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October 2012 COTM: 660 Curries -- Spice Blends & Pastes; Appetizer Curries; Poultry, Game, and Egg Curries

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Spice Blends and Pastes …. 11-42
Appetizer Curries …. 43-118
Poultry, Game, and Egg Curries …. 119-168

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  1. I made Almond Chicken with a Yogurt-Mint Sauce (Dahi Pudhina Murghi), pg. 123-124 last night for dinner, along with Spicy Banana Peppers (pg. 358).

    Relatively simple recipe but there is some planning required, as the recipe has you make a marinade of yogurt, garlic, ginger and almonds in the blender, then add a spice mixture (coriander, mustard seed, fennel, salt and cayenne, plus chopped fresh cilantro) and marinate a cut up chicken (I used 6 large boneless, skinless thighs instead) for at least 2 hours.

    You then remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving any excess (I didn't have much, so I scraped some of the excess off the chicken pieces as I put them in the pan, figuring it would just burn anyway), and brown the chicken in a bit of oil. Remove it to a plate and add a thinly sliced onion and some water to the pan to deglaze. Add a bay leaf and any reserved marinade, then return the chicken to the pan and simmer until cooked through. Add a handful of freshly chopped mint and serve.

    I made one accidental change - I had a brain fart and bought cashews instead of almonds at the market, so that's what I used. I used thighs instead of a whole chicken, as I mentioned, and I found I needed a good bit more water than called for to really make a sauce. Anyway, I enjoyed this quite a bit - the sauce was delicious and complex (although Mr. Bionda felt it was too fennel-y). The mint flavor got a bit lost, but that could have been because the supermarket mint I had wasn't too flavorful to begin with. I would add more cayenne next time - the sauce tasted mildly spicy when eaten alone but with rice the spice was mostly lost. I think this recipe could also be simplified by just browning unmarinated chicken, then adding the "marinade" from this recipe to the pan as a simmering sauce - I don't know that the couple of hours in the marinade did anything. Perhaps if I were using tougher white meat chicken I'd be grateful for the tenderizing properties of yogurt, but with thighs it was unnecessary. I would make this again, adding more cayenne for me and less fennel for the Mister!

    6 Replies
    1. re: biondanonima

      I think cashews sound great in this recipe!

      1. re: luckyfatima

        They were - and honestly, with the complexity of the spices and such I don't know that I would be able to tell the difference between almonds and cashews anyway!

      2. re: biondanonima

        Finally got around to making this again - this time with almonds! I also skipped the marinading step and just added the yogurt sauce to the pan after the chicken was mostly cooked. Just as good and much simpler without marinading. I did add a bit more cayenne and a bit less fennel, and both DH and I were happy. I also subbed parsley for cilantro because my stepdaughter has the soap-mouth thing, which worked fine, but next time I'd probably just use double the mint.

        1. re: biondanonima

          For the soap-mouth thing, does culantro (sawtooth herb/long-leaf coriander) have the the same effect? Its flavour is strikingly similar to cilantro, though the leaf isn't as light and feathery, so texture might be an issue. I was just looking at my culantro plant the other day and it struck me that it would be the perfect sub for those who can't handle cilantro (unless, of course, it contains the same offending make-up as cilantro!)....

          I'm glad to see this thread revived....I just picked 660 curries up from the library again and have been plotting several menus from the pages. Perfect timing--I'l have to try this!

          1. re: Allegra_K

            I've never tried it, but maybe I'll see if I can find some and have her test it out. If I find any, I'll report back!

            1. re: biondanonima

              I'd love to hear how if that works out--I'm really curious!

      3. See crisp fried onions (in Tips) p.201 also p 16 for fried onion paste (pyaaz ka lep)

        These are called birishta and are the backbone of cooking in a lot of regional cuisines in S. Asia in the North-North West, (especially in various Muslim communities' cuisines), in Muslim Bengali cooking, and in Indian Hyderabadi Muslim cooking.

        I do not usually make a paste of these, I fry them in large batches at a time and keep them in the freezer to take out as needed, a 1/4 cup is about 1 medium onion. In some recipes they are required to be crushed (1 heaping crushed tbs is one medium onion in this case). I am cooking a meat dish from the book today (p.205 Lucknowi gosht qorma), so I needed these on hand for that.

        I am looking forward to trying the pasted method because that sounds like it will save time in cooking by speeding up the break down of the onions into the meat-curry gravies.

        I used desi onions from the Indian store, they are lemon sized and purple and not very sweet.

        I just wanted to post a pic so others can see what they look like (color should be deep reddish brown but take care not to burn or they will be bitter) for making p. 16's fried onion paste recipe. When I fry them, my kids swarm in and start stealing them and eating them since they are so crispy and slightly sweet from the caramelization of the sugars in the onions...I actually ate a few bites of them myself.

         
        8 Replies
        1. re: luckyfatima

          Hi Fatima,

          Thanks for posting the picture. I have my onions on the stove right now. It looks like yours are crispy. Mine are sweating down and darkening (regular red onions) but are not getting crispy. And I really wasn't expecting them to get crispy. I was thinking I would end up with caramelized onions, more or less. How did yours get crispy? Did you deep fry?

          Thanks!

          1. re: greeneggsnham

            You take them out of the oil based on color, and when they stand for a few minutes outside of the oil, the become crisp.

          2. re: luckyfatima

            Yes, those look beautiful--I fear I'd bes nacking on them myself!

            1. re: luckyfatima

              Fried Onion Paste, page 16.

              Red onions are thin sliced and cooked slowly in oil until deep purple brown. I used about 1.5 lbs of red onions, which when uncooked, filled my 3 qt skillet. I cooked and cooked and cooked some more and ended up with less than a cup and a half of deep dark savory glop. Mine never got crunchy, but the taste is pretty awesome.

              The first photo is after about 30 minutes cooking. I thought about stopping there but pressed on about 7 minutes more. They are not burned but they did get darker and browner during that time. I blended these with a bit of water to make the paste. Half a cup got used for the Vibrant Chicken with spicy tomato sauce on page 137 (awesome). That was so good, that I may make it again, but I am also looking for other curries to use the paste.

               
               
                1. re: greeneggsnham

                  I made this paste tonight for the Cinnamon flavored black eyed peas on pg. 323. HOLY SMOKES! I caramelize onions all the time, but for some reason it never occurred to me to put them in the blender. The resulting paste is SO DELICIOUS and I can already imagine adding it to just about every sauce I make, to add depth and sweetness without texture. My freezer will never be without this paste again!

                  1. re: greeneggsnham

                    I made the fried onion paste last night, as part of my ill-fated attempt to make a legume curry! I cooked mine for something like 45 minutes, but although they were very soft, they never got very dark. As a result, my paste is a fetching shade of lilac!

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      I find that the trick to getting a nice dark brown color on onions (without burning them) is to use slightly higher heat than you think you should and be ready to deglaze the pan a few times with water. Once the onions get to the limp stage, I leave them alone until a toasty crust forms on the bottom of the pan, then I add a little water, scrape it up and stir it in, then let them sit again until I get another toasty crust. Repeat 3-4 times. I've never had success getting a true caramel color without doing this - maybe I'm too impatient with low heat, but it seems like there's a too-fine line between heat that will never really caramelize the fond and heat that will burn the fond (unless water is added).

                2. p. 205-206 Aromatic Lamb with Pounded Spices/Lucknowi Gosht Qorma

                  This recipe appealed to me since my mother in law is from Lucknow and the food there is renowned in India-Pakistan. I wanted to see if this were a qorma that I could add to my repertoire of qorma recipes, and it very much is. The dish came out very successfully.

                  The dish calls for boneless lamb cubes, but I used bone-in mutton shoulder, since that is what we usually cook with at home and what I had on hand.

                  I fried onions earlier today (see pic above) and set them aside for the recipe. The recipe calls for marinading the meat in a mix of yoghurt, ginger, and garlic whipped together. I had fresh ginger-garlic-green chile paste on hand, and I know the addition of green chiles changes the character of the dish very slightly, but for the end result, it didn't seem to make a difference, as the dish was not particularly spice.

                  I heated the oil and added in the recommended selection of whole garam masalas. I then added in the marinaded meat. I did not fry the onions in oil as recommended, I just used my pre-fried onions that I had made earlier that day. They were perhaps cooked to a slightly later stage than required for the recipe. I crushed them and added them in about two minutes after stirring the meat around. I then stirred and stirred for a while, as recommended, allowing the yoghurt to dry up, the ginger and garlic to cook through, and the onions to break down. Oil rose to the top pf the mixture and I continued to stir so that the meat would be properly braised, and important qorma step. I then added in the whole red dried chiles and coriander powdered, stirred for a few more moments, then poured in about 1.5 cups of water. The recipe recommended one cup, but since I used goat, I cooked the meat for about 1 hour and ten minutes until it was very tender, and I didn't want the water in the gravy to dry up.

                  In the meanwhile, I grounded the recommended perfumey spices with more fried onions in my Vitamix. I added a little water so that the spices would grind smoothly. This is to be stirred in at the end of cooking.

                  When the dish was finished cooking, I turned off the flame and stirred in the onion-spice mixture. I then added 1/8 teaspoon of Keora Water. The recipe recommends on whole teaspoon but that sounds like way too much---it is very strong stuff and too much can ruin a dish. If anyone tries this recipe and is unfamiliar with keora water, please note that it turns bitter if you heat it, so don't turn the flame on again after you have added in the keora water. If you cook the dish earlier in the day and then re-heat, and the keora water just before serving.

                  Iyer created this recipe on his own, inspired by sheer imagination of the splendor of the qormas of Lucknow. The dish is very aromatic with strongly perfuming spices like clove, nutmeg, mace, star anise, and cardamom added raw at the end of cooking, which achieves that particular Lucknavi-perfume characteristic.

                  I enjoyed this dish so much, I might try and serve it at an Eid gathering later this month.

                   
                  3 Replies
                  1. re: luckyfatima

                    Yum, bone in meat. I wonder if Mr. Iyer suggested a boneless cut in deference for the western tendency to avoid bones in stewed recipes. Your dish looks delicious Luckyfatima, I'm sure the bone in approach made for an even more flavourful meal.

                    1. re: delys77

                      That certainly is one reason why i recommend a boneless cut...

                    2. re: luckyfatima

                      sounds fabulous. i am always looking for new ways to cook bone-in goat, many thanks for your detailed description of the changes you made to accommodate the change in meet.

                    3. Chicken with onion, bell pepper and mace (murghi jalfrezie), p152

                      We absolutely loved this and it was pretty easy to make. Great for a week night curry fix, as he says, although I would try to marinate the chicken earlier in the day so that it has time to absorb some flavour.

                      To make, marinate cubed chicken in 1T ginger paste and 2T of garlic paste (I used my new discovery of frozen cubes from the Asian store). Heat a small frying pan and toast coriander seeds, cumin seeds, 2 dried red Thai or cayenne chillis and mace until fragrant and the chillies have blackened slightly. I used Thai chili but not the small very hot ones, and added an extra one because we like some heat. Allow to cool and grind to a powder.

                      Heat 2T oil in a skillet and add the chicken. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes then remove. Add more oil and fry cubed onion and green pepper until browned around the edges. Remove. Add tomato paste to the pan with a cup of water and stir together to make a sauce. Stir in the ground spice blend and some salt, then return to the pan and stir. Continue to cook until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has thickened. This took about 5 minutes. Serve sprinkled with fresh coriander.

                      This was really delicious, with subtle and distinct spicing and a nice bit of heat from the dried chilli. It was also the best Indian curry I've ever made. Based on this success, and that of the vegetable dish I also made, I'm really excited about this book.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: greedygirl

                        Chicken with onion, bell pepper and mace (murghi jalfrezie), p.152

                        This was dinner tonight and had I planned correctly, it could have been a quick weeknight meal. I started by making the ginger paste and garlic paste. Now that it is done, this will be a huge time saver. I also ended up de-boning a chicken breast. Initially I thought I would try the more "succulent " version with bone-in chicken breast, but after thinking about it, my husband would not have been crazy about little bits of chicken with bones. The chicken also needs to marinade in the garlic and ginger paste for at least half an hour. All of these things (my own doing) delayed dinner, but fortunately the results were worth it.

                        Like gg, this was the best Indian curry I've every made, but unlike her, this was my first (I've only made Japanese-style curries). We really enjoyed this. Although typically I prefer chicken thighs to breasts, the chicken breasts were very flavorful and tender. This was a surprisingly simple dish in execution,but not flavor, that I would happily make again.We served this with brown rice (the frozen kind...huge time saver). The only changes I made were to use chile de arbol instead of a dried Thai chile pepper and I used half of the amount of oil.

                        I started the month with a little trepidation about Indian cooking, but with a win under my belt, I'm excited to try more.

                        1. re: greedygirl

                          greedygirl,what brand are those frozen cubes from the Asian store? I wonder if I can find them here? Pic if possible, please.

                          I'm drawn to the idea of a week night curry fix. To make this toddler friendly, I suppose I would use serrano chilis instead of the Thai or cayenne. Do you see any reason why I shouldn't?

                          ~TDQ

                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            The brand is Taj.

                            http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk/#/asda...

                            I don't know how adventurous the Dairy Prince is, but I see no reason why this wouldn't work with chillies that are less spicy. They need to be dried though.

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              I remember reading somewhere that Anupy Singla suggests adding red chilli powder and sliced green chili at the end for curries. Supposedly her children can't handle the heat either. I haven't tried it myself though.

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                Serranos pack less heat than the other two - yes that would work - if you want it pitifully mild then you could seed those as well...

                                1. re: 660 curries

                                  HA! Yes, we might start with pitifully mild and work our way up from there. The problem is, we're in the middle of teaching that hot=owie because we want to keep him away from the hot stove etc. and now suddenly he protests at anything that is temperature warm or spicy hot. It didn't used to be a problem before. Hopefully it's just a stage.

                                  ~TDQ

                              2. re: greedygirl

                                Chicken with Onion, Bell Pepper and Mace (Murghi Jalfrezie) Pg. 152

                                Overall a pretty good dish, but not as stellar as some of the others I have tried from the book. I must admit I used ground mace and it didn't do much for me. Not to say I didn't like it, I just couldn't really taste it and for me that makes his English translation of the title a bit misleading. It might very well be the fact that I used dried, but it was listed as alright in the ingredient list. Overall however this was a pleasant chicken curry with a bit of heat and slight bitterness from the green peppers. The texture of the sauce is very nice and the recipe comes together quickly. It was good, but not great like some of the others, for me at least. Perhaps the challenge was the heat, I used the recommended amount of chiles and I found that it was just strong enough to make the dish a little one not, ie. the chiles overcame some of the other flavours.

                                 
                                1. re: greedygirl

                                  We have had an overabundance of peppers in our house lately so I knew that I had to try this one, and I'm not sure that I have much to add to what others have said; this feels like a 'me too' post. The sauce was truly delicious, with a lovely depth of flavour, spicy and rich and very more-ish, and I made my daughter laugh by continually commenting on how good it was and how pleased I was with the results as I ate. We will definitely make this one again.

                                2. Punjabi Garam Masala p.25

                                  I am planning to make Palak Paneer tomorrow and it calls for this masala. I had all required spicies on hand and now that I discovered that wrinkled-looking black cardamom is just a shell containing seeds within, making masala was a breeze. My old and well-used Cuisineart mini-chopper did wonderful job grinding together coriander,cumin, cloves, black peppercorns, black cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaves. The spice mixture smells wonderful and I hope that tomorrow's dish will turn out great. I am perplexed, however, that the recipe that uses 16oz of spinach and 8oz of paneer calls for just 1/2 teaspoon of this masala which appears to be the main flavouring...

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: herby

                                    it is a strong blend, especially when using roasted ground spices that you just made - a little goes a long way. Also, not sure which recipe you are planning on cooking - oftentimes there are other ingredients that promote a certain flavor as well - garam masalas, especially finishing blends like this one are sprinkled towards the end for an aromatic component as well.

                                    1. re: 660 curries

                                      I am making Mathura Palak Paneer on p. 297 and love the story behind the recipe:) Punjabi masala is not a finishing one in this recipe. Anyway, I am reserving judgement until tomorrow and will report in the appropriate thread.

                                      1. re: herby

                                        In that recipe it is considered a finishing spice - there are many other spices early on that provide the layering. Hope you enjoy it.

                                    2. re: herby

                                      I made this one tonight as well, in preparation for tomorrow's Cremini mushrooms, pg. 517. My sense of smell is pretty much non-existent but Mr. Bionda says it smells fabulous and "Christmasy," probably from all the cloves and cinnamon. I tasted a little on the tip of my finger and it's cinnamon-y and has a powerful numbing effect, from all the cloves. Can't wait to taste it in my dish!

                                      1. re: biondanonima

                                        I always say never taste the spice blends as is - oftentimes it leaves a preconceived impression that could hinder your judgement - they always react very differently when combined with ingredients and provide a well-nuanced balance, quite different than what you experience when tasting it "au naturel" ...

                                      2. re: herby

                                        I too made this masala tonight. Christmas-y is an apt description. My housemates all said "something smells sweet."

                                        I used the masala in Makhani Dal, page 364. I am very pleased the quantity of the recipe isn't so great that it will get 'stale' before I can use it all.

                                        1. re: smtucker

                                          Makhani Dal is on my list to make but I am hanging out with my six years old grandboy this weekend and minding a few family obligations this week - will be back to cooking in a week and look forward to it.

                                        2. re: herby

                                          Punjabi Garam Masala, page 25.

                                          I finally got around to making the Punjabi Garam Masala today after meaning to for the past 2 weeks. I used a retired coffee grinder (retired from grinding coffe, that is) to grind the toasted spices. I was a little worried the coffee oils would linger so ground rice a few times in it first (after cleaning it the best I could). It still smelled faintly of coffee before the toasted spices went it, but I don't detect any coffee in the finished mix. I mention only because the book cautions you from using a spice grinder which you also use to grind coffee. Smells very reminiscent of pumpkin pie spice to me. A very seasonable potpourri for this time of year.