Archive for the ‘Indian’ Category

Chickpeas in Curried Coconut Broth

February 25, 2013

Well folks, it’s been a while!  I’ve been traveling for work for most of the last two weeks and trying to empty the fridge in the days leading up to the travel-thon.  I’ve eaten some very nice meals in the last couple of weeks, but you know how it is when you travel – too much food and too much booze.  I’m awfully glad to be home and in control of my meals again.  I’m trying to shock my system back into healthy eating so I’ve been on a vegetarian kick.  Two days of lentil soup and now this chickpea dish.


I have to confess that I’m not a big fan of the chickpea in its non-hummus form.  I picked this dish from a list of Cooking Light slow cooker recipes because it fit the easy and cheap criteria and because I love pretty much anything with coconut milk in it.  It far exceeded my expectations.  You have to love crockpot recipes.  Dump everything in and walk away.  This recipe suggests that you saute the onions and garlic first, but I bet it would be really fine to dump them in raw.  The recipe also calls for chopped fresh cilantro.  I’m sure that would be great, but I was too tired and too lazy to chop it.  I did manage a dollop of plain Greek yogurt though.  Yum.

Not much to add in terms of cooking tips.  I used one of my last remaining jars of home canned tomatoes.  With so few ingredients I believe they make a difference here.  I also used homemade curry powder.  I’d give you the recipe, but I have no idea what it is or where I got it.  Curry powder is just a combination of spices so making your own is easy and absolutely worth it if you use it a lot.  If you don’t make curries often just buy a good quality commercial curry powder.  Otherwise you’ll spend a ridiculous amount of money on the individual spices and not get a lot of use out of them.

I always think that things made with coconut milk will be a little bit sweet.  Not so.  This is tomato-ey and a touch briny with a little heat.  The chickpeas provide a nice neutral balance and the yogurt adds a little creamy and a little tangy.  Yum.  Remember that this is a broth and not a sauce or a stew.  It’s thin, but not weak.  The rice soaks up a lot of the extra and stretches the chickpeas even further.  You could serve it like soup and serve it with naan I suppose, but I recommend the rice.

I’m guessing this will be one of those dishes that’s even better leftover.  Tomorrow is supposed to be cold and rainy so this will make a perfect lunch!

Good? Really good.
Easy? Crockpots make everything easy.
Good for company? Eh. Better for a weeknight dinner after a busy day.
Special shopping? Nope. Curry powder is everywhere and you can find pickled jalapenos in the pickle section of any decent sized grocery store.

Chickpeas in Curried Coconut Broth


2 teaspoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (19-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 quart whole peeled tomatoes (or 1 28oz can, undrained)
1 (13.5-ounce) can light coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon salt
hot cooked basmati rice
plain Greek yogurt for garnish


Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Place onion mixture, chickpeas, and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a 3 1/2-quart electric slow cooker; stir well. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours. Serve over rice. Top with yogurt.


Butter Chicken (Indian Chicken in Tomato Cream Sauce)

April 11, 2012

Tonight I’ve decided to forego an evening of trim painting for two of my other favorite -ings:  cooking and eating.  Tonight’s dinner is not quite as decadent as it sounds, but it’s that good.  Lots of pluses for this dish.  It’s Indian and I love Indian food.  It’s hot and spicy – perfect for a cold evening like this one.  It comes together in less than 30 minutes and requires a minimum of chopping.  And if you serve it with naan instead of rice it’s a one pot meal.  All good.  Very good.

I actually followed the recipe here nearly exactly.  I had to substitute fresh ginger for ground because it’s what I had in the house.  And I left out the peas because I don’t like peas.  Other than that I read and measured carefully.  I used my home canned tomatoes and tomato sauce, which I like to think makes a difference.  As recommended I used a rotisserie chicken.  I bought and picked the chicken last night which saved me a bunch of time tonight.  A couple of tips about working with a rotisserie chicken.  Skin it and pick it while it’s still warm.  It’s SO much easier that way.  But, if you’re planning to use the chicken the next day leave it in large pieces where you can (breast and thighs).  It’ll help keep the moisture in.  Refrigerate it overnight and the chop or dice it while it’s cold.  It will hold it’s shape much better and be easier to chop.

This is yummy stuff.  Rich enough to be smooth and silky, but not so rich that you feel like you can only eat one bite.  Trust me, you should eat lots of bites of this.  The flavors are really complex in a wonderful way.  The garam masala makes it wonderfully aromatic.  The cayenne gives it a nice heat.  The tomatoes give it a little acidity.  The cream gives it a welcome softness.  It’s a truly lovely combination.  I served mine with whole grain naan which added just enough earthiness to round it out completely.  The biggest plus it that this makes a big pot of chicken and I’m thinking that the leftovers will be even better.  I’m looking forward to lunch tomorrow!

Good? So, so good.
Easy? Yes. Terrifically easy.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping? Garam masala spice blend is available in most big groceries, but try a spice store like Penzey’s to get a high quality one.

Butter Chicken (Indian Chicken in Tomato Cream Sauce)


Spice Blend:
1 tablespoon garam masala seasoning
3 teaspoons fresh ginger, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 teaspoons jarred minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
1 skinless rotisserie chicken, boned out and pulled into 1 1/2 by 1/2-inch chunks
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
Naan, warmed according to package directions, for serving


To make the spice blend: Stir the ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

To make the sauce: Melt the butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the pieces just begin to turn gold, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste and spice blend, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly to prevent burning. The spices will be fragrant. Add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes and stir will. Add the chicken pieces, spoon the sauce over the top and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low and cook, uncovered, until the chicken is warmed through and the sauce is flavorful, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently. Remove the chicken to a serving dish and cover to keep warm.

Serve with rice and/or naan.

Lamb Vindaloo – Crock Pot Style

March 6, 2012

Crazy days at work and crazy days of weather have made this a good week to pull out the slow cooker.  I’m in week two of the Pantry Challenge and having to get a little creative to create something that looks like a complete meal.  My Make It Fast, Cook It Slow cookbook is really coming in handy.  10-15 minutes of prep time and then the food cooks while I work.  Dinner is ready whenever I am.  Perfect.

Let me start by admitting that I know nothing about vindaloos.  A tiny bit of reading reveals that these meat stews sometimes have potatoes in them and are served with naan and sometimes have no potatoes and are served over rice.  Since I had some potatoes left from last week I went in that direction.  So, basically I can only tell you that I enjoyed this dish.  I think it’s good food.  I cannot tell you whether or not it’s good vindaloo.  No idea.  But it made a good dinner.  And lunch.  And dinner.

Part of the point of the pantry challenge is to help me clear some stuff out of the freezer.  There’s a lot of lamb down there so that seemed like a good centerpiece for a meal.  I love Indian food so when I found a recipe that incorporated both I grabbed the chance.  I didn’t have any lamb stew meat so I used shanks instead.  I ended up with less meat, but I don’t think the dish suffered at all.  Having the lamb on the bone adds a lot of flavor.  And since shanks have to cook a long time to be tender they’re perfect for a crock pot recipe.  I had about two cups of baby potatoes (red, yellow and purple) left from last week’s chowder so I used those up.  My last substitution is in the tomatoes. The recipe calls for a can of stewed tomatoes.  You may remember from a New Year’s post that I hate stewed tomatoes.  Hate them.  Clearly I’d never have a can in my pantry. I substituted a pint jar of my home canned tomatoes along with about 1 tablespoon of sugar and a chopped red bell pepper.

Not much to say about the cooking.  Dump everything in the crock pot and let it cook  8 hours or more.  The flavor is dark and rich and spicy.  The potatoes help balance the cayenne, as would the rice if you go that way.  If you think you’ll need a little something extra to balance the heat serve some cucumber raita or a cucumber salad on the side.  I invited a friend to join me for dinner and she was kind enough to bring some naan to go with the vindaloo.  Yum!

Good? Yes, definitely.
Easy? You bet. Gotta love the crock pot.
Good for company? My company seemed to enjoy it.
Special shopping? Nope.

Lamb Vindaloo


4 small to medium lamb shanks
1 onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t ground cloves
1 T minced fresh ginger
1/2 t cayenne
1 T ground coriander
1 T cumin
1 t cinnamon
1/4 C cider vinegar
2 C chopped baby potatoes
1 pint whole peeled or diced tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 T sugar


Put onion, garlic and spices in a large ziplock bag and mix thoroughly. Add the lamb shanks. Coat the lamb shanks with the spices. Put in the refrigerator and marinate overnight.
Dump the contents of the ziplock bag in the crockpot and add remaining ingredients. Cook on low 8-10 hours.
Serve with naan.

Sweet Potato and Cashew Korma over Coconut Rice

November 14, 2011

Well folks, I had a cholesterol screening last week and I have my results.  It’s not a surprise, but let’s just say that it’s a number that would be more welcome in a bowling alley than on a cholesterol test.  So, those of you who are vegatarian and/or watching your cholesterol pay attention this week.  You’re about to see a first in One Woman’s Kitchen – it’s tofu week!

Let me be perfectly honest.  I’ve never been much of a tofu fan.  I don’t know that this recipe will change that completely, but it’s a good start.  So let’s talk about the tofu first.  I got it as part of my Relay Foods order.  Now that I think about nearly everything in tonight’s meal is here courtesy of Relay Foods.  But I digress.  The tofu is of the extra firm variety.  The recipe called for cubed tofu so extra firm seemed like the way to go.  It’s produced at Twin Oaks, a nearby intential community.  Twin Oaks is better known for their fantastic hammocks, but the tofu is worth checking out.  They have a number of other soy products as well.  I don’t know how to tell if tofu is good except to report that I didn’t find it objectionable at all in this dish.  That’s a tofu success in my book.

Now for the marquee ingredients.  (You’ll notice that the tofu didn’t make the recipe title).  My sweet potato wasn’t extremely sweet which works out well in this recipe. I used a sweet onion; minced ginger from a jar; minced garlic from a jar; and some halved grape tomatoes.  When I tasted the dish it was a little lacking in the tomato arena so I added a little tomato paste.  Just a little.  I made the coconut rice with lite coconut milk because it’s what I had and I think it was fine.  You wouldn’t want the rice to overshadow the rest of the dish, which is surprisingly subtle.  I don’t think of coriander and garam masala, and certainly not chile garlic paste, as subtle flavors, but the way they come together here they’re very smooth.  Maybe the sweet potato mellows them out.

This dish is really good.  Like make again good.  Next time I might add a few more tomatoes and a touch more chile garlic paste, but very few changes are in order.  The dish is warm and earthy and the yogurt garnish adds a great bright and creamy flavor. The cashews and cilantro make for a salty, buttery and green finish.  My guess is that the leftovers tomorrow will be fantastic.  And it’s healthy too.  Score!

Good? Indeed.
Easy? Yep. Some chopping, some sauteeing, some steaming. That’s it really.
Good for company? It’s not fancy, but good for friends.
Special shopping? Nope.

Sweet Potato and Cashew Korma over Coconut Rice


2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
1 cup coconut milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups uncooked basmati rice

2 t olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups chopped peeled sweet potato
1 cup water
2/3 cup chopped plum tomato
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic
1 (14-ounce) package reduced-fat water-packed firm tofu, drained and cut into (1/2-inch) cubes
3 tablespoons plain fat-free yogurt
2 tablespoons finely chopped dry-roasted cashews


To prepare rice, bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in rice, and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.
To prepare korma, while rice cooks, heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add the onion; cook 7 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add ginger, coriander, garam masala, and garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sweet potato, 1 cup water, tomato, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until sweet potato is tender. Stir in cilantro, chile paste, and tofu. Serve korma over rice, and top with yogurt and cashews.

Vegetable Korma

April 1, 2011

I’ve been craving Indian food for a couple of days so I opted to make Vegetable Korma instead of the Vegetable Lo Mein on the original plan.  I should have stuck with the plan.  This was a decidedly mediocre dinner.  Not even mediocre really.  Just this side of  order-a-pizza-instead.  And pretty boring too.  The good news is that I think I’ve figured out how to fix it.  It remains to be seen whether or not I’ll bother.

There are two big problems with this dish.  First, the recipe calls for no salt at all.  And it needs some.  Badly.  That’s an easy fix.  Second, the cauliflower sucks out what little life there is in this dish.  My recommendation?  Double the potato and edamame, add some diced tomatoes, add some salt and ditch the cauliflower.  I think that has possibilities.  In the interest of full disclosure I feel like I need to tell you that I changed up the spices a little.  I had about 2 tablespoons of homemade curry powder so I used that instead of the mix listed in the original recipe.  It didn’t change the overall character of the recipe and it made life a little easier for me.

So, in the final analysis this is not bad if you don’t eat the cauliflower.  I can’t say it’s good either, but I did eat it.  If I end up picking out the cauliflower and adding tomatoes  I’ll report back.  In all honesty it’s more likely that this will end up in the trash never to be seen again.

Good? Not really.
Easy? Yep.
Good for company? Definitely not.
Special shopping? I keep coconut milk in the pantry, but you may not. Most grocery stores carry it.

Vegetable Korma


1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced peeled ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup frozen shelled edamame
1 (12-ounce) baking potato, peeled and diced
1 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 (13.5-ounce) can light coconut milk
3 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups hot cooked long-grain white rice


1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon ginger and garlic; sauté for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in tomato paste and next 4 ingredients (through cinnamon); sauté for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in edamame and potato. Combine chicken broth, flour, and milk, stirring until smooth. Add broth mixture to pan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 3 cups cauliflower, and simmer for 9 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Serve over white rice.

Taj Maholla! Chicken

February 28, 2011

It’s been a tough afternoon in the vicinity of this woman’s kitchen.  The never ending to-do list in a three way collision with technology gone awry and the clock.  I needed a break and some dinner.  No time for an elaborate cooking experience and no time for a trip to the store.  And a serious craving for something with an Indian flair.  Who woulda figured that Guy Fieri would be the answer to this problem?

As my regular readers know I’m not usually much on short cuts, but I used two tonight that are favorites of mine.  I love brown rice, but it’s not unusual that I don’t remember to start it until I’m halfway through the rest of my prep.  Enter whole grain brown rice of the boil-in-bag variety.  Boil some water.  Drop in the bag.  Brown rice in 10 minutes.  The other short cut is as much about taste as time.  This recipe calls for Roma tomatoes.  Well, it’s February in Virginia, and while it’s been kind of warm lately the tomatoes still suck.  No taste at all.  And since these tomatoes were headed for a puree anyway, I used tomato paste with a little water.  Two good things about this:  it’s faster than chopping tomatoes and there won’t be any seeds in the final sauce.  One more quick tip about the tomato paste.  How many times have you opened one of those little cans of tomato paste, used 1-2 tablespoons and put the can in the fridge only to throw it out a week or two later?  I’ve started using tomato paste in a tube.  I get the double concentrated kind so I only use half of what’s called for.  Just put the cap back on and throw in the fridge.  It keeps great.  Look for it in the Italian section of the International foods aisle.

So, this is a two step dish.  First you make the rub for the chicken.  I made two substitutions here.  I didn’t have chicken thighs so I used boneless, skinless breast instead.  I had no pomegranate juice so I substituted cranberry juice.  I also changed the proportions a little.  All good.  The spices and juice cook down into a paste that’s rubbed on both sides of the chicken.  While the chicken cooks you make the sauce and the rice.  Use the same pan to make the sauce that you used to cook down the spice paste.  No need to dirty additional dishes, particularly since the spices are the same.  The sauce base of onions and spices doesn’t make a ton, which is fine since the flavors are pretty concentrated.  What that means, though, is that putting that small amount into a blender seems like overkill.  You could always skip that step, but I do like that this is a smooth creamy sauce.  The other option is to get a stick blender, also called an immersion blender.  They generally come with a tall container for mixing small amounts like this without flinging sauce all over the kitchen.  If the sauce base is too thick to puree easily add a little of the cream to the blender.

Because both the paste rub for the chicken and the sauce base are browned for several minutes, the flavors in this dish are very deep.  It makes a nice heat in the back of the throat.  Be careful about the salt.  I only used 1 teaspoon and that was plenty.  I did use salted butter also, so maybe that’s why.  Just go easy on the salt.  Don’t be too concerned if the sauce is a little salty when you taste it.  Remember that there’s no salt on the chicken so that will even things out in the sauce.

The verdict?  This is really, really good.  Warm and earthy and comfort-foody in a slightly exotic way.  A major improvement to my less than fun afternoon.  The taste is much richer than you’d expect from this amount of effort.  Gotta love that!

Good? Yes, yes, yes. One of my favs.
Easy? Relatively so, but we’ll call it intermediate because there are multiple things going on at once.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping? Pomegranate juice if you choose to use it.

Taj Maholla! Chicken


For the Chicken:
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup minced garlic
1/8 cup minced ginger
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons Garam Masala, recipe follows
4 tablespoons cranberry juice
2 pounds skinless, bone-in chicken thighs

For the Butter Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced red onion
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala, recipe follows
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In large saute pan, over medium heat, heat oil. Add garlic and ginger and slowly cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add chili powder, turmeric, Garam Masala and cranberry juice. Let cool slightly. Rub chicken well with mixture and bake in a shallow baking pan for 25 minutes. Chicken will be three-quarters of the way cooked. When chicken is cool to the touch, remove bones and shred meat into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside.

Meanwhile to make Butter Sauce: In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Saute onions, ginger and garlic until light brown, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and continue sauteing until tomatoes begin to fall apart, about 5 minutes. Add spices and continue to cook 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Return puree back to pan and add cream and butter. Bring to a simmer and reduce for 5 minutes. Add shredded chicken and saute for 6 minutes more until chicken is cooked through. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with basmati rice, if desired.

Chicken Biryani

November 6, 2010

Today has been a day of learning lessons.  Lesson 1:  If you wonder out loud near a PetsMart employee why your dog eats the only type of Blue dog food not currently on sale he will a) explain that this is because your dog is a diva – and she wasn’t even with me and b) print off a $5 coupon for you.  Nice.  Lesson 2:  my local bookstores are shamefully remiss in stocking Indian cookbooks of any real use.  I just don’t think I should be learning to cook Indian from Betty Crocker.  (I am not making that up.  The most prevalent Indian cookbook in that store is a Betty Crocker).  Lesson 3:  Cooking with local, pasture fed meats takes extra planning.  Lesson 4:  There is a very good reason that Indian restaurants offer take out service.

As my regular readers know, I make a concerted effort to buy what I can from local farmers and limit what I get at big chain grocery stores.  I’m not a zealot and I do have some budgetary limitations, but I try to do my part.  Now, when you buy meat at the farmers’ market it comes frozen solid.  This makes it difficult to use the day you buy it.  I am not a fan of defrosting meat in the microwave.  That almost never goes exactly like you want it to.  And I’m not a fan of thawing meat in a hot water bath, though I’ll do that in a pinch.  This brings us up to my confession that for tonight’s dinner the chicken came from Kroger.  It is organic.  And it is free range.  But it is from Kroger.  Okay, I feel better now that that’s out there.

So, no decent cookbook to be had, and limited knowledge of how one makes a relatively authentic biryani.  I cobbled together pieces of a couple of recipes I found on the web.  (BTW – if you have a site that you like for Indian recipes please share)!  The thing that the best recipes seemed to share is that making biryani is not for the faint of heart.  It takes a long time; includes some ingredients that your average U.S. household pantry doesn’t have; involves many steps.  You’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s worth it.  There are a number of shortcut recipes out there so feel free to give some a those a shot if it fits better with your life.

Today was a good day to try this because it’s Saturday and I’m supposed to be spending the day cleaning the house.  Also I have a friend coming over later so I know I don’t have to get myself together to go out.  And so the process begins with de-boning the chicken and making the yogurt marinade.  The most cost effective way for me to buy organic chicken at Kroger is to get the “Griller Packs.”  The package includes 2 breasts and 4 legs.  It’s about 3 pounds.  It’s wicked easy to cut the breast off of a chicken bone.  Remove the skin first.  Make sure you use a very sharp knife and that you’re always aware of where the tip of the knife is in relation to your finger.  Cut along the side of the bone first to free the tenderloin (this may be easiest if you turn the breast upside down) and then cut along the wide, flat part of the bone, lifting the breast as you go so you can see, until the bone separates from the breast completely.   Cutting the meat from the legs is a little harder.  There are a lot of tendons in the legs.  Just do the best you can and then throw all the bones in a pot with some water and the ends of onions, carrots, celery, parsley, whatever you have, and make stock.  It doesn’t have to be perfect for this because you’re going to dice the chicken anyway.

The first part of this is pretty easy.  Mix some yogurt and spices and marinate the chicken all day or overnight.  Then you deep fry some thinly sliced onions.  Also pretty easy, though honestly next time, were there to be one, I might just buy a can of Durkees.  It might be nice to have a use for those other than that green bean casserole everyone used to make for church suppers.  Anyway, the marinating and the onions get done ahead and then you go on about your day.  When you come back to this though it will need your full attention for a while.  A piece of advice that I did not follow:  get everything together and measured before you start the next part of this.

So, in one pot you have to parboil the rice with some whole spices.  Parboiling is just cooking the rice part of the way.  In another pot you heat oil and ground spices and then add the chicken and the marinade.  The recipe suggests that it won’t take long to cook the chicken down to where the sauce isn’t watery.   That took me about 20 minutes.  While you’re doing that you drain the rice and spread it out to cool.  I removed the whole spices then.  And while all that is going on you need to heat some milk with saffron in it.  You’ve likely figured out by now that my kitchen is a complete disaster and this thing isn’t even done yet.

You’re in the home stretch at this point, and yet still shockingly far from eating.  Layer the rice, chicken mixture, fried onions and cilantro – in that order.  Two full layers and then top with the rice.  Pour the saffron milk over the whole thing, cover and cook.  One recipe called for cooking on low on the stove top.  Another called for baking in the oven.  You may recall that my stove doesn’t adjust as low as I would like so I chose baking.

At this point in the process my kitchen looks like a cyclone hit it; I’m exhausted and starved; and still an hour from eating dinner.  Yikes.  All I can think is that even if this is the best thing I’ve ever eaten next time I’ll order take out.  Turns out this is really, really, really good.  I put a little plain Greek yogurt mixed with garlic, coriander, cardamom and salt on the side of the bowl.  Extra yum!

Good? Oh my, yes!
Easy? Far, far from it.
Good for company? Definitely a meal to impress. And it makes a bunch.
Special shopping? You’ll need to hit a Penzey’s or other spice shop. My local grocery doesn’t carry cardamom pods.

So, here the best approximation I can give you of what I actually did, presented in stages.

Here are the recipes that I drew from:
Secrets of Making a Perfect Biryani
Chicken Biryani Recipe from Food & Wine

Chicken Biryani

Preheat the oven to 350.

Marinating the chicken

3 lbs Chicken on the bone
1 cup of plain Greek yogurt
1/2 Teaspoon turmeric powder
1 Tablespoon of ginger garlic paste
1 Teaspoon of coriander powder
a little salt

Mix all of the above ingredients and let the chicken marinate for 6-12 hours, more the better.

Frying the onions

1 C vegetable oil
3-4 onions thinly sliced

Heat oil to medium and add sliced onions. Stir the onions continuously for uniform browning. When they become light brown, drain them on kitchen paper. Keep them aside. They will get nice crispy as they cool down.

Parboil the rice

2 C basmati or jasmine rice
1 cinnamon stick
3 green cardamom pods
8 whole cloves
1/2 tsp caraway seeds

Add rice and spices to a large pot. Cover with 5-6 cups of water. Bring to a boil and boil 5-6 minutes. Drain the rice. Spread the rice on a tray to cool. Remove whole spices and discard. The rice will be only partially cooked at this point.

The saffron milk

1/4 C heavy cream
1/4 C low fat milk
a few threads of saffron

Heat milk in a small saucepan. Steep saffron in warm milk while the chicken cooks. Keep the milk warm.

Cooking the chicken

2T vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Garlic Paste
2 tablespoons Ginger Paste
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 C diced tomato (fresh or canned)
chicken and marinade

Heat oil in a dutch oven or large, heavy skillet. Add spices and cook 2-3 minutes until you can smell them. Add the tomatoes, chicken and marinade. Cook uncovered at a high simmer until the chicken is cooked and the sauce isn’t watery any more. 10-20 minutes.

Putting it together

1C chopped fresh cliantro
1C chopped toasted cashews (optional)

In a dutch oven with a tight fitting lid melt 2T of butter. Layer 1/3 of the rice; 1/2 the chicken and sauce mixture; 1/2 the fried onions; 1/2 the cilantro; 1/2 the cashews if using. Repeat all the layers. Top with remaining rice. Pour saffron milk over the top. Put on the lid and place the lidded pot in the oven. Bake 1 hour.

For Serving

1 C plain greek yogurt
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp salt

Mix well and chill. Serve aside the biryani.

Indian Cashew Chicken

August 8, 2010

I love Indian food, although my exposure is somewhat limited.  That said, I know that Cooking Light is not a place to find authentic ethnic food, Indian or otherwise. Obviously the CL recipes have been modified to reduce fat and calories.  Still, the flavors that I love are there and I could stand to shed a few pounds so the light version is probably my best bet.  Tonight’s culinary adventure is a version of Murgh Makhani.  The sauce is rich and smoky and leaves just a little heat in the back of your throat.  It’s like gravy and what’s not to like about that?  Yum.

This is a “do ahead” recipe.  The chicken has to marinate.  I didn’t get to it until this morning so mine only marinated about six hours.  The recipe says three hours to overnight so I think I’m good there.  My sauce was not as smooth as I would have liked.  You have to spin this stuff for a while in the food processor to blend the cashews in with the yogurt and spices.  I got it mixed so that the cashews were chopped pretty fine and then my food processor quit mid-whir.  It’s not a huge surprise since the machine is more than fifteen years old, but it was pretty inconvenient.  Still, I was close enough that I decided to go with it.

The key to dishes like this is making sure there’s enough room in the pot.  I only made a half recipe so I considered using one of my small dutch ovens.  It would have fit in the end.  The issue is surface area.  You want to be sure that the bottom of the pot is big enough to sear all the chicken in a single layer.  My 7 quart dutch oven felt a little like overkill, but I think it was the best option.  (Maybe I need to investigate acquiring a 5 quart cast iron pot…).  Anyway, you also want to be sure to deglaze the pot when you add the liquid.  Just use a wooden spoon to scrape all the brown bits off of the bottom.  Not only will that add a ton of flavor to the dish, but it will make the pot easier to clean too.

I only made one real substitution here.  I couldn’t find cardamom pods in my regular haunts and wasn’t inclined to make my way to an Indian grocery today.  I did price ground cardamom in the store and it’s about $12 a bottle.  Given that the price is two to three times more than any other spice, except saffron of course, I decided to hunt for a substitution.  I’m sure it’s not exactly the same, but the online Cook’s Thesaurus said that I could use equal parts of cloves and nutmeg so that’s what I did.  Of course I have no basis for comparison, but I feel like it was an acceptable substitution.  Another slight substitution was using all chicken breast instead of thigh.  Boneless thigh meat was expensive this week and I don’t like to bone them myself.  Boning a chicken breast is easy so I went that route.  Then I had bones left to make stock.  All good.  Finally, I used light cream instead of half and half.  I honestly have no idea what the difference is.  The light cream came in a smaller container so I bought that.

The recipe calls for you to serve this with rice or naan.  I’d say you should feel free to serve both.  Serve the chicken over basmati rice.  It’s a light, very long grain rice.  Serve some naan on the side.  Buy the naan.  It’s not hard to find at most stores, but it’s very hard to make.  At least in my experience.  Ideally, to make naan you need a clay oven that heats to 700 or 800 degrees.  My oven isn’t clay and it doesn’t get nearly that hot.  I found some whole grain naan and just heated it up a little for dinner.

I recommend making a little raita too.  You only need 2/3 C of yogurt to make this whole recipe.  If you buy the 2C container of yogurt you’ll have exactly enough left to make raita for the table.  And if you halve the recipe, you only need 1/3 C of yogurt leaving you plenty out of a 1 C container to make raita for the smaller number.  I don’t use a recipe for raita any more so it comes out differently every time, but recipes are easy to come by.  It’s always some combination of plain yogurt (I recommend Greek style), cucumber, cumin, coriander, lime juice, salt and red pepper.  Plus or minus a few ingredients.  Make it ahead so the flavors have time to blend.  Serve it on the side with the naan.  It’s a lovely way to cool the heat that this dish creates in your mouth.

There aren’t any pictures tonight because my camera batteries are dead.  They should be charged by the time I’m ready for leftovers later in the week.  I’ll try to remember then.

Good? Very yummy!
Easy? We’re going to call this intermediate because of the number of ingredients and steps.
Good for company? I think company would be pretty impressed.
Special shopping? Probably. You may not keep all of these spices on hand. But if you buy them for this, you might feel encouraged to make more dishes with these flavors! And the cashews. I don’t usually have those.

The recipe below reflects my ingredient and amount changes so this serves 3. Click on the recipe title to see the original which serves 6.

Indian Cashew Chicken


1/3 cup cashews, toasted
1/3 cup fat-free Greek-style yogurt
1/8 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoons white vinegar
3/4 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 garlic cloves, chopped
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 dash each of ground cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
1 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup tomato puree
1/2 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons light cream


1. Combine first 9 ingredients in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Combine nut mixture and chicken in a large bowl; cover and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.

2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onion, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cinnamon stick to pan; cover and cook 10 minutes or until onion is golden, stirring often.

3. Add chicken mixture to pan; cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in broth, tomato puree, paprika, and salt, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook 1 hour or until thick. Stir in half-and-half; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Discard cinnamon stick. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired.

Chicken Tikka Masala

May 28, 2010

Yum!  I’ve had a craving for Indian food for a couple of weeks.  I’m not at all adept at cooking Indian yet so I had to wait until I had plenty of time.  Chicken Tikka Masala is one of my favorite Indian dishes.  I’ve made it before, but with a recipe that wasn’t completely satisfactory.  Tonight I used a recipe from Food & Wine.  I think I hit the mark this time.  It’s not Anokha, my favorite local Indian place, but it’s pretty darn good and I can eat in my pjs.  I’m guessing they frown on that at Anokha.  ( A side note for my Charlottesville readers – Anokha is owned by the same people that own Milan).

It’s a multi step process.  Let me warn you now.  This has to be marinated for several hours, preferably overnight, so plan ahead.  I used low fat Greek yogurt for the marinade.  It has a nice tang to it and the thick texture helps it stick to the chicken without a bunch of stirring, turning, etc. during the marinating process.  As per usual I used tomatoes from last summer’s garden instead of canned.  I used a quart sized bag of tomatoes that I had cored, peeled and frozen. (Yes, you can freeze tomatoes, just plan to puree them for sauce or to cook down for paste.  They don’t hold any shape at all so you won’t get big pieces like you do from home canned or store bought).  They’re a tiny bit stringy so I recommend a food processor or blender to puree.  I made a few alterations to the recipe, mostly for convenience reasons.  I used light cream instead of heavy because it’s what I had in the house.   I skipped the almonds step altogether.   My sauce was a little thinner because of these changes.  I added time to the simmering steps to thicken it a little more.  I used chicken breast instead of thighs because it was on sale.  I think that was fine.  I also used long grain white rice.  Dont’ do that.  It’s worth getting the basmati rice and/or getting some naan from a local bakery or restaurant.  Basmati rice is so much lighter than regular rice.  It would make for a much more subtle accompaniment.  All in all dinner tonight was a big success.  The sauce has a lovely heat at the front of the mouth.  I served it with a Vino Verdhe, a new favorite summer white wine.  The wine is light with just a touch of fizz and it balances the spice nicely.

Good? Oh yes.
Easy? Not so much.  But worth the effort and the time.
Good for Company? I think it would be very impressive for anyone who likes Indian food.  Or a nice introduction for those less familiar with Indian cuisine.
Special shopping? The spice list includes some things you may not have, but don’t skip them.  Just get small amounts.

Chicken Tikka Masala


  • 1  cup  plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  tablespoon  finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  ground cumin
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  ground coriander
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground cardamom
  • 1/4  teaspoon  cayenne pepper
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground turmeric
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 1/2  pounds  skinless, boneless chicken thighs, fat trimmed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2  tablespoons  plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4  cup  blanched whole almonds
  • 1  large onion, finely chopped
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  teaspoon  minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons  garam masala
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  pure chile powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  cayenne pepper
  • One 35-ounce can peeled tomatoes, finely chopped, juices reserved
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1  cup  heavy cream


1. MAKE THE MASALA MARINADE: In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne and turmeric. Season with salt and pepper.

2. PREPARE THE CHICKEN: Using a sharp knife, make a few shallow slashes in each piece of chicken. Add the chicken to the marinade, turn to coat and refrigerate overnight.

3. Preheat the broiler and position a rack about 8 inches from the heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade; scrape off as much of the marinade as possible. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and spread the pieces on a baking sheet. Broil the chicken, turning once or twice, until just cooked through and browned in spots, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut it into 2-inch pieces.

4. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil. Add the almonds and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer the almonds to a plate and let cool completely. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until finely ground.

5. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garam masala, chile powder and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juices and the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Cover partially and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Add the cream and ground almonds and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes longer. Stir in the chicken; simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, and serve.

Variation The marinade and sauce here are also delicious with shrimp, lamb and vegetables.

Make Ahead: The Chicken Tikka Masala can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat gently before serving.

Serve With: Steamed basmati rice, rice pilaf or warm nan.

Grab Your Passport!

February 14, 2010

I have finally returned from cold and rainy Florida to the colder and snowy mid-Atlantic.  A trip to India in my kitchen seemed like the perfect solution to some winter blahs.  I am so glad to get back in the kitchen after a week of business meeting food.  The February Challenge continues so no grocery shopping and after a week away really not a remnant left in the fridge.  It takes a little extra planning to cook this way, but I think it will be worth it.  I set out some chicken to thaw and piled onto the couch with a bunch of cookbooks.  I have a fantastic book of curries by Corinne Trang called Curry Cuisine.  If you like curry check out this cookbook.  It covers the globe of curries:  Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, British, etc.

It took a few minutes to find a recipe for which I had all the ingredients, but settled on Kukul mus kari – Sri Lankan Chicken Curry.  I made the recipe almost exactly as written since I have only a little experience with various curries and no experience with Sri Lankan cuisine.  It’s rarely safe to make many substitutions in recipe families that are unfamiliar.  I did use minced ginger from a jar.  Also, the recipe called for two tomatoes, quartered.  I can’t buy fresh tomatoes this month and frankly winter tomatoes here are terrible.  Instead I used half a pint jar of tomatoes I canned last summer.  The texture is different, but the taste vastly superior.  I think using the whole pint would have been good too.  I really like the tomato flavor in this.  I served it over white rice and topped it with a little sweetened, shredded coconut.  The flavor is bold, but not spicy hot so you don’t need additional condiments to cool the spice.  If you want a spicier flavor just use a hotter chili powder.  This is a soupy curry so feel free to serve in a bowl without rice, but you’ll want to have bread to soak up all the sauce. Yum!

Good?  YES!  So, so good.
Easy? Yes. You only have to chop a few items.
Good for company? Absolutely. Serve it with naan and cucumber raita.
Special shopping? Likely you’ll need to get a can of coconut milk.

Kukul mus kari (Sri Lankan Chicken Curry)

3T vegetable oil
2 onions finely sliced
1T minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2t ground turmeric
1t chili powder
2t ground garam masala
12oz chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
1 1/4C water
3/4C coconut milk
1/2 14oz. can diced tomatoes

Heat the oil in a pan. Add onions and cook to golden brown. Add ginger, garlic and spices. Stir for one minute. Add the chicken. Cook five minutes. Pour in water. Bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat to medium. Cook 10 minutes.
Turn heat to low. Add coconut milk. Cook 10 more minutes. Add tomatoes. Cook 5 more minutes. Serve hot over rice or with bread.