Monday, June 15, 2009

Indian Cooking

This weekend, I cooked a miniature Indian feast: chicken curry with potatoes and cauliflower served on a bed of basmati rice with warm, pillowy naan bread. It was an incredible meal, but a marathon cooking day to be sure. 10:00 am. After my obligatory cup of coffee, I enlisted the help of my good friend Devina to help me pull off this delicious meal. We talked on and off all day, even calling in her mother to make sure everything was just right.
I started the day off by making ghee, a clarified butter found in many Indian dishes. It's relatively simple to prepare, but does require a watchful eye, so don't wander too far from the stove. Unlike butter, ghee has a high smoking point, which prevents it from burning and you can use it as you would oil. I add ghee at the end to finish the curry, giving the sauce a wonderful rich quality.
After making the ghee, it was time to venture off to my local Indian grocery store to pick up some last minute items--green chiles and curry leaves. I arrived at the store only to find it was not open yet--and so I waited. Cue elevator music. 15 minutes later, I ran into the store and managed to get the chiles and snag the last bag of curry leaves. After a quick lunch break, it was time to head back to the kitchen.
I began by toasting the spices to make the garam masala, a blend of ground cinnamon stick, coriander, fennel, allspice and cloves. The garam masala provides wonderful depth of flavor and has a warm, heady aroma. Once the garam masala is ready, I begin sauteeing the chiles. Heat the oil, give the chiles a rough chop and throw them in the pot. Don't forget to remove the seeds and membranes! Your mouth will be so grateful. I then add the mustard and cumin seeds until they begin to brown followed by the onions, garlic and ginger. The original recipe belongs to Martha Stewart and calls for an onion, garlic & ginger puree, which takes nearly an hour to caramelize. I've made the curry with the puree before and it is excellent, but who wants to do all that when you could be eating instead? Allow me to suggest the quick and dirty method. Simply chop up the onions and garlic and grate the ginger. You'll shave nearly an hour off of your cooking time and the results will be equally delicious. Stir in the garam masala with the onion mixture and allow the flavors to meld and cook together. Now, it's time to brown the chicken. I find it's easiest to use diced boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Cook the chicken until you have a nice crust on the outside and add the chicken stock and the remaining spices. Bring to a boil and adjust the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Add the vegetables and cook 30 minutes more. 6:30 pm aka 2 glasses of wine later, it's time to sit down to a well-deserved meal.

Chicken Curry (Adapted from "Martha Stewart's Cooking School")


For Garam Masala:

1 cinnamon stick, broken into 1-inch pieces

2 whole cloves

1 T coriander seeds

1 T fennel seeds

1/2 tsp whole allspice

For Paste:

2 small green chiles, chopped, seeded and membranes removed.

2 medium-size yellow onions, peeled and coarsely chopped

10 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 piece (4 ounces) fresh ginger, peeled and grated

3 T sunflower or other neutral-tasting oil

1 T cumin seeds

1 T black or brown mustard seeds

2 T tomato paste

For Stew:

1 quart chicken stock

1 tsp turmeric

6 fresh curry leaves (You can find them at an Indian Grocery Store)

2 dried bay leaves

1/2 tsp dried red chiles, finely ground

1-2 tsp Coarse salt

8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced

2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

1-2 T ghee or butter

For Serving:

Basmati Rice

Plain Yogurt

Lime wedges


Make garam masala: Gently toast the spices in a dry saute pan over medium heat until they are fragrant. Let cool slightly, then grind spice to a fine powder in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder. You should have about 1/4 cup.

Prepare onion mixture: Chop the onions and garlic, and grate the ginger. Set a Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium heat. When it is hot, add the oil and green chile peppers. Saute until the peppers begin to soften. Add cumin and mustard seeds and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until mixture is fragrant and starts to turn golden brown, and mustard seeds begin to pop, 30 to 60 seconds. Stir in the onions, garlic, ginger and garam masala and cook until the onions have softened and are translucent. Add the tomato paste and continue cooking and stirring for another 5 minutes. Add the chicken and cook until the chicken has browned. Pour in the stock and deglaze pot, stirring vigorously to incorporate the onion mixture. Add turmeric, curry leaves, bay leaves, and ground chiles and season with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the stock has reduced slightly (and the flavors have melded), about 45 minutes. Add the vegetables, submerging them in the liquid as much as possible. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes and cauliflower are tender. This will take about 30 minutes more. Stir in ghee. Garnish stew with cilantro sprigs, and serve with rice, yogurt, and lime wedges as desired. Serves 6.


  1. andd my 15 minutes of fame

    thanks for the shoutout! I'm glad it turned out well! :)

  2. haha of course my dear! You've achieved your 15 minutes!

  3. I seriously love this blog! I want to try all the recipes that are on it, especially this one. Way to go, Rachel!

  4. Aww thanks Katy! You are so sweet! Well, you and Forrest better get cooking then! I hope y'all had a fantastic honeymoon and are enjoying married life!