I love, no I adore Indian food! There is something luscious and indulging about the richness of spices, when you dip a piece of naan into a sauce, and slowly bring it to your mouth with anticipation, when you savour a forkful of rice, a morsel of tandori-cooked meat, or a juicy vegetable. Indian food often surprises, and always satisfies. You can imagine how happy I was yesterday when I came across a fantastic recipe for Pepper Chicken Curry on the blogosphere, and even happier when I tried it and it turned out divine! For this, I have to thank two great Indian ladies: Sailu and Mallika! You can find the original recipe on their blogs. Sailu, whose recipe this originally is, gives clear and detailed step-by-step instructions on how to do it, but Mallika clarifies a few points, for me at least, such as to which point to cook the onions.
I halved the recipe because I was cooking for two people. Also, I had to improvise a little, because I didn’t have any green chillies, ginger and garlic paste or tomatoes. Instead, I used ½ tin chopped tomatoes, fresh garlic and fresh ginger and 2 dried birds eye chillies that made it lovely and spicy, just the way I like it! Also, I presumed that ‘freshly ground fennel seeds’ meant that I should toast them first, as it is commonly done, and then grind them using pestle and mortar. In my case, that was a cup and a bottle of vanilla essence, because, unfortunately, I don’t have a pestle and mortar. Yet. There is a little twinkle of kitchen madness in my eyes now, fuelled by dreams of a pretty pestle and mortar… Sigh. I shall have to get one soon!
MY ‘PESTLE’ AND ‘MORTAR’
Anyhow, even with the changes I made to the original recipe, the curry turned out absolutely delicious! Here is the recipe below, as I made it:
Pepper Chicken Curry
PREPARATION AND COOKING TIME: 45 min
CUISINE: South Indian
1/2 kg chicken thighs and drumsticks1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 cm fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 bird’s eye chillies, crushed
½ tin chopped tomatoes
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tbsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp ground fennel seeds, toasted and then ground
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
Fresh coriander to garnish
2 tbsp sunflower oil
Salt to taste
1. Toast ½ tsp of fennel seeds in a pan with high sides (so the fennel seeds don’t jump out easily when you toss them). When they change colour slightly and when you can smell their aroma, take them out of the pan and leave to cool a little. Then, grind them using pestle and mortar, or improvise, like I did (see above).
BEAUTIFUL TOASTED FENNEL SEEDS
2. Fry the onions until translucent, and add chopped ginger and dried chillies half way through. My mum always told me that adding a little salt to the onions stops them from sticking to the pan, and this is what I normally do.
3. When the onions start getting translucent, add crushed garlic.
4. When the mixture starts going brown, add the chicken pieces and fry on a high heat for five minutes. Don’t worry, the onions won’t burn. Instead, they will start falling apart to create a lovely thick sauce.
5. Add all the spices, apart from the garam masala. Fry for five minutes on medium heat and then add the chopped tomatoes. Cook uncovered and stir from time to time for 4 – 5 min, or until the chicken is cooked and till the oil separates. If you the chicken starts sticking to the bottom of the pan, add a little water.
6. Then, let the chicken cook for further 4 – 5 min, covered. Add a little water, according to how thick you like your gravy.
7. Finally add the garam masala, and stir well. Just before serving, garnish with fresh coriander leaves. Serve hot with white steamed rice or naan.
This curry was delicious! The fennel gave it a lovely flavour and combined with other spices perfectly, without being to overpowering. It was very easy to make, and it used loads of store cupboard ingredients. I will definitely make it again, and I recommend it wholeheartedly!