder / Tarla Dalal

Amchur / amchoor / aamchur is a condiment or seasoning made from very green mangos, sliced and dried, then ground into powder. It is used mainly in northern Indian cuisines, adding a fruity flavor and a sour note similar to lemon or vinegar. It also has tenderizing effects, much as do lemon juice or vinegar, and is useful in marinades. As mangoes are seasonal, drying them into powder gives access to their benefits all year round.

Amchur is high in vitamin C, as well as Vitamins A (beta-carotene), E and iron. Use it to substitute for tamarind in sweet-sour preparations like some dals or sambar, and in chicken and fish dishes. If you do not have amchur powder, substitute a good squeeze of lemon juice at the end of cooking time.

Chicken Curry with Peas

serves 3 - 4

1 tablespoon oil or ghee; more if needed
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 large onion, chopped finely
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
1 - 2 fresh green chiles, jalapeno or serrano, as desired
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons tandoor spice
1 - 2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or as needed, to taste
1/2 teaspoon amchur powder (OR lemon juice later)
1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken (I use breast meat)
1 green pepper, in small chunks
1/2 can (14.5 ounce) coconut milk
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup cilantro, plus leaves for garnish
1/2 cup raw cashews, lightly toasted in a dry pan, optional

Place ghee or oil in a large skillet over medium heat and once hot, add the mustard seeds. Stir these rapidly until they pop and splutter. Add in the onion, garlic, ginger and green chilies if using (photo 1 below). Saute these until the onion is golden, stirring often, about 15 minutes (photo 2 below). While the mixture is sauteing, combine in a small bowl the curry powder, tandoor spice, garam masala, paprika, salt and amchur powder. Cut the chicken into 1 1/2-inch cubes and set aside. 

photos 1 through 5
Once the onions are golden, add in the mixture of spices (photo 3 above) and mix, tossing until fragrant, 1 - 2 minutes (photo 4 above). Add in the chicken pieces and toss them well so they are completely coated in the spices (photo 5 above). Add in the green pepper and the coconut milk, stir well, cover and cook on a low simmer for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is done. Add in the cilantro. If you did not use the amchur powder, add in about a tablespoon of lemon juice now and stir well to combine. Add in the peas and let the mixture come back to a simmer before serving. Strew the cashews over top with a few cilantro leaves for garnish.

If making a dry curry, it is great served with a sauced vegetable side dish. Also, it is often served with one of the many Indian breads. My understanding is that Naan, while wildly popular here in the US, is relatively uncommon in India. This is because Naan is traditionally made in a tandoor oven, something that is not available to the normal Indian household. Chapatis, Parathas and other flat breads are far more commonly made as everyday accompaniments. If you cannot find Naan or one of these others, any soft flatbread will work well to scoop up the chunks of meat. I hope you enjoy this curry dish as much as we do!

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.