Craving a curry for dinner perhaps? A hot chicken curry is probably just what you need to tickle those taste buds and nothing beats a plate of curry atop a bed of steaming rice on a cold Autumn night. While curry has become a mainstream dish, the Pan-Asian versions of the curry has very little to do with the authentic dishes you will find in India or Pakistan. Furthermore, many of the curries found in restaurants across Europe offer at times, tame and altered versions or have extremely rich components making them a heavy affair.
The curries in Indian homes are simple, depending more on the flavors achieved by combining a variety of spices rather than drowning the dish in cream and oil.
To show you how we make curries at home I share the recipe for my favorite curry and have broken it down in all its components. This is the basic method to almost any meat based curry, where you can substitute the chicken with beef, lamb or pork. For those who are venturing into curry making for the first time - have no fear - while the ingredient list looks long you will find all the items in any well stocked supermarket and Indian grocery store.
In an Indian kitchen a chicken curry would not be based solely on the breasts. We are all about the bones. The bones of the meat secure all the good stuff in it, giving the curry the flavor boost that chicken breasts or boneless meat just cannot. For flavors to be imparted in an aromatic curry, the flavors need to be added into the curry. A chicken breast is essentially quite a terse piece of meat, rather bland and does not offer much in terms of flavor to transfer into the curry. The flavor from meat on a bone however, is not only within the flesh but you are getting all the big, hidden and glorious flavors from within the bones. As the curry simmers gently on the stove, those flavors that are exuded from the bones is what transforms your curry from a plain tasting curry to an explosive Indian curry.
Even if you are very much about chicken breasts, bring yourself to throw a few extra pieces of chicken on a bone, like the wings, to add more powerful flavor to the curry. That is the most fundamental secret to an exceptional Indian curry.
Once the meat on a bone issue is sorted, the three principal ingredients to any Indian meat curry are onion, ginger and garlic. These are usually finely chopped or pureed into a paste.
Tip: When I make curries I usually throw additional onions, garlic cloves and ginger into the food processor and process to give me finely chopped pieces. I reserve what I need for the curry and transfer the rest into ice trays, freezing them into cubes. Once frozen I simply place the cubes in a Ziploc freezer bag. Perfect, portioned cubes of onion, ginger and garlic ready to go whenever you crave a curry.As you sauté the onion, ginger and garlic, melting it down to a slightly golden color we need to create the gravy or the masala for the curry. Enter the wonderful piquant array of Indian spices. India boasts a massive variety of spices and for those of you who are unfamiliar with many of the spices the selection can become a giddying experience.
Tip: I have broken down many of the spices used in the Indian kitchen in my Indian spice guide The guide gives an overview of all the spices we use in our kitchens, making it easier to understand how basic spices are combined with complementary or secondary spices for a different balance of flavors in your curries.A pivotal spice blend in the Indian kitchen is garam masala, which uses a mix of different spices, from cumin, coriander, cardamom to poppy seeds and saffron. No two spice blends are alike and each cook has his own secret mixture.
Garam masala in the chicken curry is added to the onion, ginger and garlic mixture and allowed to release its aromas in the pan for a few minutes. In theory this would be all you need in terms of spices to form the basis of a curry. However we Indians like complex and intricate flavors, demanding a lot from our taste buds, we elevate some of the different flavors that are contained in the garam masala. Depending on how you would like your curry to taste, you simply add a little more of the individual spices found in the garam masala. For a floral and herby flavored curry increase the level of ground coriander and/or for a piquant and strong flavored curry add more ground cumin and/or for a slightly softer, sweeter note a dash more of cinnamon should do the trick.
As the spices heat up with the onion, ginger and garlic mixture, the aromatic oils are drawn out of all the perfumed woody spices added to the curry. If you were to add these spices later, with the tomatoes for example, they would not have the opportunity to unfold their flavors and give the vibrant performance in the curry.
Fresh or canned tomatoes are then added to the pan and left to simmer down and caramelize. This is an important stage in a curry. The tomatoes need to be allowed the time to bubble through and the perfumed oils to emerge to the top and turn the mixture golden. At this point another essential spice is added to the curry - turmeric.
In every curry I cook I use three cardinal spices - the key spice in meat curries is garam masala, to every curry I also add turmeric and chili. Turmeric is the quintessential spice in the Indian spice kitchen and as a ground root it brings the essence of earthy flavors to the curry. Besides lending its vivid yellow color to the curries it is added to, turmeric is a wonder spice with incredible healing properties.
Once the oils begin to separate in the tomato mixture it is time to add the chicken (or meat) pieces, covering them with the masala mixture and water and then left to simmer for a good 40 minutes. Often I will add a pinch of sugar to enhance the caramelized taste of the onions and tomatoes.
Tip: Do not add too much water as once you have salted the curry the meat will begin to release its juices adding more liquid to the curry. You do not want thin watery curry but rather a curry with a thick gravy coating the meat.Add a handful of chopped coriander leaves to the curry to give it a refreshing, slightly lemony and minty flavor, rounding off the curry perfectly.
This is not a fancy type of chicken curry nor will you find this kind of curry on the menu of a restaurant. This is the curry we cook at home on any night of the week - if needed - on every night of the week!
I like marinating my chicken in a yogurt and buttermilk spice mixture allowing the meat not only more time with the spices but also the yogurt-buttermilk tenderizes the meat making it more succulent. This is optional and you can leave it out if you are pressed for time.
Besides adding garam masala, I up the levels of ground coriander, cumin and add a pinch of cinnamon. A few crushed cardamom pods also go into my curry - what can I say I am a true spice girl.
Give your taste buds a real party!
Having travelled and lived all across the globe I find delight in all kinds of cuisines, but I always come back to my own simple Indian dishes the way my mum, my nani (grandmother) and my dad makes them, adding my own touch. My dad’s easy no-fuss version of chicken curry is a dish I turn to on weeknights when the curry craving kicks in and we all are really looking forward to a hassle-free curry. Yes my dad is a breast-man (sounds naughty) but over the years I have convinced him to throw in a few pieces of wings for the extra flavor.
Dubai Workshop Update
A few exciting updates on the upcoming Dubai Food Photography and Styling Workshop today. We’ve integrated a new session to the programme and I am really excited that my dear friend Sally Prosser (the incredible hostess behind the workshop) will be holding a session on “Social Media Strategy for Food Blogging.” Sally will give us tips and share secrets on how to optimize our social media know-how for best results. As a Marketing Communications Consultant, specializing in Social Media Strategy, she has all the experience to lead this session.
A vital part of food styling is the props! Finding the right selection of props to match the mood and atmosphere of the image is an important factor. That is why I am extremely thrilled to announce our collaboration with Tavola ME. The folks at Tavola have literally opened their store for us and will be sponsoring all the props we need to set the perfect scene for our assignments.
With the lovely Dima Sharif creating an impressive Moroccan menu for us, a field trip to the amazing Atlantis,The Palm for a tasting and meeting a surprise celebrity chef (more on that next week) this workshop is on the roll! More details here.
Monthly Mingle October
Over on Jenn Cuisine you can check out the amazing roundup for September’s mingle “Americana”. Check it out.
This month we are heading over to Utah to join the delightful Dara of Cookin Canuk, who will be hosting October’s Monthly Mingle. Her theme is “Squash” the perfect ingredient for October!
You have the whole of October to present your incredible squash dishes. Deadline is 31 October. Hope to see you there!
You might like these curry ideas from WFLH:
|Chicken Tikka Masala||Creamy Butter Chicken||Mutter Paneer – Indian Cheese with Peas in a Creamy Tomato Sauce|
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