Thursday, June 01, 2006
What a handful of dates can do to a simple curry
My aunt Jiya is one cook whom I never get tired watching. There is a graceful rhythm in the way she goes about her job in the kitchen, whether sorting vegetables or marinating meat or grinding spices. As a child I have stood by her stove for hours, as she stirred and sautéed with such tender attention to the nuances of tastes and textures, for the simple pleasure of watching her create each dish, and the spoonfuls of affection she offers me in between.
Last time I went to her home in Kerala, she served us this chicken curry, the first mouthful of it was enough for me to fall in love with its creamy, well-balanced taste. There was a certain delicateness in the taste that I could not place.
“What’s in it? I had asked.
“Guess and tell me”
“ hmm. Coconut certainly, and then either cashew or poppy seeds, but there’s something else too..what’s it?”
“just some dates” her eyes twinkled.
Dates in a chicken curry, it would have sounded weird to me if I had heard the recipe before tasting it, one tasting of her curry was enough to change my perceptions. Since then I have cooked this many times, and shared it with many friends and watched a few hearts falling in love with it. So here’s the recipe, from my aunt.
Chicken pieces : 2 lb
Onion, sliced: 1
Ginger paste: 1 tsp
Garlic paste: 1 tsp
Tomato: 1 medium sized
Green chilli : 2or 3
Red chilli powder : 2 tsp
Coriander powder(roasted) 2 tsp
Turmeric powder: ¼ tsp
Cilantro, chopped: ¼ cup
Curry leaf : 4-6
Oil : 2 T
Hot water : 1 cup
Cashewnuts,(raw): 2 T
Dates: 3 to 4
Grind cashews, coconut and dates together to a smooth paste and keep aside.
Heat oil in a pot, and add ginger-garlic paste, crushed green chillies, sliced onions, curry leaves and cilantro. Fry till the onion is transparent.
Now add the three powders; turmeric-red chilli-corriander and sauté on low heat for about a minute and a half to release their flavors.
Then add the chopped tomato pieces and keep cooking till the tomatoes lose their shape, give out their essence completely and merge with the spice to form one tantalizing entity. I need a chicken curry recipe, not philosophy you say? Fine. Then simply fry the tomatoes till they are all mashed up into a gravy.
Add chicken, water and salt. Mix well , cover and let it cook. You might want to check once or twice in between to see if there’s enough water.
Once the chicken is cooked, pour the coconut-cashew-dates paste and bring the curry to a boil. Remove , and serve hot. This curry goes very well with rotis and breads.
I am taking a bowl of this chicken curry to Anthony's curry mela that he puts together so diligently , every week!