Chicken Korma

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Korma or Quorma a dish influenced by the Persians and been perfected in the kitchens of the Mughal Emperors. It generally points to a dish of Meat, Game, Poultry or even Vegetables braised slowly with yoghurt or cream (or both) and a paste of nuts. The gravy is usually paler and subtly spiced compared to a lot of the other tomato based gravy that are so common in Indian cuisine. But unlike the way its marketed in the west it is not necessarily a mild (in some cases sweet tasting) dish.

In spite of the long (ish) list of ingredients, please do not be put off to give this a go as its fairly simple to prepare. I like using Chicken on the bone for more flavour and in this case it also holds on to its shape better to stand the slightly longer cooking process. At a compromise use thigh fillets. I also use shallots for its milder and sweeter taste but white onion is perfectly fine to use. The Black Cardamom is optional. It does add a certain smoky flavour to the dish that I personally like but if you do not have it or don’t want to buy it for one particular dish then that’s perfectly fine. The Poppy Seeds and the pumpkin seeds are essential. try and get the white poppy seeds. Use unsalted and unroasted cashew nuts. If using the salted one soak in warm water and drain before making the paste.

Ingredients
Chicken on the bone = 1 Kg
Shallots (or onions) = 400 gms
Ginger & Garlic paste  = 4 tsp
Full Fat Natural Yoghurt = 200 gms
Salt = to taste
Black Peppercorn = about 12
Bayleaf = one large
Cinnamon = an inch stick
Cloves = 4
Cardamom = 5
Black Cardamom (optional) = 1 or 2
Cumin powder = 2 tsp
Coriander powder = 2 tsp
Cashew nuts = about 20/25
Poppy seeds = 2 tsp (soaked in warm water for about 15 mins)
Melon Seeds (Charmagaj) or use Pumpkins seeds = 2 tbsp
Dessicated Coconut = 3 tbsp
Green Chiili = 2 medium
Garam Masala (optional)= 1/2 tsp
Ghee (Indian Clarified Butter) or Butter (optional) = about 3 tbsp
Oil = as required if not using Ghee or Butter (or use a mix of both)
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Method
Mix the Yoghurt with 3 tsp of ginger and garlic paste. If necessary wash and dry the chicken. put some salt and rub. Then apply the yoghurt mixture and mix well covering all areas. Leave for about 4/5 hours (at least allow for an hour but longer the better). Make a paste with the cashew nuts, coconut, green chillies, melon seeds or pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds and a bit of water to make a medium consistency paste. Slice onions. Heat the Ghee or oil in a heavy bottomed pan over a medium heat. When hot add the sliced onions. Fry till translucent but do not burn them. Add the remaining ginger and garlic paste and all of the whole spices and the bay leaf and stir for about 2 minutes. Now add the marinated chicken and the remaining marinate. stir this for about 10 minutes till all the mixture is well mixed. Add the cumin, and coriander powder. Now add the paste that you made earlier. Mix well. Add a tiny bit of water. Cover with a light lid and cook on a low to medium heat till the chicken is done. Check form time to time to make sure that the meat is not sticking to the bottom of the pan, adding a tiny bit of water if necessary to prevent that from happening. Check Seasoning and add a bit more salt if required. Just before taking it of the heat, sprinkle the garam masala (if using). Stir and Serve.

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Bengali Tomato Chutney

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Chutneys are an integral part of Bengali food culture. Traditionally they are made to be of slightly thin consistency compared with the chutneys in the west and are usually consumed on the same day unlike the west where we tend to store them for longer.  In summer months a sweet tangy chutney would be prepared usually of raw mango, or tamarind, or pineapple etc and served at the end of lunch meal. Its said to aid digestion and also help in cooling the body. During a multi course feast the chutney would come after the main course and before desserts to act as a sort of palate cleanser similar to what some sorbets supposed to do. In Bengal Chutneys are popularly made from raw mango, tamarind, pineapple, tomato et. They also add dried dates and Aamsotto (mango fruit leather). This tomato chutney  takes me back to my childhood days when my grandmother used to make it. I have made it slightly drier so that it will stay in the fridge for about 5 days if necessary. It’s an easy and quick recipe but the Panch Phoran (bengali five spice mix consisting of Black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek, kalonji seeds) is a must (you can make your own but it’s far easier to buy ready mixed and then you need only one. It is available in good Asian markets and in an increasing amount of our regular supermarkets too (Waitrose sells them). This is great on its own but you could add some dried fruits to it like apricots, dates or if you can get your hands into it, another Bengali delicacy the aamsotto (fruit leather made from mango) also known as a am papad in other parts of India.

Ingredients
A can of Chopped good quality tomato
2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar according to your taste
2 cloves of garlic
A small cube of ginger
1 tsp of bengali five spice mix (Panch Phoran)
One small dried red Chilli (without seeds if you prefer mild)
Pinch of salt
2 tsp of oil
Optional extra 2 tbsp chopped mango fruit leather or 5/6 apricots or dates chopped.

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Method
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the spice mixture. As soon as they start to pop, add the ginger and garlic and the chilli. Stir for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomato. Add the pinch of salt and the sugar. Cook on a medium to low heat for about 20 minutes stirring often. We are looking for a stage where the mixture sort of sticks together and it’s not runny. Now add the dry fruit if using and stir for another 5 to 10 mins. Take off from the cooker and let it cool down completely. Store in a clean jar or a container in the fridge and use as required. Do not forget to lick the spatula and the spoon.

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Aamsotto cut into cubes (Mango Fruit lather)

 

Kerala Style Beef Fry

imageKerala is a tiny state on the South Western end of India but when it comes to food it packs a big punch. It’s been on the Spice Map since about 3000 BC and is primarily known for growing top quality Peppercorns, Cloves, Cinnamon, Cardamoms among others. The spice trade bought in the traders from all over the world from the Greeks, Romans, Arabs (including the Syrians who were the first Christians in India), Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch to the British. (Vasco Da Gama landed here in 1498 which opened the door for the rest of the Europeans into India) and they all left some mark in some form or the other in the local architecture, cuisine, and culture.

With the coastline and the freshwater lakes , Kerala is also a big producer of Fish and Shellfish. There is a abundance of Coconut trees too. No wonder that most of these lovely produce make it to their local cuisine. The state also has a sizeable Muslim and Christian population and their influence on the local food cannot be ignored. One dish that we will be taking about today is the Kerala Style Beef Fry. I first had this dish in a small Restaurant in the Keralan Hill Station of Munnar in 2004 when we stopped there for two nights on our honeymoon tour around Kerala. I was taken back by the simplicity but a lasting taste of this dish. Sneha, A Mumbai based restaurant last week won an Chowzster Asia award for this Beef Dish (but you will not be able to eat it there as the sale and supply of Beef is since been banned in the whole state of Maharastra of which Mumbai is the Capital).

There are many variations of this dish and its mostly served as a snack accompanied by some flaky Malabar Parathas but can be served as a main course with Rice or Dosa or Appams. I have tried to simplify the dish as much as possible using ingredients available in the UK. The Cinnamon, Cloves and Cardamom can be substituted with 2tsp of Garam Masala but the taste will vary considerably. I also use Star Anise sometimes. If you have any in your kitchen Use one or two but reduce the Cinnamon, Clove and Cardamom. The following should provide 3 medium portions or 2 large portions. I have also used sliced fresh fennel. If you do that then use half a bulb of fennel and reduce the onion by half and do not use the fennel seeds.

Ingredients
Rump Steak – 500 gms (ask Butcher to tenderise the meat ie beat it thin with a meat hammer or do it yourself at home). Cut it into medium thin strips.
Shallots – 5 nos or one large white onion finely sliced
Ginger and Garlic Paste – 1 tbsp
Fennel Seeds – 1 tsp
Red Chilli – 1 medium (de seeded and halve if you prefer less heat)
C0rriander Seeds – 1 tsp
Cinnamon – half inch stick
Cloves – 3 pieces
Cardamom – 4 (peel the skin and use the seeds only)
Peppercorn – 2 tsp
Tomato Purée – 2 tbsp
Green Chilli – 4 de-seeded and slit lengthways (Keep the seeds in or add more if you like more heat)
Curry Leaves – about 10
Mustard Seeds – 1 tsp
Oil – about 4 table spoons
Dessicated Coconut – 1 tbsp (soak in 2 tbsp water for about 5 mins before using)
Salt to taste

Method
Dry Roast the Fennel, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves, Peppercorn, Red Chilli, Star Anise (if using). Cool and Powder using a spice or coffee grinder or in a pestle and mortar. Marinate the meat with Salt, The spice mixture, ginger and Garlic paste and the tomato purée. Rub well and set aside for about 2 to 3 hours.
Heat Oil in a wok. Add the Mustard seeds and as soon as it stars to pop, add the sliced shallots or onions, fry for about 5 minutes on a medium high flame and add the curry leaves and green chillies. Fry for another 5 minutes. Now tip the marinated meat mixture and stir on a flame for about 10 minutes. Add a drop of water if necessary and cover and cook till done. Uncover and stir. Check seasoning and serve garnished with dessicated coconut. This dish is best served straight away with Paratha Breads or Rice. In the following picture I served it with Lemon Rice and Cabbage Thoran (recipes to follow).

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Creamy Chicken Kebab (Chicken Malai Kabab)

Its incredibly easy to prepare Kebabs at home yet it seems that many people shy away from preparing them as perhaps they are not so sure about the marination or maybe they think that its a lot of hard work. They get cooked in BBQ’s (either shop bought or home marinated) but not considered much for general home cooking. Chicken Kebabs are very easy to prepare, are very healthy and are quick to cook. A bit of advance planning with the marination will ensure that you can have your dinner ready in less than 30 to 40 minutes, ideal for cooking when slightly short on time. Get the Meat marinated ahead and leave in the fridge overnight or for as less as 3 hours. If cooking after coming back from office or so try and leave it outside for a bit while you freshen up or get changed. The grilling itself takes about 10 to 20 minutes. Its best served with some light salad, pilau rice (Can be shop bought microwave version) or even a ready made tortila wrap. In India it gets served with Paratha Bread or Naan, usually a mint Chutney and some salad with onions.

Today’s recipe is for Chicken Malai Kebab (Creamy Chicken Kebab). Its my modern take on a Indian Classic. The end product is deliciously moist and the mild creamy nature is a big hit with the young fussy eaters too (if preparing for them perhaps omit or reduce the chilli, I use a separate marination without the chilli). I find that about 3 hours is enough for the marination but anything upwards of an hour should suffice. You could decide how healthy you want to make this dish (you could use light cream cheese or substitute half of it with sour cream or Greek yoghurt. But ). Some recipes call for two stage marination ie one first on with salt, pepper, ginger and garlic and after about 30 mins a second one wit the rest of the ingredients. I leave it up on you to decide how you want to do it depending on the time that you might have on your hand. While cooking keep an eye on it and try and not dry out the surface too much. Cut and check one inside to see if it has cooked. I use a George Foreman Gill and so it looks quicker and gives a lovely char grilled marks on the meat. In the following picture I have had to use red chilli as I did not have any green chilli at home at that time but green is much better in this recipe. (I have a shop bought Chilli Garlic Grinder that also includes fennel and I have used some of that in the marination but that is not necessary)
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Ingredients :

  • Chicken Breast 500 gms cut in medium chunks
  • Ground White Pepper half tsp (or black if you do not have white pepper)
  • Salt to taste
  • Cardamom Powder half tsp (use freshly ground if possible using the seeds inside a pod or if you do not have it use allspice instead, see below)
  • Ginger paste 2 tbsp
  • Garlic paste 1 tbsp
  • Green Chilli 2 nos or to taste
  • Corriander Leaves a handful
  • Cumin Powder half tsp (if you do not have this you can use a readymade curry powder)
  • Garam Masala (use allspice as a substitute but do not add Cardamom powder) half tsp
  • Cream Cheese (eg Philladelphia) about 4 heaped tbsp
Method :
Pat Dry the Chicken pieces and apply half the salt and the white pepper. Rub and leave it aside while you are preparing the rest. Make a paste of the ginger and garlic (if making your own) with the chilli, coriander leaves, rest of the salt, cream cheese cumin powder and the garam masala. Rub the chicken well with this mixture coating all the pieces well. Cover with a cling film and leave in the fridge. Soak the wooden skewers if you are using any.
Heat the Grill and skewer the marinated chicken using the soaked skewers without overcrowding them. (You could put them directly onto the George Foreman grill and cook without the skewers.) . Place on or under the grill and cook the chicken rotating regularly as necessary. Keep an eye on this as they cook very fast. the cream cheese will cause some lovely colouration on the Kebabs and take a piece out and cut in half to check whether its cooked through or not. If you overcook this it will dry up quickly (the outside should retain some moisture. You could also brush the Kebab couple of time while cooking using melted butter for a really yummy moist result (I did not follow this step on this occasion). Once you have checked if they are cooked take them off the grill and serve immediately. ENJOY

Goan Pork Vindaloo

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I spent 6 months in Goa during my Hotel Management Course and had the pleasure of trying some lovely local dishes. Of all the Goan dishes the Vindaloo is perhaps the most popular the world over. However the ones cooked in the UK curry houses are far from the original. Here it seems to be popular as one of the hottest curry on the menu. However the dish is a Indianised version of the Portuguese dish “carne de vinha d’alhos,” a dish of meat, usually pork marinated in wine and garlic. The wine was substituted by vinegar and red chillies and a few other spices, ginger , garlic and sugar were added. Locally it’s also known as vindalho or vindallo. Essentially the spices are ground in vinegar and the meat is marinated in it before cooking. The end result is a delightful hot and sour curry with a slight hint of sweetness. I have heard stories in Goa that during family feasts this was cooked in a earthen pot and then reheated over 7 days before being finally laid in the banquet table. Not sure how true it is and if people these days have that kind of time. However one thing is for sure, this dish is a million miles apart from the curry house offerings. Another good thing is if you are making your own spice paste (easier than you think) you can control the amount of chillies that goes in it.

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I used diced pork fillet and found that with a 5 hour marination the meat was falling into pieces with a gentle touch after about 40 mins of cooking but this will vary. Using Belly Pork or meat with slightly more fat will add to the final flavour of the dish. Dry roasting the spices brings out the best flavour and is defiantly worth the extra effort and time. I also prefer mine with potatoes but this is a matter of personal choice.

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Ingredients
Port Fillet – 500 gms and diced into medium chunks
Onion – 2 medium, sliced
Ginger – a thumb sized piece, peeled
Garlic – 4 cloves, peeled
Fennel Seeds – 1 tsp
Cumin – 1 tsp
Corriander – 2 tsp
Mustard Seeds – 1 tsp
Black Peppercorn – 1 tsp
Red Chilli – 2 medium size (adjust according to taste)
Cinnamon – a 2.5 inch long stick
Cloves – 4 nos
Turmeric Powder – 1 tsp
Vinegar – 4 tbsp (white or malt)
Oil – 4tbsp
Salt To taste
Fresh Curry Leaves – 5 nos (optional)

Method

Dry Roast all the spices except turmeric powder in a hot pan. Transfer onto a cool plate and leave aside. Make a paste with all the roasted spices, turmeric powder, salt, 3 tbsp of the Vinegar, Ginger and Garlic. Marinate the meat in this mixture and leave covered in a fridge for about 5 hours. 30 minutes prior to cooking take it out and allow to come to room temperature.

Add oil in a heavy bottomed pan and when hot add curry leaves if using. Stir for a minute and add the sliced onions. Fry on a medium heat for about 10 to 15 minutes till slightly translucent. Now turn the heat up high and add all the meat and its marinating juices. Stir for about 10 minutes. Season with more salt if necessary. Add the remaining 1 tbsp of the vinegar and a drop of water if required. Turn the heat down and simmer gently for about 30 – 40 minutes stirring occasionally to make sure that its not sticking to the bottom and if necessary add little water to prevent it from sticking. Check meat and take off heat when done (this will depend on the cut of meat and marination but my fillet pieces with 5 hours of marination took 40 mins). It should be very soft to touch with the juices sticking to it. Serve with steamed rice or bread of your choice. This dish can be prepared in advance and reheated when required enhancing the taste even more. I have added potatoes to mine but its a personal choice.