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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

coconut chicken Indian curry for beginners, plus curry powder recipe

We love curry. My husband and my son (age 16 months at the time of writing) just as much as me. I make Indian curries in different heats, creamy, coconutty, some plain, some with ground nuts, some vegetarian... We like to eat curry almost weekly. There are so many ways to make it!

But I discovered something appalling when I moved back to Arizona as a new bride. These people here are not just gun-happy. They actually don't even know what curry spices really are! I could walk into my local Safeway and leave with a product labeled, "curry powder", that neither smells nor tastes like any proper good Indian blend, and I have actually seen it used as a sprinkled condiment, akin to salt or ground black pepper, on top of a mayonnaise and cold potato salad. It is just not right.

So here is a little education for you. There are SO many things you can do with good spices, but you need a good starting point, I suppose, so first you need to put together my Indian spice blend.

Indian Curry Powder
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp fenugreek
2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp poppy seed
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp hottest cayenne chili
 1/2 tsp black peppercorns

This recipe makes a little bottle of curry powder, enough for 2-4 curries, depending on your family size. It is mild enough as is to be totally not hot, not offensive to my son when he was 10 months old. So, add more ground cayenne chili to match your preference of heat when you add the curry powder to the pan. Don't add it afterwards. It just doesn't turn out the same, and may be unpredictable as it will get hotter and hotter when stored as leftovers.

I am going to show you a creamy based curry, made with coconut milk as a gravy base, that has always gone over really well with family and guests, even potlucks. This one is best with chicken or a white meat, but by all means, get creative with the vegetables! Just be aware that cooking times will increase if you have larger chunks of one veg than another, so to avoid simmering all the fun out of your plants, take care in advance to chop or dice it all into somewhat similar sizes. Just last night I added shredded raw cabbage to a Malaysian shrimp curry, and my watching husband said, "What??! What are you doing?!" It was delicious, actually. Curry is a fantastic way to use up veg and disguise the flavors of vegetables your kids don't like. Some vegetables I like to curry include:

green peas
green beans
sweet peppers of any variety
kale, chard, and other leafy greens
summer squash
courgette (also called zucchini)
pumpkin or butternut squash
 There are few vegetables I will not curry. Right now, none come to mind.

So, you will need a few things for my little demo. The photos show these following ingredients, so mix up the veg according to your current fridge offerings and have fun! Let me know how it turns out.

2 chicken breasts, cleaned and diced
2 onions
4-6 cloves garlic
roughly 4 Tbs olive oil
4 Tbs curry powder mix
2 Tb tomato paste
1 cauliflower head, diced
1 c frozen green peas
1 can coconut milk

First, chop each halved onion into long, thin slices. The texture is so much nicer this way than diced. Flatten garlic with knife blade to remove papers, and thinly slice. I never bother to use a garlic crusher. Takes wayhaaaaaay too much time and is yet another thing to clean. Add onion and garlic to the warmed olive oil in a large pan, and simmer on high until mostly clarified. The proper thing to use would be ghee, clarified Indian butter, but that's rather tricky to come by in Arizona.

Next, add spices. Yes, right into the hot oil. You should have enough oil to absorb the spices, so if it looks a little dry then add another glug. Cook the spices, stirring slowly but constantly over a high flame, for about a minute.

Add diced chicken. Still over high heat, as you want the meat to sear nicely to retain tenderness, stir it around until it appears to be mostly cooked.

Add tomato paste to the cooked chicken mixture. Stir it around for a minute, and then add cauliflower. With lid on, simmer until cauliflower is al dente soft. I don't like mushy veg. At this point, add the frozen peas, as they only take a minute or two to defrost in the hot pan, and pour over the coconut milk. Lid on, simmer on a medium low heat for 5 to 10 minutes. The curry should be very aromatic in your house by now, so just allow the flavors you smell to fully penetrate all the veg you've added without overcooking them.

This is your finished curry. Serve over rice, with fresh salad greens on top. Happy eating!

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