Chicken Curry with Dhal

Is there a food category called Indo-Asian?  If so, I guess that’s where this dish should be.

I never thought I liked curry.  Every version I tried had a heavy somewhat cloying taste.  My friend Rob Shaw changed my mind.  Rob’s the head chef at Camp Singkerrnicity where I live when I’m at the Kerrville Folk Festival.  I’ll try just about anything Rob makes so when he made curry, I took a big bite.  Heaven exploded in my mouth!

I don’t even try to compare my curry to Rob’s.  I read Indian cookbooks for months before I tried making it at all.  I was still living in West Texas when I started experimenting so finding ingredients was sometimes challenging.  It wasn’t until I moved to Austin that I came up with the mix I really like.  It was easy to find green peppercorns and other spices in the grocery stores as well as in Indian markets.  In fact, after searching in almost every nursery in town, I happened on to a curry leaf plant in an Indian grocery story on Burnet Road.

You don’t have to make your own spice mix for this dish.  There are plenty of good commercial mixes available.   I like spice, but I like to taste everything else,too and most of the commercial mixes are just to hot for me.

I’ve never written down my recipe for the curry mix because I don’t have the exact measurements of anything in it.  I go really heavy on green peppercorns, cardamom seeds, and coriander.  I use a little less cumin and even less fennugreek and ginger.  I then add a little cinnamon and two or three cloves.   I throw all of that in a spice grinder.  I don’t think I left anything out.  I ‘ve been told that my curry is more of a Thai style than Indian.

Chicken Curry:

Ingredients:

1 TBLS curry mix

2 chicken breasts or 4 thighs or a mixture of both

1/4 cup onion, roughly chopped

1 TLBS fresh ginger, chopped not minced

2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped not minced

6-10 fresh curry leaves (substitute dried ones if you don’t have fresh ones or you can leave them out but your dish won’t have the same rich taste)

1/2 can coconut milk

cooking oil to sweat the onion

water if needed

salt to taste

Method

Put the curry mix in a dry skillet and heat it gently. ( If I haven’t already ground th spices, I do this before I grind them.  Most of the time I mix up more than I can use at one time so I can make curry dishes faster.  I also like to have it around to add to egg salad.)

Once the spices start to smell really strong,  add the cooking oil to the pan and sweat the onions.  Once the onions are translucent,  add the ginger and garlic.  Cook the ginger and garlic for about one minute.

Add the chicken to the pan.  Let it brown slightly being careful not to scorch the spices or over cook the onion or garlic.

Add the coconut milk to the pan and stir to mix. Add a little water if needed but keep in mind that the chicken will release some liquid while it cooks.

Then add the curry leaves if you are using them.

Cover the pan and cook over medium heat until the chicken is done.   I sometimes take the lid off the pan for the last 5 minutes or so to let some of the liquid evaporate and make a thicker sauce. Serve over rice or with dhal or both.

Dhal

Ingredients:

1 cup lentils

2 cups liquid (stock,water or combination of both)

1 tsp chopped ginger

1 TLBS coarsely shopped onion

1/4 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp coriander

salt to taste

Method:

I use a pressure cooker for all beans, peas, etc. due to the altitude in Boulder.

Put all ingredients except for the salt in the pressure cooker.  Close the lid and let it heat up.  Once the pressure has built up, turn the burner down to medium.  I takes about 9-10 minutes for the lentils to become tender.  Let the pressure off and check for doneness.  You may have to let them boil a few minutes without the lid to reduce the liquid and get the proper consistency.  Add the salt after the lentils are soft.

We like to use an Asian chili paste called Sambal Oelek with this curry.  That way, we can control the heat level.

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