Contrary to popular belief, I do cook more than just Italian food. I love the cuisine of India and although I can’t say that I’ve been to a lot of Indian restaurants, I have prepared some pretty awesome Indian meals thanks to one cookbook-Indian Home Cooking-by Suvir Saran. I bought the book some years back when it was first published and then was lucky to attend a cooking class given by the author.
After arriving in NYC he began cooking the recipes he grew up with for his friends. The numbers at his dinners grew and grew until he finally opened a restaurant and then wrote this book. He realized that many of the Indian restaurants that he visited here in the US weren’t serving authentic Indian food. Suvir wanted to present the food that he learned from the cooks in his family and not what most restaurants were presenting.
Some of the recipes in the book look pretty involved, but in reality they just require a large number of spices and once you stock your pantry with them, it’s not at all difficult to prepare a dish. I’m captivated by the layering of flavors that wake up your tastes buds with every bite. This chicken dish is one of my favorites and if you like Indian food I encourage you to give it a go. Need a good resource for spices then look no further than Penzeys where you’ll find everything that you need.
Lahori Chicken Curry With Whole Spices And Potatoes
One 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 to 10 pieces and skinned
3 medium red boiling potatoes, peeled and quartered
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 medium onions, roughly diced
5 garlic cloves
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut in half crosswise
3 tablespoons canola oil
1-inch piece cinnamon stick
12 green cardamom pods
9 whole cloves
10 black peppercorns
3 whole dried red chiles
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 fresh hot green chile, cut in half
2 large tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup plain yogurt, whisked until smooth
1 cup plain water
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Combine the chicken, potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon of the turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon of the cayenne pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a large bowl and stir to coat the chicken and potatoes with the spices. Let stand while you make the sauce.
Finely mince the onion, garlic, and ginger in a food processor and set aside.
Combine 2 tablespoons of the oil, the cinnamon stick, cardamom, cloves, black peppercorns, red chiles, coriander, and cumin in a large casserole or pot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until fragrant and the cinnamon unfurls, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the minced onion mixture, the green chile, and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to brown around the edges, 10 to 15 minutes. You may need to turn the heat down to medium if they begin to brown too quickly.
Remove and discard the cinnamon stick and green chile and stir in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Let cool slightly, then transfer to a food processor or blender and purée until smooth. Set aside.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of the oil in the same casserole or pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and potatoes and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the yogurt, 1 tablespoon at a time, and stir well after each addition. Cook, stirring, to evaporate some of the moisture, about 2 minutes.
Add the puréed tomato mixture and bring to a boil. Stir in the water. Return to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes, stirring every 5 to 8 minutes and scraping the bottom of the pan to keep the sauce from sticking. Uncover and cook until the sauce is reduced and thickened somewhat, 5 minutes more. Stir in the cilantro and lemon juice. Season with salt to taste. Serve hot.
* I sometimes omit the potatoes and add frozen peas and/or cooked cauliflower to this dish.