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Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Chicken Curry For Eighty


So, a good mate of mine is cooking chicken curry for 80 this weekend.
Um yeah, you heard me.
I'm not lying (I never do)
I'm not drunk (I never am). (Ha).
And that's not a typo (I nevre meka tposys).

Anyhoo - yeah, it's actually 80, and not – as one would hope, pray and fervently wish for – 8.
And if you're thinking, "phew, better her than me..." then you basically read my mind, because that, my lovelies, is precisely what I thought too. Which should make you feel very proud of yourselves, because if you thought that and I thought that, and um well, you know what they say about great minds and stuff...

Anyway.

Well, actually I not only thought it, I said it. I said, "you're cooking for 80?  Have you properly gone mad?" But, you see, I'm allowed to speak my mind, because as I said, she's a good mate of mine. Not that it truly matters, because as you know (or maybe you don't) I'm always allowed to do everything...
  
Right. So, my mate's the uber-calm type. You know, one of those infuriating people who smile angelically and keep their cool even in the most heinous of circumstances. Say, for instance, when one’s only umbrella breaks when attempting to open it in the midst of a sudden and horrific downpour. This is when most of us normal folk would utter from our lips, words too profane to reproduce on my virtuous blog. She, on the other hand, would remain utterly composed and say something like “oh, phooey.” Or words to that effect. Yes, those types.  

Anyway, why all this is relevant is that I got an SOS voice mail from her this past Thursday, informing me that she was cooking for the said 80 people, so could I please send her a chicken curry recipe pronto and oh should she use breasts or thighs and oh also that my blog doesn’t have a chicken curry recipe.

I gasped into my voicemail.

Huuuuunnnhhh, I gasped.

My blog doesn’t have a chicken curry recipe?
Really?
No recipe for that basic, beloved, darling of all "homestyle" Indian cooking - The Modest Chicken Curry?

Ouch.

Which called for some deep and profound soul-searching. And I realised that my priorities have been muddled. Too muddled. Lost in the murky waters of culinary ambition.
Because...
I tell you how to make Chicken Tikka Masala, but I don’t tell you how to make basic chicken curry?
And I call myself a food blogger?
I mean, really.

It took me a good ½ day to go back and read every single post I’d ever written – all 99 of them. And then another good ½ day to come to grips with the unfortunate reality that yes, indeed I have no recipe for chicken curry. Terrible travesty, that.

But then I pulled myself together. “Come, come, old bean,” I told myself. It’s not quite so bad…”
And then I ate a tub of ice cream and felt better immediately.
A miracle, this ice cream. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, when I was back to my normal old self, I called my mate back and addressed all her issues one by one, in a manner that would make every management consultant puff up their chests with pride.

Namely:
1)   So sorry there's no recipe on the blog. But every wrong must be righted, so I’m on it, post haste.
2)   80 people? What on earth for? Have you properly gone mad? 
3)   You most definitely do NOT use breasts, you use thighs
4)   And this is what you need:

- 6 chicken thighs, skinned, bone-in, about 650g

So, in my book, it's thigh meat for Indian chicken curry. Always, always, always. Thigh meat is juicer, fattier and tastier and you need all of that to properly flavour the spices. Interestingly, breast meat works well with Thai curry because there’s so much else going on by way of flavour – lemongrass, kaffir lime, coconut milk…I don’t know the science behind it but somehow while breast meat feels perfectly tenderised in a Thai curry, in an Indian one, it just gets dry and stringy. So remember, my simple rule of thumb – it’s breast for Thai and thigh for Indian. Mostly because thigh for Thai is way too easy. Of course.

- 4 tbsp oil
- 2 cloves
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 green cardamom pods
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1½ tbsp chopped ginger
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp chilli powder
- 4 tomatoes, puréed
- ½ tsp garam masala
- 1 handful coriander leaves

Here’s how you do it:

Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan. Add the chopped onion and cook for about 10 minutes until caramelised. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring often. Next, add in the chicken pieces and brown over a medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes.  You’ll start to see all the oils and juices from the chicken seep into the pan. At this stage, add in the whole spices – the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom pods and cumin seeds and fry for about 20 seconds until sputtering. Try to keep from swooning because the aroma is incredible. It’ll be hard, but I know you can do it. 

Right, now, stir in the ground spices and pureed tomatoes and cook over a low heat until the chicken is cooked through. The slower it cooks the better it tastes.  Check with a fork; once it is tender it is cooked.

Sprinkle over with coriander leaves and – Voila, we’re done!

Just to clarify, I’ve cooked here for 4 people. Not 80. I’ve never cooked for 80 in my life. And hope I never have to.  But if you have to, simply multiply everything by 20 and you should be well sorted. I think…

Anyway, sorry this has been so long in the making guys - chicken curry really deserves to be among the very first things any Indian worth his salt cooks - but hopefully it's been worth the wait. I mean, there’s a reason why my mate chose to make this dish for a large and significant party.

It’s simple.
It’s easy to find the ingredients.
It’s finger licking good.
It’s guaranteed to wow guests.

This is a dish you’ll never find on a restaurant menu and pretty much always find served in an Indian home. It’s fundamental, grassroots Indian cooking. Incredible flavours and totally old-school!

There’s also, on a less important note, a few reasons why this dish deserves the honour of being my 100th post. Namely, because it is:

Hearty
Unpretentious
Nostalgic
Delightful
Reliable
Earthy
Dee-blooming-licious

And therefore, thereby and thus, I think it is about time it was unleashed – with great pomp and ceremony – into this wild and wonderful world.

What do you think?

6 comments:

  1. Lolll...what a coincidence! I am planning to make chicken curry for dinner, so have opened up several sites to browse for recipes. Meanwhile, thought I would go through my fave blog, for a regular dose of chuckles....and voila!!:D

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    1. Awwww...what a lovely thing to say!! I think you've just become my fave reader :) Hope the recipe worked out!!

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  2. Hi amster,
    Congratulations on your hundred milestone! Very impressive.....
    One for you to try; garlic and onion dip with hula hoops..... Yuuuummmy. Try it and let me know.

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    1. Aww, cheers for that Sagu! Thanks for stopping by! What are hula hoops?? And garlic and onion, both together? You want sid all to yourself? ;)

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  3. Great Read.....and absolutely Dee-lish!

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