Mummy’s Classic Chicken Curry

Sunday lunches in our house growing up almost always meant some sort of meat curry – mutton, fish, shrimp, or, most often, chicken. Mummy’s chicken curry is a favorite of everyone in our household, and I think after many attempts over the years and watching my mother carefully, I’ve finally managed to get pretty close. (There’s a very slight difference in taste, which I think I know the reason for, and I’ll explain it below.)

I think a major reason that my mother’s food tastes so good is that she makes the majority of her spice blends fresh from scratch. I’m sure that this is common amongst traditional Indian cooks, especially in India, but I’ve noticed that most of my generation relies on the ready-made boxed spices from Shaan and MDH found in Indian grocery stores. These can certainly make for great meals – I have another chicken curry recipe and a delicious biryani recipe that relies primarily on these spice blends – but they never achieve the complexity of flavor that a dish has when you start with raw spices.

Mummy cooks her chicken with 3 layers of flavoring – an onion for the base of the dish, a blend of spices and herbs for the marinade, and a dry roast of spices to add to the curry. There are a bunch of pieces and it takes a few attempts to learn how to do this efficiently so you don’t spend hours in the kitchen, but the outcome is completely worth it. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

  • Chicken thighs and/or drumsticks [1.5 lbs]1st Masala Blend (marinade)
  • Garlic [1/2 a head]
  • Cilantro [handful, washed, with stalks]
  • Ginger, peeled [1 inch]
  • Water [1/2 cup]
  • Sea Salt [1/2 tbsp]2nd Masala Blend (homemade garam masala)
  • Poppy seeds [1/2 tsp]
  • Cloves [3-4]
  • Cinnamon stick [1]
  • Whole black peppercorns [6-7]
  • Corriander seeds [1/2 tbsb]3rd Masala Blend (curry flavoring)
  • Large yellow onion, sliced into long wedges [1]
  • Frozen grated coconut* [3/4 cup]
  • Kashmiri chilis (for color) [2]
  • Pre-made spice blend for chicken** [1 tsp]Final Ingredients
  • Vegetable oil [1-2 tbsp]
  • Large yellow onion, diced [1]
  • Water [2 cups]
  • Red chili powder (laal mirch)*** [to taste]
  • Salt [to taste]
  • Pepper [to taste]
  • Cilantro leaves [for garnish]
  • Garam masala*** [for garnish]

*I buy mine pre-grated and frozen from the Indian store, but Mummy often grates and freezes her own. This may account for some of the difference in flavor. Also, it’s best if you leave the coconut out for 15-20 minutes before using it. It doesn’t have to be at room temperature, but it’s easier if it’s not a totally solid block.
**Mummy uses one from Bedekar’s, but I couldn’t find that so I used MDH Curry Masala for Chicken. It works, but I don’t love it, and I think this may account for the slight difference between my dish and Mummy’s.
***This is an addition that I sometimes make for an added kick of spice and flavor. For the garam masala, I either reserve some of what I made before or use a boxed one from Everest (just for the garnish).

Steps

Marinating the Chicken

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Ingredients for the marinade

  • Wash the chicken. If using chicken thighs, dice them into 1-inch pieces. Place in a bowl.
  • Wash the cilantro and add it (stalks included) to the blender. I use one from Bella that’s actually intended for making juices.
  • Peel the ginger and chop into a few pieces if necessary for your blender, and add to the cilantro.
  • Separate the garlic pods. I like to peel them completely, but Mummy actually leaves some of the skins on. Add to the blender.
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This is actually for making healthy juices but it works perfectly well for this recipe!

  • Add the salt and water to the blender and pulse until thoroughly blended.
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A vibrant green color, thanks to the cilantro.

  • Pour the marinade over the chicken and coat completely. Cover the bowl and set in the fridge while you prepare the other ingredients. (If you have the time, letting chicken marinate for a few hours always increases the flavor.)
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I trimmed almost all the fat from the chicken thighs, keeping a little on for flavor.

Making the Homemade Garam Masala

  • Add all the ingredients to a spice blender (this is the one I use) and pulse until you have a fine powder. Set aside.

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Making the 3rd Masala Blend – A Dry Roast into a Paste

  • Roast the onion in a dry (no oil) nonstick pan.
  • Once the onion is fragrant, add the grated coconut, Kashmir chilis, and homemade garam masala from above. Roast until the onions are translucent and slightly brown on the edges and the mixture is fragrant.

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  • Add everything from the pan to your blender, and add in the MDH Curry Masala for Chicken. If you have a powerful enough mixer, pulse until you get a paste. If not, add some water and pulse.

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Putting it All Together

  • Heat the oil in a pot.
  • Once the oil is hot, add the diced onion.

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  • When the onion is translucent, add the chicken and marinade. Let it cook, stirring from time to time, until the chicken is almost fully cooked through. (Mummy actually marinates the chicken in advance and lets the chicken cook while she’s making the 3rd masala blend, but I’m not quite up to this level of kitchen coordination yet!)
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Add the chicken and marinade to the pot

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Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is almost fully cooked through

  • Add the 3rd masala paste to the pot. Stir and add approximately 2 cups of water. (The amount of water may vary depending on how much you added to make the paste, etc.)

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Add two cups of water

  • Put the lid on the pot and let the curry come to a boil until the chicken is fully cooked. Then, turn the heat down and let it simmer for 15 minutes until some of the water has evaporated and you are left with a curry of medium-thickness.
  • Add salt, pepper, and red chili powder to taste.
  • Garnish with cilantro leaves and garam masala. Serve with white rice, chapaati (a common Indian flatbread), or even white Italian bread, and some dahi (plain yogurt).

 

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Do you have a favorite chicken curry recipe or a garam masala recipe/brand that you really like? Share them in the comments below! Happy cooking 🙂

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Daal Fry (and some history)

My mother and grandmother are both amazing cooks. They’re amazing because their food tastes wonderful, they cook by instinct instead of sticking to recipes, and they’re ridiculously efficient. My mother can start from scratch and whip up a full Indian meal, and leave the kitchen clean and tidy in less than an hour. I’d say it’s unbelievable but I’ve seen her do it my whole life. My grandmother is in her late eighties and still (despite her family’s protests) gets up and cooks a little something every day. I can only hope that I’ve gotten some of their culinary skills and that maybe one day, some of their efficiency and tenacity will rub off on me!

Over the last few years, I’ve begun trying my hand in the kitchen from time to time, with pastas, curries, or deserts here and there. I go through phases with food – some months I cook regularly, and some months it seems like I’m a daily Seamless customer. I really want to break the ordering-in habit, though, so I’m going to start trying to plan my weekly meals and food prep schedule. I thought I’d share my successes and failures here. Some will be recipes from my mother, some of my own, and some that I picked up other places and modified. I hope you enjoy, and that maybe it inspires you to get into the kitchen yourself! After all, there is nothing quite so satisfying as a home-cooked meal.

Daal Fry

My mother makes a variety of daals. We grew up having varan and different aamtis (Marathi terms), made with yellow split pigeon peas, moong daal, red masoor, or brown masoor. Each variation is delicious and satisfying at the end of a long day. There have been many times when I’ve come home from a trip and thought that all I really wanted was some varan-bhaat (rice and daal). It’s simple, home-cooked food at it’s best.

One quick and flavorful variation is what Mummy calls a “daal fry”, which you can make with moong daal or red masoor. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

  • Red masoor [1 cup]
  • Vegetable Oil [2 tbsp]
  • Black mustard seeds (mohri) [1 tsp]
  • Cumin seeds (jeera) [1 tsp]
  • Asafoetida powder (hing) [1/2 tsp]
  • Garlic cloves, smashed [2-3]
  • Small onion, roughly chopped [1]
  • Small tomato, diced [1]
  • Water [1 cup]
  • Salt [1/2 tsp or to taste]
  • Pepper [1/2 tsp or to taste]
  • Red chili powder (laal mirch) [1/2 tsp, or to taste]
  • Clarified butter (ghee) [1 tsp, optional]
  • Cilantro, chopped [1/3 cup]

Steps

  • Rinse the red masoor 2-3 times and place in a bowl covered with water while you prepare the other ingredients.
    • Roughly chop the onions. Part of what makes this dish so good is biting into the onion, so you don’t want to dice it too finely.
    • Smash the garlic cloves. This is easily done by place the flat part of your knife blade on the clove and pressing down a couple times.
    • Dice the tomato. The tomato isn’t meant to be a main flavor, just add a balance of sweetness to enhance the other ingredients, so you don’t want chunks that are too large.
Ingredients 2

Soaking this daal is optional, but I find I like the consistency better if I do

Ingredients 1

  •  In a pot over medium heat, add the oil. Once the oil is heated (1-2 min) Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, asafoetida powder, and garlic cloves. Move it around with your utensil (I like to use a wooden spoon) so that the spices do not burn.
  • Add the onion and stir-fry until translucent. Do not let them brown.

Step 1

  • Add the tomato and fry until fragrant.
Step 2

Add tomatoes

Step 3

Fry until fragrant

  • Drain the daal and add it to the pot. Fry for 1-2 minutes. Keep stirring, so nothing burns.
  • Add the water and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the daal is cooked and has reached your desired thickness. (This is a daal that tastes best thick and not too watery.)
  • Add salt, pepper, red chili powder, and ghee to taste.
Ingredients 3

You can find ghee at Indian and Middle Eastern specialty stores, and some supermarkets. 

  • Add cilantro.

Step 4

  • Serve with white Basmati rice.
Final

The finished product! Daal-bhaat = the best comfort food. 

What kinds of daal or lentil recipes do you enjoy? What’s the meal that just reminds you of home? Let me know in the comments below, and let me know if you try making this! 🙂

 

 

Sorted Food

This past Sunday, Sorted Food, one of the most popular cooking channels on Youtube, hosted a meet up in Central Park. It was a grand conclusion to their #LostAndHungry tour across the US and was done in the typical Sorted fashion – lots of British banter, lots food talk, and lots of real, engaged interaction with viewers.

Me with the iconic Sorted mini-fridge!

Me with the iconic Sorted mini-fridge!

The day was supposed to start around 10 am, but Ben, Barry, Jamie, and Mike arrived around 9:30 to a handful of viewers. I was glad that I’d gotten there early too because it meant that I was able to have a conversation with Ben about their journey through the US. Ben is the actual trained chef of the group, so it was also cool to talk to him about things like a great dish versus a great dining meal and how your experience of food is so predicated on things that surround it – whether you cooked the meal or bought it, who your company is, what setting you’re in, etc.

Me with Ben Ebbrell, the chef behind Sorted Food

Me with Ben Ebbrell, the chef behind Sorted Food

“If you asked me what my favorite dishes on this trip were, I could probably list five, but if you asked me what my favorite dining experiences were I could probably also list five, but they would be an entirely different list than the first set.”

At 10 am, the guys gave (and filmed) an intro for the crowd, which had now swelled to probably about 80. We all split off into four groups (one with each member of the Sorted team) and we went off on an adventure to find food. I was in Mike’s team, and our task was to find something sweet. We were in my neck of the woods on the Upper East Side, so I immediately thought of taking the group to “O Merveilleux“, a darling little French café and pastry shop where Proma and I often like to go to work during the day. As we walked, I got to meet some of the other attendees. One lady was visiting with her husband and daughter from San Francisco and happened to be in town for the meet-up. She told me she had grown up in France and taught me the correct way to pronounce merveilleux (Proma and I always just call it “the bakery”) and recommended a pastry called chouquette from Maison Kayser. As the day went on, I also got to talk to other viewers and find out about their favorite food spots in the city. One viewer, Emily Tan, is a food photographer and gave me tips on using my new DSLR. It was cool to meet people over this random shared interest that we had all come to independently.

Once we got to our destination, Mike bought us all some macarons and gingerbread cookies to share.

Mike examining the fare at O Merveilleux

Mike and some viewers examining the fare at O Merveilleux

Mike and I showing of the macarons

Mike and I showing off the macarons

As the day went on, we went to more local spots including Two Little Red Hens (where we sampled a divine Brooklyn Blackout Cake), Orwasher’s Bakery (where we admired their display of freshly baked breads), and Maison Kayser (where I finally got to try the delicious little chouquettes).

Beautiful, mouth-watering pastries at Maison Kayser

Beautiful, mouth-watering pastries at Maison Kayser

We also stopped by Cascabel Taqueria for my favorite spicy guacamole and tostada to balance out all the sweetness and went downtown to check out the Pride parade that was happening that day.

We were only at the Pride parade briefly, but we spotted Lea DeLaria from Orange is the New Black

We were only at the Pride parade briefly, but we spotted Lea DeLaria from Orange is the New Black

Along the way, I got to talk to Mike about his experiences in the US. He talked about driving through the western part of the country and trying a proper Louisiana crawfish boil in a viewer’s home (see the video). He told me he used to be a school music and drama teacher. He said he missed a traditional British breakfast, so I recommended Jones Wood Foundry for their bangers and mash. He was planning on visiting Boston on his own after NYC so I told him to go to Quincy Market and have a real clam chowder. (The guys had tried it in San Francisco, which, to a Boston girl, really doesn’t count.) It was very cool to be able to have real conversations over a few hours with Mike, instead of just a quick hi, hug, and a selfie like I imagine most meet-and-greets are. (I’ll try to post about my experience meeting Marcus Butler soon.)

With Barry and Jamie at the end of the day

With Barry and Jamie at the end of the day

It was incredible to me how friendly and easy to talk to all the guys were. I feel like if I were in their shoes, I might be nervous about meeting and having to interact with so many unknown people at once. When I stepped back, it was odd but awesome to have someone who I essentially think of as a ‘celebrity’ I watch on a show interacting with me, in ‘my space’, just because I brought him there, like it was normal. In the moment, though, it felt completely natural. I guess that’s the magic of the Sorted mission though. It’s just good people coming together over good food. What does it matter if they know each other or not? Why can’t we just meet some strangers with a common interest and have a good time? It doesn’t and we can. Good people + good food = good time. Simple and delicious.