Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Everyday Chicken Curry-No fuss and No Brainer

This is perhaps the easiest curry on the block. Yes, yes, involves a lot of 'bhunoing' and chopping and use of spices but even so, I still say it is the easiest. The kinds you don't even need to think and plan and shop for. The kind you can serve with an elegant pulao to unannounced guests and get away with them thinking, wow, you did so much for us!! If this is what you serve when we don't tell you of our arrival in advance, what would you cook if we did! Umm, in which case I would probably serve an elaborate roast Raan with a choice of Indian breads or a Biryani , the full works. But in the mean time, this basic Murghi Ka Salan (chicken curry) will have to do! It is my go-to mid week curry which I nearly always serve with fresh peas Pulao and a vegetable Raita. Serve a tangy mint chutney on the side with fresh Lassi or Lemonade or even a cup of hot masala Chai later, and you will win hearts. (I know we don't start a sentence with an 'and', thankyou). 

I would be foolish to claim that it is 'my' recipe. For it is not. It belongs to millions of  other subcontinental  households across the world. Perhaps the method or choice of spices might vary here and there, but essentially the base of a good curry remains the same. Pretty much a throw- in -everything -you- have- in- the pantry approach and 'bhuno' it to death and well, that's about it really. :) Personally, I make this so often that it isn't even considered special in any shape or form by my boys anymore! Talk about 'ghar ki murghi, dal barabar' ! Loosely translated, a meat which has the potential to become something really awesome and outta this world gets reduced to the level of  a dal dish-an everyday, ordinary meal for us. Or something like that. I am not a language teacher anyway.

To begin with please go and read my recipe for Garam Masala because you will need to use some. Or else, use any of your choice, home made or store bought, won't be an issue. Like I said, slight variations exist in every family curry!

Here is what you will need:

About 500 gms of chicken, cut in to pieces, bone in, washed and drained well.
*You can use just thighs/legs/drums too.

1 large onion, finely sliced
1 large tomato, either chopped fine or blend in to a paste like I do. Adds a nice body to the curry.
1tbsp ginger-garlic paste
2-4 green chillies, chopped fine or slit lengthwise

Spices you will need:

1 tbsp of corriander powder
1tsp heaped cumin powder
1 tsp levelled tumeric powder
1tsp freshly cracked black pepper corns
1 tsp levelled, kashmiri red chilli powder (optional)-more for colour rather than heat
1 tbsp of Garam Masala divided,  keep a fat pinch aside from this measurement, to be used later.
Salt to taste 
4tbsp mustard oil for cooking or your choice of any cooking oil. This is distinctively a North Indian curry, so avoid using coconut oil, but even if you do, I don't see how I can stop you! :)

A tbsp of fresh green corriander leaves, finely chopped, a few thin matchstick style julliened ginger and 2-3 green chillies slit lengthwise. ( I dont add any green chillies at all since my son cannot handle the heat) As always, adjust the amount of chillies you prefer.

Start by heating the oil in a large wok. Mustard oil has a strong, sharp smell and just as you see it begining to smoke up a bit, add the chopped onions and fry them untill really browned well. Mid way to frying those onions, add the ginger garlic paste. Brown this all together. This is the only stage which requires you to kind of hover over your stove, because while we want it all to brown up nicely, we dont want burnt bits. So resign yourself to a lot of stirring and frying. Next to go in would be the chicken pieces. Mix, stir, coat and let it get browned really well on all sides. I usually do all this on a high flame. Takes a good ten minutes at least and plus some more maybe. By the end of so much of stirring around and mixing the chicken pieces with the onions etc, all the moisture should have evaporated. It should pretty much dry up, with the oil clearly separated and visible. The chicken should also be half cooked by now. * If you are using very fresh chicken, it will take time to cook till nearly done or even half cooked.

    See how nicely browned my chicken pieces are? And I chucked in a couple of potatoes too. 

The next stage, one by one, start adding all the spices- turmeric, cumin, corriander, pepper, kashmiri chilli powder, and the garam masala. Just reserve a fat pinch of garam masala on the side. Mix thoroughly and let the chicken be coated with all the spices. Add salt to taste. Add the tomato paste you made, mix. Sprinkle some fresh corriander leaves, julliened ginger slices, slit green chillies and a big pinch of garam masala powder you had kept aside. Cover and cook on 'dum' on very low flame for about fifteen or twenty minutes or untill you think the chicken is cooked through. 

  The tomato paste as been added, ginger, corriander leaves and a pinch of garam masala       sprinkled on top, this will be covered and slow cooked untill done.

Get your sides ready while the curry cooks, here is my vegetable Raita with chopped shallots, bell pepper, cucumber,green chillies, salt, spices and a generous dash of fresh lemon juice. 

Peas Pulao, Raita and the ahem 'the curry'!!

Serve garnished with some more fresh corriander leaves, a Pulao and some Raita. Plonk a big pitcher of fresh lemonade to wash it down. Sit back and enjoy the compliments this 'no-brainer' curry will fetch you from even the most fussy member on the dining table! :) As for me, I am wondering why don't I ask the hubster to tag me along to London this week. He is off for a business trip and has planned to take some his clients for an authentic curry night. Unless he heads to Southall or Hounslow, I know he can be sure of a huge bill for a measly bowl of totally dodgy curry! If I was going, I would have gladly hosted all his clients, and be sure of winning some more big fat contracts. And some definite converts to curry too! 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Benarsi Chuda Matar- minus the frills!

This post was meant to be done quite some days ago. It's been lying in the draft from the day I actually cooked this recipe. One evening, spurred by my usual impulsive nature, I decided to make some Chuda Matar! I don't make it as often as I would like to because I restrict my carbs at every meal. But this one is a genuine weakness of mine and on my cheat days, I sometimes indulge. An all time favourite, tea time snack we love to eat by the bowlfuls during winters. A close cousin of the Maharashtrian 'Poha', this isn't that famous in all of northern region of India. It is infact kind of restricted to Eastern UP and Bihar- and maybe in Delhi, made famous no doubt,  by some UP immigrant! :) Anyhow, no matter where you may be from, once you have had this bowl of goodness, you will keep wanting more, and that is a promise. 

A quick and easy snack, flattened rice is stir fried in desi ghee along with fresh green peas available only during winters in the north. Ofcourse, here in Dubai, I am forced to use frozen peas, but I use so much of seasoning etc, I can recreate almost the same taste as the one we have back home. It can be made as mild or as spicy as you wish, the best thing is that it is so easy to customise and so I wouldn't worry too much about getting it right. It is a non fussy snack, the variations appealing to almost everybody. The Maharashtrian version uses tiny cubed potatoes and peanuts along with finely chopped onions.Some folks also add veggies like carrots, cauliflower etc. No thank you. The Benarsi method is usually easier and somehow has ended up being a very 'Jain' friendly dish. So we don't use onions or garlic. Fresh ginger is however liberally used, along with easy to assemble spices. The end result is a tangy-sweetish dish, a sure winner. If you like Poha, you will like any cousin of it too!

Here's what you will need: 

This recipe serves one if you are very greedy like me or else will do just fine for two people too

1 large cup of 'Chuda'- flattened rice
1 medium sized cup of fresh or frozen peas
1' ginger- finely grated
2-3 green chillies- chopped very fine
1tbsp finely chopped fresh corriander leaves


A pinch of aesafotida 
1 tsp  mustard seeds
1.5 tsp of cumin seeds
1tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp of freshly cracked black pepper 
1 heaped tsp of mango powder or juice of one large fresh lemon
1 tsp sugar
1tbsp of  'bhuna masala' ( dry roast 1 tbsp of corriander seeds and 1tbsp of cumin seeds, cool, grind to a fine powder) 
1/2 tsp of any garam masala powder.
Salt to taste

2 tbsp full desi ghee

First off, take the chuda in a sieve. You need to be careful here, wash it quickly under running water no more than 10 seconds. I am serious about this step, if you exceed the time I recommend, you are likely to end up with a very lumpy dish in the end. But even before washing, just tap the sieve gently over the kitchen sink, any dust particles which dry chuda tends to have, will get 'dusted away'. Keep aside and let it drain. Like the in the pic below. 

Next heat the ghee in a large round bottomed wok. Once heated through, chuck in the aesafotida, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and let them splutter for a few seconds. Add grated ginger now. Let it brown on a medium flame. Once the ginger starts getting golden brown and gives off an aroma , add in the green chillies and fresh peas. Saute and mix. 

Just as the peas begin to cook ( you may have to cover and cook them esp if you are using fresh ones), add in tumeric, chuda flakes, the rest of the spices, fresh corriander, salt and sugar. Mix thoroughly. Just before you will cover and cook this for about ten minutes, sprinkle the garam masala, cover and let cook on a low flame for about ten minutes or so. 

Keep the flame low else the chuda might start sticking to the bottom of your pan. The steam which builds up inside when covered, makes the chuda-matar just slightly moist and soft. The entire process from start to finish shouldn't take more than twenty minutes. Whatever time it does take is because of the need to cook peas. Once done, serve hot with wedges of lime and a hot cup of chai. 

PS- Some people do add raisins and cashews too,  which I personally really dislike. Serve this with a chutney of corriander or tamarind. I make do with ketchup usually. And mostly not even that, because I am too impatient to wait. 

                This is how the final dish is supposed to look, a brilliant yellow! 

Have it for your evening tea time, filling and super tasty. Minus the frills.