Saturday, January 29, 2011

Classic Northern Chicken Curry

Whenever I'm in London I try and have Indian food. My friend, Meg, and I went to the Wallace Collection last week and we planned on going to a favorite Indian restaurant afterward. There are many choices of restaurants for Indian food in London, but somehow I usually end up at Noor Jahan in South Kensington. There are white tablecloths on the tables and Indian men serving, who wear white shirts and black bow ties. The food is always great and the staff efficient and accommodating. If you want a dish but don't want it hot or you want it problem. They'll even make a request that is not on the menu, if possible. The lighting in the restaurant was dim so I couldn't get any good pics of Meg's Chicken Curry and my Goan Chicken, but we devoured every last forkful. Last month in London, I bought the Indian cookbook, Indian Food Made Easy, by Anjum Anand. It is from her BBC cooking show by the same name. There are many recipes in it I want to make, including Goan Chicken, but I decided to try the Northern Chicken Curry recipe that looked like the one from Noor Jahan. Anand describes her chicken curry: "To Indians, a curry simply implies a gravied dish. The actual flavours will reflect the region in which you eat it. This recipe is from Punjab and for an Indian this would be enough of a description. We know to expect the robust flavours of onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and garam masala." If you don't have access to garam masala, you can mix your own from a recipe I found here. Once you make your own curry dish you'll look at that bottle of "curry powder" in your cupboard as a masquerader. I make my own chili powder for my chili and will never buy the pre-made kind again. I did make one change in the recipe by substituting crushed tomatoes for the fresh ones. In January, fresh tomatoes are a compromise and canned ones work better. This substitution made my curry appear more tomatoey than Anands, but very similar to Noor Jahans. The restaurant brought the curries to the table in small copper pots with fried white basmati rice topped with golden onion. I served mine in a copper pan with brown basmati rice. However you serve it, you'll be transported to faraway India by the exotic flavors....and that is a good thing in this cold and snowy January.

Classic Northern Chicken Curry
(Adapted from Indian Food Made Easy, by Anjum Anand)

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
7 whole cloves
3 shards of cinnamon stick
7 green cardamom pods
2 small-medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
9 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
salt, to taste
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 scant tablespoons coriander powder
4 medium cooking tomatoes, puréed
1 small chicken, about 1 1/2-2 pounds, skinned and cut up
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 cups water, or more if needed
1 teaspoon garam masala
handful of fresh coriander leaves

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or skillet. Add the cloves, cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods and fry for about 20 seconds until aromatic.
Be careful that the cardamom pods don't pop in the hot oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat for about 10 minutes until a rich golden brown, stirring often.

Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook for about 40 seconds more before adding the salt, powdered spices and bay leaf and stir for another 10 seconds.
Pour in the tomatoes and cook over moderate heat for about 10 minutes until the liquid in the pan has dried off.

Add the chicken and brown over moderate to high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add enough water to almost cover the chicken. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low-moderate until the chicken is cooked through. The slower it cooks, the better it tastes. This takes about 15-20 minutes for small pieces and 25-30 for larger ones.

Stir in the garam masala and coriander leaves just before serving.

Serves 6-8

Notes: Be very careful that the cardamom pods don't pop out of the hot oil, because they can burn you (I had a near miss!) I used split chicken breasts instead of a small whole chicken; that is the cut I prefer. If you substitute canned crushed tomatoes for the fresh, use 1 1/2 cups. I also added a whole bay leaf which wasn't called for in the original recipe.

Noor Jahan
2A Bina Gardens,
off Old Brompton Road
London SW5 OLA
Lunch: 12-2:30pm Dinner: 6:30pm-11:30pm

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Kathy Walker said...

This brings back fond memories...I spent a summer studying in India. Learning the food was a wonderful experience. I am going to try your dish and can hardly wait. Thank you for the cookbook recommendation.

Deana Sidney said...

Love Indian food, when I saw that (Dehillerin?) copper pan I knew it was going to be full of somehting wonderful. Don't you love the way Indian food makes the kitchen smell... it's like perfume. Great recipe Diane.

La Table De Nana said...

What a great pan to cook it in also..You're so well well read:)
Thanks as always for sharing your trips..eateries.. books and know how with us~

Comiendo dentro y Fuera de Casa said...

I love Indian food. Some time ago I tried a bread made of nuts ... yummy!

Sonia said...

love your dish and the photography, i suggest Chutney Mary in Chelsea. (incase u hvnt tried it so far)

Marlis said...

Nice recipe. I cook a lot of Indian food and just wanted to point out something you may not have known. Indian bay leaf isn't the same as the western cuisine's bay leaf. Indian bay leaf is actually a leaf from the casia plant and has a distinctly different flavor. You can buy it on-line from Indian grocery stores if you don't have a brick and mortar stone in your area. Madhur Jaffrey has wonderful cookbooks (easy to follow) and I fell in love with a book called 'Mangoes and Curry Leaves'. You can find it at Amazon. It's a joy to read. I think we'll be eating your chicken today :)

Unknown said...

I have tried A LOT of packaged garam masala. If you HAVE to buy it The Spice Hunter makes the best of the packaged ones. Thanks for the recipe and the cookbook suggestion.

Anonymous said...

Lovely - this sounds heavenly! The photos are stunning as well; I love the bay leaf in the first shot.

2 Stews said...

Kate...How wonderful that you got to spend a summer in India. The experience had to shape you somehow. I'm hoping to get there one day. Soon, maybe.

Deana...Actually the copper pan is a Bourgeat, made in France, but since it was a gift I'm not sure where it came from. I gave it a good spiffing up for the special day. And yes, I love the heady aroma of curry, too. see well traveled, I see jet lagged. Thank you, I'm glad to share. It is a privilege.

Comiendo dentro y Fuera de Casa...the bread of nuts sounds interesting, I think I love it already.

Sonia...No, I haven't tried Chutney Mary, but will certainly add it to my *go to* list. Thanks!!

Marlis...Thanks for the insight on Indian bay leaves. While in the Indian section of the grocery store in London, I saw a big bag of bay leaves for about $1. Since I alredy had bay leaves, I didn't get them. I'll go back :-) I used to look at Madhur Jaffries books, but never bought one. I'll take a second look at "Mangoes and Curry Leaves." I like the name, and I know she is well regarded. Thank you.

Lisa...Thanks for the resource. I bought some in London, but am sure the variations in quality are vast. I'll take a look that their site.

Whisk-Kid...Thanks, we think alike. I had to pull that bay leaf up and put it in sight!

Thanks all, for the wonderful and informative comments. Also, thanks for visiting and have a great week!


Joanne said...

I am FOREVER looking for new curries to incorporate into my life and this sounds wonderful! It's true...once you make your own curry, that powdered stuff will pale in comparison!

Bonnie said...

lovely blog... I just bought a ebelskiver pan, and was looking for recipes and came upon your blog. I was overwhelmed by how beautiful all your food looks... you should start a restaurant if you haven't already!

Marlis said...

eeep, should have pointed out tha Mangoes and curry Leaves is not a Jaffries book. Sorry. Anyone who loves cookbook and Indian food will love that book, it's a traveloge/cookbook.

Meg Luby said...

ha, props to you for making chicken curry! i am trying to be brave and give it a try but, takeout is so much easier...
or so i keep trying to convince myself ;)
thanks for posting!

Cassie said...

Indian food is most definitely my favorite right now. It's just so warm and comforting for the winter time! Thanks for sharing this recipe!

test it comm said...

That curry looks really tasty!