Lasooni Murgh/Chicken cooked in a garlicky sauce: Cooking with the once forbidden meat

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Methi/Fenugreek seeds

Just as the chicken nuggets sold at McDonalds barely resemble real chicken, the modern chicken is about as different as can be from its ancestors. It might be a little bit of a stretch for the imagination, but you must believe me when I say that mighty dinosaurs are the forefathers of the humble bird you see today. Trust me on this one – I’m a zoologist. Of course, they didn’t just change in one jump – the immediate ancestor is the red jungle fowl, from which the chicken were domesticated by early humans. As wild fowls were inefficient flyers, domesticating them was much easier compared to other flying birds. Anyhow, the modern day chicken ultimately turned out to be a mix of several fowl species and it’s hard to pinpoint the actual lineage.

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Possibly explaining the continued love of Indians and Pakistanis for tandoori chicken, Lothal, which was a port city in the Indus Valley civilization is believed to be the birthplace of the domesticated chicken. Eventually, it traveled to eastwards to China and westward to the Mesopotamian civilization. The “royal bird of Meluhha” described in ancient Near Eastern texts around 2000 B.C. most likely refers to chicken, which although commonplace today, at that point was still an exotic bird imported from Indus Valley.

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Would you believe that people once bred chickens but didn’t even think about eating them? Although it’s now a staple protein the world over, chickens were not originally domesticated to be used as an edible meat. Instead, they were mainly used for divination and cock fights. Anyhow, they were the essential compromise candidate in Indian cuisine because both Hindus (who would die before eating beef) and Muslims (for whom pork is an even bigger no-no) settled on the tender white flesh of the poor chickens. But this took a while, and up until fairly recently chickens were considered inedible by Indians irrespective of religion. Among many possible reasons, one theory goes that chickens were scavengers and grazed the ground for mostly insects, worms and seeds, and were hence considered dirty animals. It was forbidden to the Hindus so recently that even Dr. Sen’s grandfather had to hide and eat it with friends in the mid-1930’s.  Although duck, geese, pigeons and other wild fowls were mentioned in Mughal cuisine, chickens were excluded from Akbar’s inventory. As such, it’s somewhat hard to know when exactly the “forbidden” chicken left the cockfighting ring and entered the domestic kitchens in India. In a fatal role reversal for the poor birds, the Egyptians are thought to bred them only for the eggs, but the Indians took the meat and ran with it.

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This Lasooni curry is a very simple chicken curry made with few ingredients. It’s loaded with garlic and truly justifies its name (lasoon or lehsan is garlic in Hindi). As garlic is considered to be heat-inducing by Ayurvedic principles, this dish is perfect for winter menus. The kasuri methi or dried fenugreek leaves give it a smoky touch with a very slight hint of bitterness. The yogurt balances the garlic and the bitterness taste and gives the gravy a mildly tangy taste and velvety body. Best served with hot rotis/fulkas, but eating it with rice is not a bad option either.

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Dried Fenugreek leaves on the left

Recipe:

This recipe is tweaked from here.

Chicken: 1.7 lbs (that’s what I had in the freezer)

Garlic: 3-4 fat garlic cloves, minced very finely or make a paste of it

Dahi/Yogurt: ½ cup

Methi/Fenugreek seeds: 1 tsp.

Dry red chillies: 2-3

Kasoori methi/Dried fenugreek leaves: a big pinch

Tejpatta/Bay leaves: 2

Green chilies: 4-5 (depending on how hot you want your chicken)

Turmeric: 1 heaped tsp.

Mustard oil/White oil: 2 tbsp. (I use mustard oil by default in my Indian cooking unless there’s a reason not to. But feel free to use your favorite oil)

Water: I cup boiling hot

Salt to taste

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Kasoori Methi/Dried Fenugreek Leaves

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  • Wash and drain the chicken completely.
  • Heat up the oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed wok/kadai.
  • Turn the heat really low and add the methi seeds. Allow the seeds to sizzle until the seeds turn a shade darker. It will flavor the oil very nicely.
  • Take out more than half the methi seeds, otherwise you’ll be biting on a bitter seed very frequently.
  • Add the dried red chillies and the bay leaves and allow them to sizzle a little bit as well.
  • Add the garlic and sauté the garlic in the oil for a minute or so to infuse the oil with garlic flavor. As there are very few spices, you want to make sure that the oil is loaded with the flavors. But don’t let the garlic burn, it sould take a light golden brown color.
  • Add the drained chicken pieces, sprinkle the turmeric and sauté on medium-high heat for several minutes, coating them with the oil.
  • Turn the heat low or put the pot on a cold burner and then add the yogurt. Make sure the yogurt is in room temperature and well beaten. This step is crucial because it will prevent the gravy from turning into granules. You want velvety-silky-smooth gravy.
  • Stir the whole thing several times to bring up the temperature of yogurt so that you can return the pot to the original burner.
  • Keep sautéing/turning the chickens on medium high heat.
  • The meat might release a lot of water. In that case keep sautéing until oil releases from the sides.
  • Add the kasoori methi and sauté for a minute.
  • Add water and salt and bring it to a boil. Add the green chillies spilt halfway through. Keep boiling on low-medium heat until you get a smooth gravy and the raw taste of the yogurt/spices are gone. Check for salt and add more if needed.
  • Make sure you have a lot more gravy than you prefer because the chicken is going to soak up almost half the liquid.
  • Let the whole thing rest for 15-20 minutes. This step is very necessary because it will make the chicken absorb the gravy and the gravy will reach its desired consistency. Reheat a little bit before serving.
  • I like mine with lots of gravy to soak up my rotis and eat the gravy with a spoon. It’s very refreshing on a cold winter night. If you wish, you can adjust the consistency according to your liking.

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Mind a simple chicken curry recipe?

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We have currified the world…literally. There is no continent left behind (yes, Antarctica too) that does not have its own version of this multilayered, adaptable food. I am not going to give you a Curry 101 class here or tell you if it really came from the Tamil word ‘kari’ or not. Before I came to the USA, I was like a hermit crab; sheltered in my own narrow world and pretty much isolated from anything which did not directly affect my life. The only world news I found exciting was the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden. But to be true, he was almost our neighbor, not really ‘phoren affairs’, as the Bengalis would say.

After I moved here, my horizons broadened with a speed that literally left me breathless. To revert to a food analogy, you know the feeling when you put one spoon of that delicious curry in your mouth and a million flavors burst almost immediately? It happened to me too, I mean in terms of ‘phoren affairs’. But the bulk of my broadening knowledge base, unlike that of my polymath husband, was still mostly related to cuisines of the world. I was fascinated to see people adopting recipes and making their own versions and curry was no exception.

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“Curry”, that universal tag we put on almost every Indian dish is truly versatile. Thank goodness someone came up with that term. Otherwise we Indians would have to write five sentences to explain it. I find it very interesting to see how food travels and adapts and I don’t think anything else comes close to curry and its travel story. If you go to the West Indies, you’ll find Indo-Caribbean curries cooked by the immigrant Indians who traveled there during the British Raj during the 18th and 19th centuries to work as laborers in the sugarcane fields. Japan got the first taste of curry around the same time and there, you’ll find karē raisu which is curry served over rice. If you are in Indonesia, you are well advised not to leave the country without eating Rendang or Kari Ayam. Thailand has a whole spectrum of curries, whether red, yellow, green or Massaman, all equally delicious. Malaysia will greet you with vibrant reddish-orange gravy with chunks of meat and coconut milk in it. The Burmese have their own versions, some of them remarkably similar to Indian curries. The Chinese adopted it to suit their palate and it is now appearing on American-Chinese menus. The French who colonized parts of India like Pondicherry, have also carried their interpretation back with them in the form of  ‘Vadouvan’,  a spice mix with roots in Madras curry powder but has non-Indian spices like thyme and rosemary in it.  ’ I use it to cook chicken and fish and love the slightly unusual flavor profile added by the European spices. The Danish, who went to India wishing to colonize us, went back petty soon and took back curry with them. The ‘Boller i karry’ is Madras curry powder cooked in a cream sauce with pork meatballs. I made it once but it’s too rich and creamy for my taste. I am planning to modify it to suit my taste (thus making “circumnavigation curry”, which went from India to Denmark and back to India). Currywurst in Germany is as popular as hotdogs in the US. They even made a museum for it (and I am NOT kidding).

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The British need a paragraph of their own I guess. You don’t merely put them along with a bunch of other countries when it comes to curry. They have organizations to keep the curry tradition alive and to make sure no one adulterates the recipes and their authenticity. After almost two centuries, when the British decided to leave us alone and finally mind their own business, among the things they could not leave behind were the Kohinoor diamond and curry powder (Veeraswamy’s and Bolst’s were the two most popular brands).  Decades later, maybe still suffering subconsciously from a nostalgia for their erstwhile colony, they chose chicken tikka masala (nothing but chicken morsels cooked in a creamy curry gravy) as their national dish. Many generations of Indians have suffered from a bad British colonial hangover; as such, it is poetic justice that we got our own back at them….in curry form.

I am not going to talk about the curries in the Indian subcontinent because I’ll need to write a book before I feel like I’ve said enough. India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, all cook curries in one form or the other. But if you have eaten curries from these countries, you’ll know that they are very different with an underlying similarity to them. The ‘tarkari’ in Nepal is very different from the curry in Pakistan which most likely has an onion-garlic base. The taste of curry in Bangladesh will depend on whether it is cooked by a Hindu or a Muslim. The Muslims will cook like the Pakistanis with onions and garlic while the Hindus will try to avoid them as much as possible. The South Indian will more likely have curry leaves and tamarind in it compared to a Gujarati (west of India) curry with a chickpea flour taste. The Parsis will put apricot and fried potato sticks in it. The Bengalis will make light curries to aid their famously delicate digestion but the Nagas (North East India) will add a dash of bhut jolokia (ghost pepper) which is supposed to make dead men come alive.*******

To counter the information overload I just made you go through, I present now a basic curry recipe with no out-of-the-world ingredients. A simple, humble and everyday curry. Eat it with bread, naan, roti or rice…it will be delicious every time.

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Recipe:

Ingredients:

Chicken: around 3lbs. (bone in, skinless) cut into medium pieces

Ginger-garlic paste: 2-3 tbsp. (or, grind 3” fresh ginger piece with 4-5 cloves of garlic to a smooth paste)

Tomato: One small

Tomato paste: 1 tbsp. (optional but if you use it, you’ll get the vibrant rich color)

Onion: One cup, finely minced

Turmeric: 1 tsp.

Bay leaves: 2

Sugar: 2 tsp.

Red chili powder: 1 tbsp. (adjust according to your taste)

Green chilies: few, split length (again, adjust to your taste)

Cinnamon: 2” piece broken into two

Cardamom: 2, slightly bruised with a heavy spoon or back of a knife

Cloves: 3

Mustard oil (preferably)/any neutral oil: 2-3 tbsp.

Salt to taste

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  • Heat up the oil in a heavy bottom wok/kadai or pan. If you are using mustard oil, do not let it smoke or burn; gradually heat it to get rid of the raw smell.
  • Add the sugar and let it caramelize. Keep an eye on it, sugar gets burnt very quickly.
  • Add the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and the bay leaves. Let them sizzle a bit and release the aroma.
  • Add the onion and sauté them on medium heat. Medium heat makes the onion caramelize beautifully and brings out the sweetness.
  • Once the onions are nicely brown, add the ginger-garlic paste, red chili powder and turmeric. Sauté the paste until oil leaves from the side. If you think that the spice paste is sticking to the pot, sprinkle a little bit of water.
  • Add the tomato and the tomato paste (if using) and again cook the whole thing until the tomato gets mushy and the paste becomes deep reddish brown is color.
  • Add the chicken and cook on medium high heat until chicken is no longer translucent and again oil starts leaving the pan. (I usually smell the spoon to check if there is any raw smell from the spices or not).
  • Add a cup of warm water and salt and mix everything well. If you are using regular chicken, cover and let it cook on medium heat. If you are using organic free range chicken, no need to cover it. The free range chicken will be more than half cooked while sauteing. You can cook it uncovered. (if you think you need more gravy, add another half cup water)
  • After 15-20 minutes, check if the meat is cooked or not and also the seasoning.
  • Add the green chilies and let it rest (covered) for 15-20 minutes before serving.
  • This curry goes well with either roti/naan or rice.

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****** I have generalized the curry for few communities but tried to give you the most common way they cook it. They are not the only method they use and no way I am claiming to be an authority on how everyone cook curries.  Please feel free to share any information or opinion.

Beresta chicken/chicken with fried onions

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I didn’t pay attention to what we eat and do not eat while I was in India. All I knew was that Hindus don’t eat beef and Muslims don’t eat pork. In any case, I never had the chance to eat these “forbidden” meats for almost my entire life back home. After I met my omnivorous boyfriend (who is now my husband), I started exploring beef and pork. They were still not my primary choices; I can almost count the number of times I ate them before moving to the US.. Stateside, I faced the usual questions many, many times – “Are you vegetarian?” “Do you eat meat?” “Do you eat beef?” “What about pork?” I don’t blame them. We Indians are tricky when it comes to eating habits and food taboos.

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Food eaten in India is as varied as it can get. At a broader level, culinary choices are largely dictated by religion, although even within each religion it gets really complicated because there is no “one rule fits all” concept. Although eating beef was not a taboo in ancient India, Hindus are forbidden to eat beef and consider cows to be sacred. The prevalent hypothesis posits that the ban on cow slaughter reflects the dependence of the contemporary agrarian community on cows for their ability to till the soil, pull carts and produce cow dung for use as manure. The pre-Aryan concept of ‘ahimsa’ (non-violence) practiced by Buddhists and Jains may also have influenced the Hindus at some point. Also, cows were the main source for milk, which by analogy with motherhood gave them the elevated status of ‘gomata’ (go=cows; mata=mother). By extension, in Hindu society, cow slaughter carried the unimaginable stigma of effective matricide. The incipient taboo was greatly reinforced by the Muslim invasion of India. As Muslims ate beef without compunction, from the Hindu viewpoint, it came to be strongly associated with the “other” religion, completing its banishment from even marginally observant households. Indeed, even today only very liberal/Westernized/atheistic/depraved families (such as my in-laws; not saying which of the four they are) would routinely serve beef at their table. This of course does not mean that the younger generation does not eat it on the sly, as I did at Olypub with my boyfriend. He of course, ate mainly beef, primarily as it was cheap and he was perennially broke.

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Apart from beef, for many Hindus, meat and fish are considered to be Rajasic (stimulating the baser emotions of passion and excitement) or Tamasic (indifferent, dull and depressing) and are thus prohibited from consumption. Adding to the confusion, while chicken and pork were taboo (as the respective animals are scavengers), often eating goat or lamb was not prohibited. Eating pork is still a no-no for most of the Hindus but chicken has gained immense popularity. It has lost all its taboo and indeed, become the primary animal protein for the growing middle class.

This chicken recipe is very different as it uses beresta/fried onions as the flavoring base. The chicken gets a fiery red color from the fried onions and caramelized sugar. A little bit of extra effort will give you a beautiful robust flavor of smoky, sweet, caramelized onions.

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Recipe:

Adapted from Alpana Habib

Ingredients:
Good quality chicken (if possible organic and free range): around 3 lbs. cut into bite sized pieces.
Onion: one large or, caramelized onion 2/3-1 cup. (adjust the number of onions to have around 2/3 cup of fried onions)
Yogurt: around ½ cup
Red chili powder: one tablespoon or more if you want it hotter (also it will depend on how hot the chili powder is) mixed with a little bit of water to make a paste.
Mustard oil/any other oil: 2tbsp. (you’ll need more oil to fry the onions, around half a cup)
Bay leaves: 2 nos.
Cardamoms: 3-4 nos. (smash them with a heavy spoon just enough to break them a little bit)
Garlic paste: 1-2 tbsp.
Sugar: one tbsp.
Cinnamon: 2 inches stick broken into one inch pieces

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• Marinate the chicken with the yogurt and garlic paste for an hour.
• In the meantime, heat up around ½ cup of oil. Bring the flame to medium high to medium.
• Thinly slice the onion and fry the onions in the hot oil until golden brown. Do not make the oil too hot, it will burn the onion. Carefully stir the onion while frying to evenly color them. Slow frying will make the onion very sweet and smoky.
• Drain the fried onions on an absorbent paper.
• Take out all the oil leaving only one-two tablespoons.
• Add the sugar and let it caramelize. Keep an eye on it, it’s very easy to burn sugar and it will taste bitter.
• Once the sugar is caramelized, add the red chili paste and stir frequently.
• Drop in the cardamoms and the cinnamons and let them release the aroma.
• Turn the flame to low or take the pan out of the flame and then add the marinated chicken.
• Stir everything together very well or else the yogurt will curdle.
• Salt and again mix everything well.
• Add one third of the beresta (fried onions), mix nicely and then cover the pot.
• After around 10 minutes, uncover the pot, add another third of the beresta, mix well and cover the pot again for around ten minutes. Check the meat too.
• Uncover the pot, give everything a good stir and check if the meat is done or not. Check for seasoning too.
• Add the rest of the beresta, five-six green chilies slit length wise and then cover the pot again. Turn off the flame. Let the pan covered for 10-15 minutes (or more) and then serve with either bread or rice.

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** I did not add any water. The chicken and the yogurt released enough water to make a nice gravy. If you think you do not have enough gravy, add little bit of water while adding the second batch of beresta.
**If you let the chicken sit for at least half n hour, the meat will soak the gravy a little bit and the flavors will mix very nicely.

 

The paradise and its cuisine: Marzwangan korma/Lamb with Kashmiri red chillies

DSC_0147Like an emerald pendant on a pearl-studded necklace, the green valley of Kashmir is surrounded by the snow-covered mighty Himalayas. Apart from its breathtakingly pretty landscapes, Kashmir has many other remarkable attractions such as friendly people, excellent pashmina shawls, the world’s best saffron and a mouthwateringly unique cuisine. Unfortunately, except for Kashmiri dum aloo (stuffed potatoes coked in gravy) or rogan josh (meat cooked with aromatic spices), the treasures of Kashmiri cuisine are largely unknown in the rest of India – I have no clue why though.

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Maybe through a combination of its topographical detachment (a valley surrounded on all sides by very high mountains) and demography (two different religions with contrasting food habits), the Valley of Kashmir developed its own and very distinctive cuisine. Hindu Kashmiris are primarily Brahmins (the priestly class, also known as Kashmiri Pandits) and do not eat onions and garlic (as these tamasic ingredients are supposed to awaken the baser emotions of lust, anger and passion). Although meat and fish is abhorred by Brahmins in most parts of India (in keeping with the age-old tradition of vegetarianism in Hinduism), Kashmiri (and Bengali Brahmins) found their way to keep meat and fish as part of their diet.

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However, unlike the other chicken-loving non-vegetarians of North India, Kashmiri Pandits prefer lamb as their primary meat source (beef of course is strictly prohibited). Two distinct styles of cooking meat have evolved in Kashmir, one being a richly colored red gravy flavored with fennel and Kashmiri chilies (among other spices) while the other is yakhni, a thin, lightly spiced, whitish yogurt-based gravy. Contrary to the Muslim cooking style where onions and garlic are used in abundance, Kashmiri Pandits use hing/asafetida as a substitute for adding that extra layer of flavor to their non-vegetarian dishes that cannot come from the meat alone. Indeed, this constitutes the hallmark difference between the cuisines of Hindu and Muslim Kashmir.

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Marzwangan korma is a dish which is cooked with very few ingredients, but all of them are very aromatic. My husband says it smells like a subtle perfume (in a good way, unlike some foods which smell overpoweringly of rosewater or cinnamon). The moment you start cooking this dish, the kitchen will fill with a complex and enticing mix of smells. This is one of my favorite meat recipes as it doesn’t require any long marinades or grinding of ginger and garlic. Don’t be fooled by the fiery red color, it’s not half as spicy as it looks. The beautiful color comes from the bright red Kashmiri chili powder. Like the part of our planet that it comes from, it may appear violent but it is actually quite peace-loving 😉

Recipe: (Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey)

Find a similar Bengali meat curry here.

Ingredients:

Bone in lamb/goat meat, cut into 11/2 inch cubes: 3 lbs.

Red chili/Cayenne powder: ½-1 tsp.

Kashmiri chili powder/paprika: 1-3 tbsp.

Asafetida: 1/3 tsp. (optional)

Ground fennel seeds: 1 tsp.

Turmeric powder: ½ tsp.

Tamarind: one small walnut sized ball

Ground ginger/ginger powder: ½ tsp.

Vegetable/mustard oil: 4-5 tbsp.

Cinnamon sticks (preferably the Indian variety): 11/2 inches

Cardamom pods (green): 3 whole

Cloves: 3-4 nos.

Salt to taste

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  • Soak the tamarind ball in warm water for 15-20 minutes. Longer won’t hurt.
  • Heat up half the oil and once hot, add the cinnamons, cardamoms and the cloves.
  • Once you get the nice aroma, add the meat pieces. Sauté the meat pieces well (until few  brown spots appear)
  • Add three cups warm water to the meat and bring it to a boil.
  • Cover the pot and let the meat cook on medium heat.
  • Once the meat is 2/3 cooked, strain the meat and reserve the stock.
  • In a small bowl mix the red chili powder, Kashmiri chili powder, turmeric, ginger powder and fennel powder with a little bit of water to make a smooth paste.
  • Heat up rest of the oil on medium heat and add the asafetida.
  • Few seconds later add the spice paste to the oil as well.
  • Squeeze the tamarind ball to make a paste. Discard any pulp or seed. Add the tamarind paste to the spice paste.
  • Sauté the spice mix until oil starts leaving the pan.
  • Add the meat and mix everything very well.  .
  • Cook for another five minutes or so and then add the stock to the meat.
  • Bring to a boil and cook it until the meat is completely cooked and the gravy reaches its desired consistency.
  • Serve with plain rice and with a simple green vegetable.

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Chicken tikka masala: the Indian hangover in Britain

DSC_0532I’ve heard that in ever-changing cosmopolitan London, Indian food is becoming more and more popular and acquiring a place next to the traditional English breakfast. But did you know that Dean Mahomet (probably born Deen Mohammad), an Indian soldier from the East India Company’s Bengal Regiment, established the oldest Indian restaurant in Britain (Hindostanee Coffee House) in 1809? Although it failed after two years, other people came up with restaurants like Veeraswamy’s, Koh-i-noor and Bombay Emporium to serve Indian food. Initially, the proprietors of these restaurants and cafes were mainly former Indian sailors settled in British ports. Often, these pioneering souls were poor and desperate, and tried to make a living by selling spices or working as servants, sweepers, hawkers or even street musicians.

DSC_0874 (3)In today’s London, you’ll find a Taj Mahal, Kohinoor or Curry House at every street corner serving “authentic Indian food”. However, as I’ve said many times before, fortunately or unfortunately, there is no one “Indian Food”. The size of the country is equivalent to Europe. The geographical variation is beyond description. The vast coastline, the massive mountain ranges, the myriad rivers have all contributed to a complex and varied cuisine. Eating habits are also determined by religion, caste and creed. North Indian Muslims eat Mughal-influenced food, the Parsees have developed a mixed cuisine combining their Persian and Indian heritage, the Bengali Hindus have a completely different cuisine than the Gujarati Hindus, the Jains will not eat anything which grows under the soil – the list of differences is endless. So, where did the British concept of “Indian cuisine” come from? If you look at the restaurants, they are mainly owned by either Punjabis (both Indian and Pakistani) or Bangladeshis who may or may not have been cooks in their native countries. At some point in the past, early Indian restaurateurs in the UK figured out high-selling combinations of Indian spices based on real-time feedback from the British public eating at their establishments, and these basic curries then spread like wildfire as being “Indian cuisine”. No matter where the chefs are from, the menu will always have a saag gosth, vindaloo and the British national dish Chicken Tikka Masala (fondly called CTM). CTM was invented in Glasgow but the origin of this dish has multiple urban legends. Except for the chicken, it has no mandatory ingredients and lacks a firm grounding in either the United Kingdom or India. Sort of like my husband, who has no roots – a British citizen born to Bengali parents from Assam who has lived in the USA for a decade. If you google CTM, there are hundreds of recipes with few common ingredients and the end result might vary largely.

My take on CTM is a mix-and-match of different recipes. I went with my instinct and it turned out to be very tasty. It’s a little too creamy and rich for my everyday tastes but who eats CTM everyday anyway. So, before you order your next CTM from a carryout place (probably loaded with orange food coloring and MSG), give this recipe a try. The real CTM might change for you forever.

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Recipe:

Ingredients:

For the tikkas:

Boneless chicken breasts (skins removed and cut into bite-sized pieces): 2-3 nos.

Plain yogurt: 2-3 tbsp.

Ginger-garlic paste: 2 tbsp. (if you grind it fresh and separate, then add 11/2 tbsp. of ginger paste and one tsp. garlic paste.)

Garam masala: Any kind/type: 1 tsp. (If you have tandoori masala handy, you can use that too)

Red chili powder: 2 tsp.

Turmeric: ½ tsp.

Salt to taste

Skewers (If you use wooden skewers, soak them in water for several minutes and then use them)

For the gravy:

Tomato: 1 big plum, juicy or 2 small ones. Make sure the tomatoes are ripe and juicy. Or else use canned tomato.

Onion: One medium, chopped very fine.

Ginger garlic paste: 2-3 tbsp.

Turmeric: a little less than one tsp.

Cumin powder: 2 tsp.

Coriander powder: 2 tsp.

Red chili powder/cayenne pepper: 2-3 tsp. (you can add more if you want. The cream will neutralize the heat, so you might have to add a little more to get the balance)

Kashmiri chili powder/Paprika: 2 tsp.

Heavy cream: 1/3 cup (you can adjust it according to your preference)

A handful of fresh cilantro/coriander leaves (optional)

Oil: 2 tbsp.

Salt to taste

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  • Put all the ingredients in a bowl for the tikkas and mix them well. You can add a little bit of oil too. Put them in a zip lock bag and let the meat marinate for several hours in the fridge (overnight will bring out the best flavors).
  • Het up the oven to its highest temp. I put it on broil (you can use your microwave grill too).
  • Take out the meat and let it come to room temperature. Thread them on the skewers. Do not overcrowd them.
  • Grill them for 5-7 minutes on each side or until the meat is cooked. I like them a little charred on the outside.
  • While the meat is in the oven, heat up the oil in a heavy bottom pot.
  • Add the onions and sauté them for a while. You do not have to brown them.
  • Add the ginger garlic paste, turmeric powder, red chili powder, Kashmiri chili powder and sauté them for 2-3 minutes.
  • Chop the tomato and add it to the spice paste. Add the cumin and coriander powder as well.
  • Cook the tomato-spice paste really well. Oil will start leaving the spice paste after a while and you will know that the spice is ready.
  • Add the cooked meat, coat them with the spice very well and then add luke warm water just enough to cover the meat.
  • Add the salt.
  • Let the whole thing come to a boil and then bring the flame to medium.
  • Reduce the sauce to your liking. Taste the seasoning.
  • Add the heavy cream and boil for few more minutes.

I like to have a clingy gravy. Remember, the next day the meat will absorb a bit of the gravy and thicken the sauce even more. I like to eat mine the next day as the meat absorbs the flavor and tastes better. If you cannot wait for a whole day, make it a few hours before and let it sit for a while.

  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve it with either white rice or naan and a salad.

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