Oven-Baked Chicken Curry

Yes, I called it a curry and refuse to call it anything else. A generic mix of spices for the general region of the Indian subcontinent all cooked together genericly goes by the name of curry in the western world. So when I cook something that satisfies that definition, in my western kitchen, I will call it a curry. [Defiant]. Besides, my blog, my rant. So there.

My love affair with the chicken began some 7 years ago. Before that I absolutely refused to eat it. Don’t ask me why.I have no idea. The thing with ingredients that make an entry into your life after your food habits have formed is,it takes quite a lot of thinking to decide how it will be cooked. It doesn’t come naturally to me. See, I look at beet greens, which I have never cooked with before and red amaranth comes to me. I look at zucchini and ridgegourd comes to mind. I look at a chicken and all I see is a mass of pink muscle. I have to go through my recipe book to decide which way I want to prepare it. This frustration with chicken is largely due to the fact that I have never really been successful in making a simple chicken curry. [ shutting my ears among the echoes of *gasp*, *and you are a food blogger?* ]

It’s true. Dinner with friends, potlucks and there it is. The ubiquitous ‘simple’ chicken curry,right there, mocking me. Each time, I go to the creator of this bane of my culinary existance and I try to stir the conversation ever so diplomatically to how it is made. I start with complimenting the dish and then finish with “you know there is something so very different from all the normal chicken curries in this. Koi special ingredient ?” Somewhere in between those two praticed lines, I get my answer.

Arre, nothing yaar! Hot oil, jeera, khadha masala, pyaz,tamatar, haldi, mirchi, dhaniya-jeera, garam masala, chicken, namak. Fir pani daala, aur 2 seethi nikali. Bas..“.

I am not going to bother translating that because it doesn’t help. Do you hear me?? IT DOESN’T HELP! I put all sorts of masala in the pressure-cooker with the chicken and it still tastes like something the local Indian restaurant serves at the buffet. A pseudo-Indian americanised curry that even non-indians have trouble eating. At this point, I am doing the mental version of pulling my hair out. But the lady in question is not done yet because the clincher comes in.

Sabke Haath ka bhi farak hota hai. That’s why it tastes different”.

I will translate this. This essentially means “My hands turn simple, everyday ingredients into magic. You, on the other hand[no pun intended] are a nincompoop!”. Aaaaargh!!

So, to take the smirk off her face,I go home and try it out. Nothing. Nada. Bland, insipid mess. It is the chicken, I tell you. These chicken have too much water in them. Besides,there is no smirk, is there? She just wants to get away from this non-chicken curry-making cook as far as possible. “Doesn’t know how to make chicken curry? Don’t know what kind of food the kids are being raised on? Bechare

As I burn in this hell of chicken-curry-failures, once in a while, something works. Only it is not add-some-of-this-some-of-that-and-pressure-cook-to-2-whistles kind of thing, it is somewhere in between. I chalk it all up to this game God plays so that I don’t give up completely on my simple-chicken-curry hope.Bhagwan, how you test me? Bachche ko rulaoege kya?”.

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Oven Baked Chicken Curry

This is the curry I make for the weekday dinner guests. It is a no mess, no fuss kind of thing, 10 minutes of prep and cooks in the oven keeping the stove top free.

Make a paste using a blender or mortar-pestle the following

*3 green chillies/Thai peppers
*4 cloves Garlic
*1 inch piece Ginger

Mix together to make a marinade,

*1 cup dahi/curd/yogurt
*1 tsp Red Chilli Powder or 1/2 tsp red Chilli Flakes
*1 tsp Black Pepper Powder
*the paste made above
*1 tsp Garam Masala
* 1/4 tsp Saunf/Fennel seeds Powder
* 1/8 tsp Star Anise powder (Available in Korean Stores)
*Salt to taste

Add to the marinade

1 lb bone-in chicken thighs, chopped into bite-size cubes

Mix well.Set aside for as long as you can. I normally do this in the morning and cook it for dinner. When ready to cook,add

1/2 Red Onion. sliced
3 tbsp peanut oil

to the chicken mix.Pour everything in a baking dish. Into the oven it goes at 350 deg. Put it, Shut it, forget it for the next 40 minutes. Finish with a tadka/chaunk.

Heat

1 tsp Ghee

Add

1 Badi Elaichi/Black Cardamom
3 cloves
1″ Cinnamon

Pour over the chicken, sprinkle some coriander leaves/cilantro and serve. Goes well with Jeera Rice and Crispy Papad on the side.

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Completely irrelevant to the recipe : I cannot help but mention the carnage at Virginia Tech.It was appalling, what happened. It has been even more appalling, watching the media coverage. Monday evening, a whole lot of emphasis on the killer being Asian. Tuesday evening, a big attempt to blame the VT administration for not seeing into the future and predicting this might happen. Wednesday, repeated playings of the killers videos. It’s been amazing to see virginians stand strongly by their alma-matar. Rare is the person who spoke against the university on camera or off. Several people cancelled interviews with the media in protest against the emphasis on the killer and not on the killed. Thursday evening saw a marked difference in media coverage with the focus more on those killed, the loss and grief of their near and dear ones. The hokie spirit is everywhere I go, especially today being decreed a National Day of Mourning in memory of those killed.

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Making up with Mirchi ka Salan

The first weeks of November saw me go back to the world of 9 to 5 and my son going into deep disillusionment. He had believed that his mommy was going to be there ‘always, always’. Turns out mommy just goes out all day, comes back only in the evening and spends just a couple of hours a day with him. His solution, make for lost time on weekends. So, the last two weekends saw me juggling to do the things that need to be done around the house with a 2 year old attached to the hip, literally. All of this has , of course, taken a toll on the kitchen. It was feeling real neglected.As I entered into the world of planned meals and easy to cook recipes, the past two weeks had seen me sticking with the basic food and really not venturing too far from the roti-dal-sabzi menu. The kitchen was not happy. Yes, disillusionment was just around the corner. Having trouble dealing with one kid who had already decided it was time to force the issue, I decided that making up with my kitchen was the smart thing to do. So, when Aayush, finally trusted me enough to get a shut eye (I guess, he just thought, I would disappear again if he slept), I decided to venture into the world of Hyderabadi food with its much touted Mirchi ka Salan.

MirchiKaSalanNow, I dont claim to be a connosieur of andhra food. In fact, the first time I heard about Mirchi ka Salan was through an Andhra-ite friend of mine. When ‘M’ described it to me, I knew I was going to like it. I mean, fried peppers in a peanut sauce, How can you go wrong!!! It was time to give it a taste. So, armed with a recipe, I forged into the world of Hyderabadi Cuisine.

I went with jalapeno peppers for this dish, though, she had suggested using anaheim. Let me tell you, I should have gone with the Anaheim. Wowee!! Cleared up all our sinuses for sure! Leftovers a couple days later were just too hot for consumption. The next time I would probably remove the innards of the chillis if I decide to stick with jalapeno. Phew!! The gravy is simply fabulous. Not just simply fabulous, but simple and fabulous. My husband suggested putting chicken pieces in the gravy along with the peppers next time. I like the idea and will try it soon, though, ‘M’ thought it was blasphemy to meddle with the perfect Mirchi ka Salan. Sorry, Dear. 🙂

For those of you who haven’t tried this dish, I would certainly recommend it. Try it once. Go for the milder peppers before you venture into the more hots ones. The gravy is a keeper for sure!!

Here’s the recipe as I tried it and as ‘M’ makes it.

Ingredients

Deep/Shallow fry

4 Jalapenos/Anaheim Peppers (Deseeded, if you don’t like things too hot

in

Ghee/Peanut or Corn Oil

Keep aside. I removed the outer skin of the jalapenos even though ‘M’ doesn’t. Just a personal preference. Wrap the deep fried Jalapenos in a paper towel till cool enough to handle to completely cover. Then just wipe the skin off. The steam does most of the job that way.

Make the salan paste. Grind to a fine paste

¼ cup Roasted Peanuts
¼ cup Dessicated Coconut
1” Fresh Ginger, chopped
1 tsp Sesame Seeds

Add to the paste

1 tsp Asafoetida

Heat

2-3 tbsp Ghee/Peanut or Corn Oil

Add the salan paste and cook it till the oil leaves the paste. This takes quite a while and you need to keep stirring it as the peanuts have the tendency to stick. Very important to cook it that long to keep the peanuts from tasting raw. Take the time. Juggle the kid to the other hip(Of course, he is up by now). Sing him a song and take a few seconds away to keep stirring it.
Add a few drops of water, if it starts sticking too much. I did this in a cast iron skillet set on medium/medium-low heat, took about 15 minutes and 2 splashes of water.Once the paste starts leaving the oil (you will actually see the layer of oil separate and its quite gratifying), add

½ cup yogurt, whisked smooth
Tumeric/Haldi, a pinch
Salt, to taste

According to ‘M’, thats the proportion. The peanuts,coconut and yogurt go in a 1:1:2 ratio to make the ‘perfect’ salan. The rest can be eye balled. Keep stirring until the oil separated again. A lot quicker this time. Add

2 tbsp Tamarind paste
Water, enough to make it a sauce consistency

Cook for a couple of minutes till the water and tamarind blend with the paste to make a smooth sauce. Add the fried peppers. Bring to a boil and remove from flame. Garnish with

2 tsp coriander leaves, chopped finely

Mirchi ka salan is ready. I served it with hot chapatis and rice, though traditionally, it is served with Hyderabadi Biryani. That, though, is another post. 🙂

Gatte ki Sabzi

I am so late for the JFI-Flour event, its ridiculous. But, as a fellow blogger just told me (I was late for her event,too), Life Interferes…I couldn’t just not post, so I am posting a recipe that was meant for that event, but could’nt make it in time.

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Gatte ki sabzi is an rajasthani dish that I used to have at my friends place when in college. I don’t remember any meal at her home that did not have this dish. This a totally desert dish, as in Rajasthan–Desert of India. There are no vegetables used, just besan dumplings(Gatte) that are used in its place, simmered in a curd sauce. Its tasted just amazing. I had tried a lot to replicate the flavors, but did not succeed until I found these two forums that gave a detailed description of how it should be made. Namely; eGullet and Another Subcontinent.

Though this dish is not the first name that comes to mind, whenever I am thinking of what to cook; Its right at the top of the I-want-something-different-today list. So without much ado, I present “Gatte ki Sabzi”…

For the Gatte

1 cup Besan/Chickpea Flour
1 tbsp Kasuri Methi
1 tsp Chilli Powder
1 tsp Dhaniya Powder/Coriander
a pinch Hing/Asafetida
a pinch Haldi/turmeric
salt to taste

Mix everything together and form a tough dough using

1 tbsp Buttermilk at a time

Shouldn’t need more than 2 tbsp.

Knead for minute and roll it into a 1″ thick rope. Like so

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Besan Rope before boiling

Take

3 cups water

in a medium sized pot. Bring to a boil. Put the coiled Dough rope into the boiling water carefully. Putting it in boiling water is important or else it will stick to the bottom of the Pot. Continue boiling till the rope rises to the top. Drain reserving a cup of the water. Cool.

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Dough rope after boiling

Cut across the rope to form 1/2″ circles. I sliced at an angle. (I have been watching too much Food Network).

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Sliced Gattes

Heat

3 tbsp Vegetable Oil/Peanut Oil/Canola Oil

in a wide pan. Add the Gattes in a single layer and brown on both sides.

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Pan-fried Gattes

Gattes are Ready.

Gravy

In a bowl, add

1 cup curds
1 tsp Red chilli Powder
1 tsp Dhaniya Powder/Coriander
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
1/2 tsp Amchur Powder
Salt to taste
1 tbsp Besan
1 cup of the reserved water from boiling the gattes

Mix thoroughly. Strain, if the besan forms lumps.

Heat in a wide pan, preferably the same pan you fried the gattes in,

2 tsbp Vegetable/Canola/Peanut Oil (Remaining from the frying)

Add, one after the other,

1/4 tsp Rai/Black Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
4-5 Curry Leaves
a pinch Hing/Asafetida
2 tbsp tomato paste

Fry till the mixture leaves oil. Add the curd mixture and the gattes and bring to a boil. Lower flame and simmer till the gravy thickens to desired consistency. Thicker, if serving with rotis/chapatis; thinner if serving with rice.

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Recipe source :
eGullet has a nice step-by-step recipe with photos.
Sangeeta from Another Subcontinent gives detailed explanation to prepare this dish.

Methi Matar Malai (Fenugreek leaves and Peas in a Cream Gravy)

I am restructuring the blog so some old posts are resurfacing as new ones. Please bear with me.

Methi Matar Malai…

Methi Matar Malai

I love the combination of methi(fenugreek leaves) and matar(Peas). The bitterness of the methi is beautifully complemented by the sweetness of the matar. I am a sucker for any recipe that includes both the ingredients and I have found that it is loved by everyone else too.

The Malai is of course Cream which makes this dish wonderfully rich. Ground up cashewnuts and a dollop of butter doesnt hurt too.

I make this dish with kasuri methi which gives it a wonderful aroma. The recipe below is with kasuri methi. If you plan on using fresh methi leaves, double the methi and sugar quantity. Also, add a pinch of kasuri methi for that aroma.

So , Here you go.

Kasuri Methi Leaves 1/2 cup
Matar 1/2 cup

Onion 1 medium size
Garlic 2 pods
Ginger 1" piece
Green Chillies 2 or 3

Yogurt 2 tbsp

Cashewnuts, soaked in water and ground to a paste.
Cream 2 tbsp
Butter 1 tbsp
Salt and Pepper , Sugar,Garam Masala to taste

Grind together onion, garlic, ginger and green chillies in a blender. Heat oil in a pan. Add the onion paste and saute for minute. Remove from flame, add yogurt. Put on the flame again and saute till the water from the yogurt dries out.Add Kasuri Methi, Matar, Salt, Pepper, Sugar and a cup of water. Cover and cook till the matar has cooked through. Add Cashewnut Paste, Garam Masala, Butter and bring to a boil. Remove from flame and stir in Cream. Serve with hot piping rotis.