Shahi Chicken Korma

I usually whip up recipes blogs in minutes, but this, I must say has taken a bit of doing…Just knowing when to throw things into a pan doesn’t make it any easier to write some not-so-simple recipes. But I promise you, the effort for this one is worth every precious minute of your time.

You will find many variants of this recipe, some of which use ingredients such as cashews, khoya (reduced milk) and/or cream. Cashews are a complete ‘no-no’ in my cooking due to my daughter’s allergy (she is miraculously tolerant to almonds); khoya simply wasn’t in my cupboard so I used desiccated coconut with milk to create a creamy richness. And of course, I substituted cream with condensed milk.

So without further adieu, I bring to you Shahi (meaning ‘prestige’) Chicken Korma, aptly named as a dish fit for a royal 🙂

Prep Time: 5 mins

Cooking Time: 50 mins

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

  • 500g boneless chicken, cut into small pieces ( I used thigh meat)
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp dried red chilli flakes
  • I large onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp garlic (OR 2 fresh garlic cloves, minced)
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste (OR 1” piece root ginger, finely grated)
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds
  • 4 tbsp desiccated coconut soaked in ½ cup milk for 20-30 mins
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground mace
  • ½ cup condensed milk
  • 1 tbsp rose or kewra water
  • 2-3 tbsp flaked almonds, toasted (optional)

Method

  1. Heat the oil gently in a medium heavy based pan or wok.
  2. Add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle and change colour – approx. 20 secs.
  3. Add the onions and chilli flakes. Turn up the heat to a medium flame and fry until softened and lightly golden.
  4. Add the garlic and ginger and cook off for 2 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  6. Transfer this onion mixture into a blender, add the soaked coconut with milk and the ground almonds. Blend to a smooth mixture.
  7. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook over a medium flame until any excess liquid has reduced.
  8. Add the chicken pieces and turn up the heat. Cook until the chicken is sealed – approx. 5-8 minutes, depending on the heat.
  9. Add the turmeric, coriander, chilli, garam masala and salt and sauté for 1-2 minutes
  10. Stir in the mace and remove from the heat.
  11. Gently stir in the condensed milk and mix in well.
  12. Return the pan to a medium heat and 1½ cups of hot water. Bring to boil.
  13. Lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until chicken is tender (approx. 30 mins).
  14. Stir in the rose or kewra water and garnish with flaked almonds, if using.
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Achari Chicken

Good to be back here! It’s a long shift in my kitchen tonight as I prep for a private catering event later today. Christmas parties everywhere! The biriyani masala mix is well under way, wafting its aromas at this rather ungodly hour 😳

While I wait, having of course done all my chopping, I thought a bit of blogging wouldn’t go amiss given it has been a while…

Last week I cooked this flavoursome traditional dish which, as the name suggests, does not use archar (pickle) in the recipe at all! No, no no. The achari tanginess is created with my favourite good old Bengali ‘five spice’ mix. I still remember the flavour created by this incredible concoction of five seeds when my grandma made her delectable chicken curry during our rare visits to see her in Bangladesh.

So this is how it goes:

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 40 mins
Serves 4

Ingredients

  • img_27091 medium chicken or 2 chicken breasts cut into curry pieces
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 heaped teaspoon panch phoron (five spice mix)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp ginger purée
  • 1 tbsp garlic purée
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 200g chopped tinned tomato
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 3/4 tsp roasted ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 hot cup water
  • 2 green chillies (optional)
  • Handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped (optional)

How to cook

  1. Wash and drain the chicken well (although it’s best not to wash the chicken to prevent campylobacter cells from spreading – the most common cause of food poisoning; cooking the chicken thoroughly will remove this as well as other bacteria – read NHS article here).
  2. Heat the oil gently and add the five spice mix. Wait until the seeds sizzle.
  3. Add the onions and cook over a medium flame until golden brown (up to 10 minutes).
  4. Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute.
  5. Add the tomatoes, cover and cook until soft and pulpy.
  6. Mash down the tomato mixture with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the turmeric, ground coriander, cumin, chilli powder, salt and garam masala. Add a splash of water if the mixture becomes dry. Stir well and allow to ‘bhuna’ (i.e. the oil should separate from the spices and float to the top).
  7. Stir in the the chicken pieces ensuring they are well coated with the spice mixture. Cook for 5 minutes over a medium-high flame, ensuring the spices do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  8. Add the water and bring to boil. Simmer for 2 mins, then drop in the green chillies, if using.
  9. Cover and  cook on a low flame until the chicken is thoroughly done.
  10. Garnish with coriander leaves, if using, just before serving.

Enjoy 😊

 

Aside

Our blessed month of fasting instils upon us a calm and discipline like no other time of the year. In the UK, our fasting days are nearing 19 hours as we endeavour to go about our everyday lives to the best of our ability, whilst abstaining from all food and water. During this time we also engage in increased activities of prayer and recitation of our Holy Quran with the aim of receiving more spiritual reward and enlightenment.

Our preparation for ‘iftari’ forms a significant part of the day where we lovingly prepare our evening meal to break our fast at sunset. Much thought goes into the menu which traditionally comprises a variety of offerings, differing widely in the various regions across the globe, but typically including dates, fruit, intricately prepared savoury and sweet snack items together with a main dish and side.

I am no exception to this tradition. Each day I look forward to lovingly planning and preparing an iftari treat for my family. One such dish made earlier this week was this Nando’s style chicken based on a recipe I was introduced to by Cucina Restaurants whom I was employed by as the Cook in a primary school, responsible for feeding 200+ hungry little bellies each day.

I chose to serve the dish as an entrée fusion platter-for-four where tender strips chicken breast were laid on a bed of fragrant pilau rice with steamed herby potatoes.


Here is the basic recipe for the chicken which can of course be presented in any way you feel inspired 😊

Nando’s-style Chicken

Prep time: 10 mins

Cooking time: 60 mins

Serves: 4

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts, approx 250g each

4 tbsp olive oil

4 tbsp lemon juice

1 large onion, cut into eighths

2-3 cloves garlic

2 tsp paprika

1.5 tsp salt

1.5 tsp sugar

1.5 tsp ground cumin

1.5 tsp crushed chilli

3 tsp mixed herbs

1/4 cup tomato purée
How to cook

1. Place all ingredients except the chicken into blender and blend until you have a smooth marinade.

2. Score the chicken and then coat well with the blended mixture. Cover and refrigerate for an 1-2 hours.

3. Heat the oven to a low temperature. Cover tightly with foil and cook for 40 minutes.

4. Turn the heat up to medium and cook for another 15-20 minutes and the chicken is cooked through.

5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before slicing.

Serving suggestion: Serve with roast potatoes or on a bed of lemon couscous or pilau rice. Top with fresh, chopped coriander.

Ramadan Inspirations

Chef Talk

Arguably the best job I ever took took on, albeit a short lived one, was the role of a chef in a school, much to the chagrin of my father. Having himself been a chef for 40 years, to this day my father fails to see the logic in my so-called ‘madness’.

I was hired by Cucina Restaurants who provide contract catering services for schools and the Head Chef who interviewed me, now some two years ago, said to me at the time, “If you can cook Indian, you can cook anything!”

So armed with Cucina’s recipe folder and a whole load of enthusiasm I embarked on what was to be the most enlightening three months of my life. Working with a small team of catering assistants, I had the privilege to delve into a diverse range of cuisines, including Italian, Mexican, Asian, and of course, British and the inevitable Indian where undoubtedly I came into my own.

Cooking for over 200 covers a day, looking back now, the experience seems almost surreal, given the circumstances under which I worked at the time. With a shortfall of staff, I was not only prepping and cooking, but also cleaning up with my team which meant I always stayed back in the kitchen long after my staff had departed in order to prep for the next day.

Now, those who know me will understand my physical limitations – hence my father’s objections – at least in part. Being of a very petite frame (in both height and width!) my will often outweighs my physical capabilites. So I persisted with the job, chopping relentlessly, stirring 7 kilo curries in the deepest pans, lifting enormous mixing bowls, lugging hefty serving dishes and flitting between steamers and ovens at light speed. Needless to say, it wasn’t long until the physical injures afflicted took its toll and I felt compelled to call it a day. NOT because I didn’t like the job.

What I did take with me from those few intense months was some invaluable learning. Catering for large numbers has never been a daunting thought since then and I am always cooking up different dishes for my family as in last night’s Chicken Arrabbiata. The chicken was prepped similarly to how I used to make Wednesday’s Roast Chicken, with of course a few added ingredients. It wouldn’t be Najma’sotherwise 😊

 Chicken Arrabbiata 

Chicken Jalfrezi

Chicken Jalfrezi (or Jhal Frezi – ‘jhal’ meaning spicy in Bengali) is typically a ‘bhuna’ dish which means the sauce is thicker and drier than a usual curry. I often mention the word ‘bhuna’ during my classes as it is an essential state which needs to be achieved during the initial stages of cooking, where the ingredients are cooked in their own juices, in order to intensify the flavour of the final dish.

The focus on this recipe is therefore to produce this ‘bhuna’ sauce which can also be stored and used as a base for other curries. Nice 🙂 So you can see why this makes a great recipe for my upcoming demo at New Malden Farmers Market.

Cooking Time: 30-40 mins

Serves: 4

Ingredients

For the chicken marinade (OR just use precooked chicken tikka to toss into the sauce when its ready)

  • 2 medium chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 heaped tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp roasted, ground cumin

For the curry sauce

  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 large onion, very finely chopped + another 1/2 finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 inch piece ginger, finely minced
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 2-3 green chillies, sliced lengthwise & seeded
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp roasted, ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1-2 tsp salt or to taste
  • approx. 1/2 cup warm water

How to cook

  1. Mix the ingredients for the marinade and set aside while you prepare the sauce.
  2. Heat the oil over a medium flame and cook the onions until softened.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to cook until the mixture is lightly browned.
  4. Stir in the turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin and salt, adding a splash of water if needed. Fry for 2-3 mins until the oil has separated from the spices – this is known as the ‘bhuna’ stage.
  5. Stir in the tomato puree and continue to cook for another 30 secs.
  6. Add half the water and bring to a boil. Cover and allow to simmer for about 5-7 mins until the ‘bhuna’ state is achieved again.
  7. Add the marinated chicken and cook on a high flame until the chicken pieces are sealed and evenly covered with the spiced sauce.
    (If using pre-cooked chicken skip this step.)
  8. Stir in the onions, peppers and green chillies, then add the remaining water. Bring to boil; cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked and the gravy has thickened.
    (If using pre-cooked chicken, stir in the vegetables, then add the water. Cover and cook until tender. Add the chicken and cook uncovered until the gravy has thickened.
  9. Sprinkle the garam masala and add the tomatoes. Cook uncovered for another 2-3 mins, just until the tomatoes have softened and then remove from the heat.

Serve with basmati rice or naan.

 

My Chicken Curry

I used to love my Mum’s simple chicken curry with its distinctive flavour of green peppers and whole spices. Ironically though, when visiting my parents’ home, Mum would often ask me to make ‘my’ chicken curry to give her respite from her own cooking.

Now let’s get this right, my version of chicken curry is based on a combination of ingredients from two different cultures. As with many of my recipes, my Bengali roots call for the use of  ‘panch phoron’ (five spice mix), which (to me) lends the curry a nostalgic flavour, vaguely reminiscent of my grandma’s cooking. However, the use of fried onions and yoghurt is more akin to a Pakistani-style Korma, very much influenced by my mother-in-law’s cookery which I was introduced to more than some 20 years ago…

I have replaced the whole spices used in my Mum’s original recipe with my home ground garam masala (owing to the somewhat fussy eating habits in my household) and substituted the green peppers with red ones to lend the curry a subtle, yet natural sweetness. It is a simple recipe, surprisingly bursting with flavour, blog-worthy for it classic simplicity.

Ingredients

  • 1 large chicken breast, cut into chunky piecesMy Chicken Curry
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp fresh garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1/3 cup fried onions (store bought or home made)
  • 1 tsp panch phoron
  • 1/2 tsp roasted ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp – 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp -3/4 tsp salt or to taste
  • 4 tbsp natural low fat Greek style yoghurt
  • 1/3 cup hot water

How to cook

  1. Heat the oil gently then add the panch phoron.
  2. Wait for the seeds to sizzle, then add the chicken.
  3. Stir the chicken over a medium heat until the pieces are all sealed.
  4. Stir in the garlic and ginger and continue to cook for 5 mins.
  5. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilli and saute for another 5 minutes or until the oil separates from the spices (add a little water during this stage if the mixture becomes too dry).
  6. Add the tomatoes and peppers and turn up the heat a little. Allow to cook uncovered for another 2-3 mins.
  7. Meanwhile, pour the yoghurt into a small bowl, add the fried onions, salt and garam masala and whisk the yoghurt until smooth.
  8. Lower the heat and slowly stir in the yoghurt and onion mixture into the pan.
  9. Turn the heat up again and cook for another 2-3 mins.
  10. Stir in the tomato puree and cook for a minute.
  11. Add the water and bring to boil.
  12. Stir and cover and leave to cook for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender.

Serve with steamed rice or a fragrant Zeera Rice like I have here.

Gluten-Free Braised Ginger Chicken

This is a quick and easy recipe which can be whipped on any week night and served with plain boiled rice to make a delicious, low fat meal.

Cooking Time: approx. 40 mins
Serves: 2

IngredientsGinger Chicken

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 chicken breast, cubed
  • 1/2 red pepper, julienned
  • 1/2 green pepper, julienned
  • 1 small onion, cut into eights
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1″ piece fresh, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp madras curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

How to cook

  1. Heat the oil in a medium sized lidded pan.
  2. Add the chicken and cook on a high heat until sealed.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  5. Add the onions and peppers to the pan and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken pieces and stir in curry powder, black pepper and salt.
  7. Cover and cook until chicken is tender.