Since we’re hanging out in Asia after my last post, I thought heading a little west to India would not only be a great way to continue our delicious exploration of Asian food, but its 13 degrees today and I’m cold and want something warm and full of spice.
Indian food took some time for me to comprehend. Even after all the research and testing I’ve done, I still would never call myself an expert by any means. “Indian food” (as with all “Asian food”… or “food” for that matter…hmm) varies by region, by city, and even by family. That’s one of the many beautiful aspects of Indian food- you will never get the same dish twice. But unfortunately, that complexity is one reason why many people refuse to attempt cooking it at home. Thankfully this cuisine has become so popular, even your local grocery store will have the “beginner’s kit” of Indian ingredients.
In order to cook a delicious and decent imitation of an Indian curry, you’ll need 5 major ingredients: onion, chili, ginger, garlic, and spices. Easy enough, right? Even if you’re feeling confident and want to invest in a spice box (families in India take pride in their carefully procured spice box. In fact, “curry powder” isn’t a thing!), all it takes is a little research to find the spice blend that represents your version of the cuisine. But if you’re just starting out and finding fenugreek leaves is impossible near you, the “curry powder” blend found in most supermarkets is a nice entry level spice to use. Even better if you can find garam masala too! The beauty of this cuisine lies in the blends of spices so once you’re comfortable, have fun playing around with what you can find!
Once you have that foundation, you can start to add anything you’d like! I like throwing in leftover vegetables or beans when I prepare this during the week. It’s a fast, hearty, and healthy way to not only use up ingredients hanging out in your kitchen, but the whole family gets their veggies without a second thought. Top it with braised chicken, like I did, for a deliciously satisfying meal.
Chicken Curry with Spinach and Cauliflower
Yields 8 portions
- 1 Whole chicken, cut into 10 pieces (2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 breasts cut in half), marinate with curry powder and salt
- ¼ cup oil or ghee
- 1 jalapeno, stemmed
- 1 yellow onion, julienned
- 1-1 inch piece of ginger
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 2 cans of whole tomatoes, cored and squeezed into sauce consistency*
- 2 cups chicken stock
- Vegetables (roasted cauliflower, spinach, or anything you have on hand)
- 3 Tbsp curry powder
- 1 tbsp garam masala (optional)
- 1 lemon, juiced
- Salt to taste
Note: *I use whole tomatoes and process them to the desired consistency because diced tomatoes contain calcium chloride, which helps retain their shape. I prefer a more “saucey” texture with my curries. But you can purchase diced for convenience.
Start by making a paste of garlic, ginger, and jalapeno- puree all 3 in a food processor or mince by hand. Set aside. Add oil to large stock pot on medium heat (large enough for chicken and vegetables). Sear the chicken, skin side down, until brown. Remove from pot and set aside. Lower heat and add onions, scrapping up any chicken bits on the bottom of the pot. Cook onions until brown and caramelized (it may take 30-45 min. Don’t rush this part. The sweet onions start to build the foundation for a more complex curry). Once caramelized, add ginger-garlic-chili paste. Cook until aromatic (1 min). Add spices and toast (bloom) for 1 min. Add in the tomatoes and chicken stock. Season with salt. Add in the chicken. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160ºF. Add in the vegetables. Season with salt, if desired, and add in lemon juice. Serve with rice or grain (optional) and garnish with yogurt and/or cilantro.