You know that whole a rose by any other name stuff? Yeah well that’s how my husband, my mother in law and now even my two year old feel about Chicken Curry. It matters little which variation on the theme it is, the traditional spicy rich korma curry, the plain Jane chicken curry, the tomato-y chicken curry, or kalya a turmeric heavy curry, as far as they are considered it is the food of champions. This is why after spending my childhood successfully avoiding eating it for the most part I finally had to figure it out and I must say I have found a few versions I really like. Here is just one of them.
I like this one particularly much because I am a fan of all things tomato, plus even with the reduced red chillies (I only put in half a teaspoon when cooking for Zara) it still manages to be very flavourful. Also, for a dish with depth it does not take long or require for me to be standing at the stove anxiously the entire time. This recipe is an amalgamation of ones I have found on the internet and tips from one of my aunts. Did I ever tell you that my family is populated by amazing cooks? You would think it would mean I have some kind of natural talent... Anyhow, luckily for us, what I lack there I make up for with good note taking.
Chicken Curry with Tomatoes or Murghi ka Salan v.1
½ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ pounds chicken
1 large or 2 small onion evenly chopped
4 cloves garlic chopped not minced
1 inch ginger peeled and sliced
3 tomatoes diced
2 teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoon red chilli powder
A pinch of turmeric
½ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp black pepper
3-4 cardamom pods
½ cup chopped cilantro
4 green chillies
Bring out your trusted heavy bottomed pot, the non stick is nice and all, but unless you have time and patience it isn't very wise to caramelize much in one of those. And boy, do we need to caramelize.
Warm the pot on medium heat, add your oil (heats up MUCH faster when the pan is already hot) add your onions, and then let them be.
When they start browning then stir them to ensure even browning and when you are satisfied then throw in the sliced ginger and roughly chopped garlic. A note on the garlic – it’s a delicate thing and there is considerable cooking to be done so unless burnt garlic has a special appeal to you I suggest keeping the garlic chunks fairly big (see below).
Fry for 2-3 minutes then add red chilli powder, turmeric, and salt. Cook those for another few minutes, if it starts to burn then add in a splash of water. Now add your chopped tomatoes – the finer you dice them the quicker this leg will be. What you want is for your beautiful petit tomato pieces to coalesce with your onion spice mix. Stir every now and then. The tomatoes will darken in colour and the oil will rise to the surface. Trust the ugly on this one.
Now do yourself a favor let the mixture cool and puree it. There, just shaved off 30 minutes from cooking time. In Pakistan onions have the ability to magically dissolve without a trace, but Canadian onions aren’t quite so obliging which is my magic bullet and I are tight. Put your paste back in the pot, turn your heat up and add your chicken pieces. Stir fry the mix on medium high heat (you know what to do if the curry starts to burn) until the chicken pieces lose their raw pinkness and are uniformly white. Now cover them with water, thoroughly stir the curry to combine the paste with the liquid you just added. Pop in the cardamom pods. Bring the curry to a boil then drop it to a simmer and cover the pot with a lid for 15 minutes. The oil should have risen to the surface by now, it it hasn't then simmer on. Looking prettier already isn't it?
If the oil is making you squeamish then let the curry be for ten minutes, come back and gently tilt your pot into a bowl or directly into the sink and let the oil that has risen to the top slide right out. I said gently okay, no need to pour out that perfectly good curry. Unfortunately any dish that requires caramelizing onions requires a generous amount of oil, but once its job is done there is no reason to hang on to it.
Now go build a Lego fire station with your daughter. Or whatever it is people who don’t have Zara for a daughter do. When your timer makes that obnoxious beeping noise then come back, uncover the pot, add the cumin powder, black pepper, half a cup chopped coriander and whole or sliced green chillies. Add more water to thin it out if you so desire, let it cook for 5 minutes and then call it quits. Oh and if you have guests over tell them it took hours. Enh, why not.
Serve with rice or roti/naan.