After a scorcher of a day on Sunday, Easter Monday was a complete washout. Cold, wet and dark. A day for lighting the fires, watching movies and eating a warming curry.
I have never been someone to buy pre-made food, even sauces and spice mixes, preferring to do it myself. Living in the countryside means that if I fancy a takeaway pizza, I make it myself. Likewise with a Thai, Chinese or Indian takeaway! So over the years I have mastered these cuisines myself. Sometimes I have to improvise on certain ingredients, but that is ok I am not entering any competitions! I am delighted to say that I once cooked an Indian meal for 70 in our village with a friend for an Indian music concert, and the Indian musicians said afterwards that the food was as good as home!
So Mondays dish was an old favourite, Keralan Chicken Curry. It is very easy to make and is so flavoursome and healthy. I served it with a rice dish that I made up, a sort of cross between a mushroom byrani and pilau rice! What with lockdown I don’t always have the ingredients and so need to be flexible and adapt!
This is my adaptation from Maunika Gowardhan’s website *
To marinate the chicken;
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Pinch of salt
½ tsp kashmiri chilli powder (I didn’t have this so used a small quantity of hot chili powder and paprika for the colour)
To make the curry;
8 chicken drumsticks, you can use any on the bone pieces of chicken
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
½ tsp fenugreek seeds
300gms shallots thinly sliced ( I didn’t have shallots so just used I medium onion)
4 cloves garlic roughly chopped
2” ginger roughly chopped ( I grate it with the skin on)
1 heaped tsp coriander powder
½ tsp kashmiri chilli powder ( I omitted this as Louis doesn’t like it too hot and the marinade was enough chili for him. Chris and I add fresh chilies to our individual plates at the end to suit our palates, which is what they do in India)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tin whole plum tomatoes (I like to use whole tomates rather than the chopped ones as they add a richness to the sauce that the chopped version don’t, you just need to break them up with your wooden spoon as they cook)
1 tbsp white wine vinegar (this is optional as I didn’t find I needed it)
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
1 tsp fennel powder ( I crushed fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar)
½ tsp coarsely crushed black pepper
2 tbsp coriander leaves finely chopped (sadly since all the markets have closed down I haven’t been able to get fresh coriander, I refuse to buy the outrageously expensive paltry offerings in the supermarkets packaged in loads of plastic! I will wait for my lovely Moroccan guy who sells enormous bunches for 1€! at Lezignan market)
- In a bowl marinate the chicken with vinegar, salt and spices. Ideally overnight but I found one hour was fine.
- In a hand mixer blend the garlic and ginger with some water to form a paste.
- In another bowl mix together the coriander powder, chili powder (if using) and turmeric with enough water to make a paste, 2 – 3 tbsp.
- Heat the oil in a heavy based pan, a wok with a lid is good. Add the mustard seeds, let them splutter for a few minutes and then add the curry leaves and fenugreek seeds with the onions. Coat the onions, stirring until they start to soften and go brown. Watch the heat here as you want them to brown, not blacken!
- Now add the ginger and garlic paste, fry until the liquid is absorbed, then add the spice paste, scrapping it all into the pan. You might want to rinse both the ginger and spice bowls with a splash of water here to ensure that you dont leave any behind!
- Now add the tomatoes, crushing them gently with your wooden spoon. Fill the tin with water and add to the pan. This ensures that you dont waste any tomatoey goodness and is a good measure for the amount of water needed.
- Cook until the mixture starts to thicken, and you have reached a rich, fragrant masala.
- Add the chicken, coat well in the sauce and simmer, season. Using tinned tomatoes rather than fresh you need to add a teaspoon of sugar to add richness here. Depending on how strong the vinegar in the marinade is you can choose to add extra vinegar now or not.
- Cover, lower the heat and simmer for a good 20 minutes. The longer the richer the flavour, but keep an eye on it so that the sauce doesn’t dry out. Slow cooking why it is important to have chicken on the bone, as chicken breasts would dry out.
- Now add the fennel powder and black pepper, and check the seasoning and heat (spice).
- Turn off the flame and let rest.
- Serve with a rice of your choice or naan bread (which are very easy to make, I shall post a recipe another day!)
I don’t have any photos as we scoffed the lot before I thought about it, just an empty plate! I always make lots of cucumber raita for Louis and, as I said, serve a dish or fresh chilies for Chris and I. I think chicken works really well with this dish but you could replace it with a firm white fish, just cook the sauce for longer before adding the fish as fish cannot withstand long cooking without falling apart. For vegetarians and vegans, in the summer when aubergines are back in season they would be a lovely alternative, but for now you could substitute with chickpeas and split peas.
We enjoyed this with a glass or two or Jean-Baptist Senat’s delicious grenache based Arbalète et Coquelicots. You need a fruity red with good acidity to stand up to the bold flavours of a dish like this. Oak is a definite no no, as are heavy tannins and too much alcohol. Serve on the cooler side, 14 – 15 C.