This is a chicken curry recipe that I have adapted so many times that I forget where I got it from. It's not intended to be “typical”; the real purpose is for something that my wife Yvonne will eat, which means that it should be very mild. For me to be able to eat it, it should also be spicy.
There's a difference between “spicy” with “peppery”. This dish is spicy, but it's not peppery
|50 g||coriander seed||1|
|5 g||fennel seed||1|
|3 g (1 stick)||cinnamon||1|
|80 g (about 2 sticks)||lemon grass||2|
|20 g||powdered turmeric||4|
|2 kg||chicken thighs, deboned and cut into 3 - 4 pieces||5|
|50 g||oil for frying||5|
|800 g (1 large tin)||diced canned tomatoes||6|
|400 g||coconut cream or santan||6|
|2 g||cardamom seeds||6|
|20 g||black mustard seed||6|
|5 g||garam masala||7|
Dry fry the whole spices in a frying pan minutes to dry them out (otherwise they will clog up the grinder). Grind in a spice grinder. If any are already powdered spices, add them now.
Blend the onions, ginger, garlic, lemon grass and oil to a purée in a blender.
Place the mixture in a dry frying pan and fry slowly until it starts to dry out (the oil will separate), about 10 minutes.
Add the spices (step 1) and turmeric and fry until aromatic.
This step is optional. You can also put the raw chicken directly into the sauce (next step). Add about a fifth to a quarter of the chicken and fry until superficially cooked. Move contents of pan to a stew pot. Fry the remaining chicken in the remaining oil in three or four batches, moving to the pot when superficially cooked. At the end, discard any remaining oil.
Add the tomatoes and coconut cream to the stew pot and mix. Add curry leaves, cardamoms, mustard seed and salt. Dilute with water as necessary: the meat should be just covered. Bring to the boil and cook until cooked, about 45 minutes. The curry will keep well at this point and can be served hours later.
A number of things aren't immediately apparent:
This dish freezes well, and that's why I make so much of it. I freeze portions of about 400 g of the finished curry, about enough for 2 people.
Traditionally this type of dish is made with santan, an extract of fresh coconut often called “coconut milk”. There are two kinds, thick and thin. In Australia it's easier to buy “coconut cream”, which is at least as thick as thick santan. If using santan, it's probably better to use 800 ml and omit the water.
Optionally, fry the chicken (step 5). There's too much chicken to fry all at once. It would require a frying pan about 70 cm in diameter, and even if you had that, you wouldn't be able to keep it hot with conventional stoves. So it needs to be done in several batches (about 4 or 5). The first can be fried in the spices, but it's then best to move it with the spice mix to a stew pot and fry the remaining chicken in the pan with fresh oil. That's the 50 g oil in step 5.
The oil in step 2 is enough to fry everything including the first batch of chicken. Putting it in at this stage ensures that the ingredients are liquid enough to blend well. This is also the reason for using oil and not ghee. If there are other ways to purée these ingredients, then ghee is perfectly acceptable.
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