Wednesday, 25 February 2009

A Recipe for Change

To say that I was a fussy eater as a kid would, quite frankly, be the understatement of the year. I remember many an evening when my mum or sisters would prepare another completely different meal, just for me. There was a period when all I would eat were white bread, tomato ketchup and mayonnaise sandwiches. I even convinced myself at one stage that I had developed an allergy to Chlorophyll and could not eat anything green, as it made my lips swell up. I had a talent for digging out minuscule pieces of mushrooms, onions and tomato from pasta sauce and would flatly refuse to even sit at the same table as someone eating prawns.

Thankfully, as I grew older and more interested in cooking, my sense of taste also developed and I got over my childhood food hang-ups, well most of them... There are still a few things that I'm not that keen on eating; For example, as much as I love the smell and flavour of mushrooms I still can't bring myself to bite into one, and even though lamb stews regularly make an appearance on our dinner table, I never eat the meat myself. I also included Indian curry dishes on this list. Although I am now a lot more adventurous, and willing to try everything at least once, for some reason I still clung to the idea that I do not like Indian cuisine. However, over a dinner of Thai green curry last week, my husband asked me why I don't ever prepare or eat Indian food. For the life of me I could not give him a decent answer and the more I thought about it, the more I wondered what's not to like. These dishes are so wonderfully fragrant and perfectly balanced in flavour, spice and seasoning, that it takes years to become an accomplished curry chef. This cuisine is so popular that there are entire streets lined with one curry house after another in the famous Brick Lane area of London, attracting millions of diners each year. England even declared it's national dish as Chicken Tikka Masala, as this is several times more popular than their own Fish and Chips.

Faced with these facts and resolved to move Indian cuisine from my "Dislike" column to my "Love It" column, I decided to make a Chicken Korma for dinner last night. Knowing that the recipe books on my shelves won't be of any use to me this time, I turned to the very useful World Wide Web for inspiration. After a good hour of Googling, trawling through countless recipe search engines, and reading pages upon pages of discussion forums, I soon found myself lost amongst all the different variates of recipes for this dish. Luckily, I'm not that easily discouraged, and after picking elements from a couple of recipes that did not include travelling to North India to roast your hand-picked spices on a flat hot-rock, I compiled my own recipe for a mild and creamy Korma to add to the millions already floating through cyberspace, and here it is:

For the marinade:
150g tub natural yoghurt
Pinch of rock salt
8 Whole cloves
Pinch of saffron
1 Cinnamon stick
6 Cardamom pods, crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix everything together in a big bowl and add 450g diced chicken breast, and place in the fridge to marinade for at least 2-3 hours.

For the main sauce:
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed under a knife blade
3 cm piece of root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
75g creamed coconut
50g flaked, toasted almonds
100ml single cream

Put the onion, garlic and ginger into a hand blender, and blitz to a smooth paste, you might have to add a scant teaspoon of water to the mix. Heat a tbsp of veg oil or ghee in a cast iron pot or thick-bottomed pan. Once hot add all of the spices and fry for one minute to release the flavours. Next add the onion paste and fry for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly to stop it from burning. Once the mixture is nicely coloured and the onion paste is cooked, add the chicken pieces and the marinade to the pan, omitting the whole spices, and fry for a further 10 minutes until the chicken is lightly browned and cooked through. Lastly add the pieces of coconut and the almonds and pour over enough warm water to cover the chicken, stirring everything well until the coconut has completely dissolved. Cover the dish and let it cook on a medium to low heat for 35-40 minutes until the chicken is wonderfully tender. Taste the dish and adjust the seasoning if necessary, add the cream and let it boil down for about 10 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken.

Served with steamed basmati rice and a couple of Naan breads, this dish easily served 3 people for dinner. Most importantly, I am happy to report that I have officially knocked another item off my list, and can't wait to develop other recipes for Tikka Masala, Kashmiri, Tandoori, Vindaloo...

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