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Green Chili and Coconut Chicken Curry

Green Chili and Coconut Chicken Curry

Anjali Venugopal February 20, 2019 2 COMMENTS

First off, here is a confession. I have for some strange reason always used the formula of putting up a post when I have a recipe AND a story to back it up because that is the formula that seems to have worked for me the most. More often than not, I find myself with ready recipes (because I cook for a living now) but without a story I find worth telling. So, I always end up putting the post off for later. The end result being, the recipes remain forever pending because stories are not things that can be conjured in the blink of an eye; at least not for me. So, here’s me, deciding to take a step in another direction. I have no story to tell today, but what I do have is this recipe which I came up with last week and instantly fell in love with; a recipe that is going to be a staple in my kitchen; a recipe that had me licking my plate clean both the times I tested it.

This is a hearty chicken curry with some strong North Kerala undertones. The main players in this recipe are coconut, ginger, garlic and green chilies and it may nudge your fancy to know that there is absolutely no red chili powder used in this dish. So, here you go.

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Things you will need:

  • Chicken- 500 grams (preferably on the bone. But if you must get the boneless variety, get chicken thighs)
  • Grated coconut/ full fat desiccated coconut- 3 tablespoons/ quarter cup
  • Onions- 2 medium sized, chopped finely
  • Tomatoes- 2 small, chopped
  • Green cardamom- 3 pods
  • Turmeric powder- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Coriander powder- 3 heaped tablespoons
  • Ginger- 1 inch stick
  • Garlic- 8-10 large pods
  • Green chilies- 6-7
  • Coconut milk (thick)- 200 ml
  • Cooking oil (I prefer coconut oil)
  • Salt
  • Curry leaves- 2 sprigs
  • Water- half cup

 

How to go about it:

  1. First, grind the ginger, garlic and green chilies to make a coarse paste. Keep it aside. Next, grind the grated coconut with two tablespoons of water (more if using the desiccated variety) and grind very well into a smooth paste. Keep that aside.
  2. Next, heat (medium heat) two tablespoons of cooking oil in a heavy bottomed wok. Add the cardamom pods and fry for for a minute. Add the chopped onions and saute till they turn nice and brown. Make sure you stay patient and get the onions brown as this is crucial for this recipe. Adding salt to the onions while you saute them helps in getting them to brown faster.
  3. Once the onions are brown, add the ginger, garlic and green chili paste. Saute for a minute. Next, add the chopped tomatoes, mix well and keep the wok closed for a minute or until the tomatoes soften. Once soft, saute the mixture well for another two to three minutes. Next, add the turmeric and coriander powders and mix well and keep stirring until the oil starts to leave the sides of the mixture.
  4. At this point, add the coconut paste and keep mixing for another minute. Add the chicken pieces and curry leaves. Mix well and keep frying the chicken till it loses the pink and starts to seal in the masala.
  5. Add half a cup of water, mix well and keep wok closed for another four to five minutes. Next, add the thick coconut milk, mix well, and let the curry simmer on low heat (with the wok closed) till the chicken is cooked and the meat begins to fall off the bone. Stir once in a while to make sure the curry doesn’t stick to the bottom of the wok.
  6. Once the curry achieves a nice, thick consistency, adjust the salt, turn off the heat, garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot. Goes amazingly well with rice, appams, idiyappams and chapatis.
  7. Dig in!
Kerala Chicken Stew

Kerala Chicken Stew

Anjali Venugopal January 11, 2018 1 COMMENTS

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A bleak Thursday in January. Since my duties as an attorney demand my presence in office only for the first three days of the week, here I am sitting within the confines of my cozy apartment in Vienna, nursing what probably is a holiday hangover from the fleeting three weeks I spent in my hometown, Trivandrum. As exciting as sitting at home on a weekday sounds, the grey undertones that seem to have overpowered this magical city during the day, make me somewhat uneasy and inexplicably nostalgic. Maybe it is the silence? With just the little ticking clock that I bought cheaply off the internet to keep me company at home, I feel strangely forlorn. Maybe I just miss the sun?

Our customary yearly visit to the hometown this time sure saw a great deal of sun, sand and sea. However, the older I get, the more I realize that the visits you make to your home are not to unwind or to relax or to put your feet up. They are for you to wear the many other hats you are obliged to wear in life. The many hats that have been sitting in the back corner of your closet, gathering dust for the rest of the year. The hats bearing labels such as daughter, sister, grand daughter, daughter in law, grand daughter in law, best friend, the list does not seem to end.

The yearly visit is the one time I get to be there, physically, for the family; to do seemingly silly bank work for my grandma, to run to the optician to get my granddad’s glasses fixed; to take my sister shopping, to get driven up the wall and back with her treading (foolishly, I believe) on treacherous adolescent territory and to give her boundless advice on everything under the sun; to spend hours on the couch with Amma listening to tales from her school, her daily battles, the local gossip. I refuse to take for granted the way my Amma’s eyes light up when she drives back home from work to see me at the door waiting to scan her purse for goodies. I refuse to take for granted how the menu for the day gets fixed depending on what I want to eat, how my mum and I talk into the wee hours of the dawn reminiscing of the good old days when dad was around and duly taken for granted; when life just seemed too perfect to be true.

I admit life did turn out to be very different from what we had all predicted or planned for. But in all honesty, in spite of all the bouncers life continues to throw at us even today on a daily basis, somehow there always seems to be so much around us at all times that warrants a heartfelt thank you to the Universe. As we stand at  (pretty much) the dawn of 2018, all I want to be this year is grateful. I don’t believe we focus on the good half as much as we focus on the bad and how we just refuse to see the beauty of our blessings, until the moment they are taken away. A few years ago, who would have thought I would be living in such a beautiful city in Europe, married to the love of my life, doing what I truly love. Not me for sure. I would have expected my life to be confined with fortresses built of fat, black folders piled up on my desk while I burned the midnight oil in some law firm in Mumbai. I just realize I would be an insolent fool to turn a blind eye to everything I have; how important I am in many lives; how fortunate I am to be missed when I am away; how absolutely special I must be because I mean the world to a few but twinkling specks on the globe.

On that note, since my heart is till partly living in Kerala, under the coconut trees by the water, swaying in the cool breeze, here is a recipe that is probably a strong contender for the flag bearer status of Kerala cuisine. The Chicken Stew or the Kozhi Ishtu as we affectionately call it. This dish is exactly what I believe comfort to look like in a bowl.

Things you will need:

  • Chicken- 500gms (on the bone, cut into medium sized pieces)
  • Potatoes- 2 medium, cubed
  • Carrots- 2 medium, diced
  • Onions- 1 large thinly sliced
  • Ginger- 1 inch stick chopped finely
  • Green chilies- 2 slit
  • Thick Coconut milk- 2 cups
  • Cashew- 5-6 soaked in two tbsp. water and ground to a smooth paste.
  • Cardamom- 6 pods
  • Cloves- 5
  • Whole Pepper- – ½ tbsp.
  • Cinnamon- 1 small stick
  • Curry leaves
  • Water
  • Cooking oil (I used coconut oil)

How to go about it:

  1. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a wok. Add the whole spices (cardamom, cinnamon, whole pepper, cloves) to the oil and sauté for a minute or until fragrant. Add three quarters of the sliced onions and sauté until soft and translucent. You do not need to get the onions to brown for this recipe (Hallelujah, right?!)
  2. Add the ginger and green chilies and sauté for another minute or two. Add one cup of the coconut milk and half cup of water to the wok. Add the chicken pieces and sufficient salt. Stir well once and keep the wok closed (on low heat) until the chicken is half done.
  3. Once the chicken is half done, add the potatoes and the carrots. Stir well and let the chicken and veggies cook well.
  4. Once this is done, add the remaining one cup of thick coconut milk and cashew paste to the gravy. Let the gravy boil on medium-high heat for about five minutes or until the gravy achieves a beautiful, thick consistency.
  5. Caramelize the rest of the onions in ghee or oil. Garnish the stew with curry leaves and the caramelized onions.
  6. Serve hot with appams, idiyappams or bread 🙂

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Kerala Style Egg Roast or Tamizhan Muttai Thokku

Kerala Style Egg Roast or Tamizhan Muttai Thokku

Anjali Venugopal July 15, 2017 NO COMMENTS

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Since I had decided to spend a quiet Saturday at home, I was just going about making my breakfast, listening to some Bollywood numbers from the early 2000s, singing along with the lovely Sunidhi Chauhan as she breathed out “bhaage re mann kahi..” in her husky, soulful voice. Before I realized, I found myself reminiscing about the umpteen bus journeys I have been on, in those “volvo buses” as we prefer to call all the enormous multi axel buses (irrespective of their actual manufacturer) we resort to, especially for overnight, inter-state travel.

As odd as it may sound to a lot of you, I have always been a fan of overnight travel in these semi sleeper buses. I have lost count of the number of times I have sat through the night, by the window, watching the silhouettes of the trees lining the highway in the dark; the lone house far away with an oil lamp flickering on the verandah; fleeting glimpses of men in groups of 3 and 4 walking back home, maybe after a glass or two of local country liquor (assumptions, assumptions). It was on these journeys that I undertook, most of the time on my own, that I got a lot of my thoughts in order. There was always something soothing, something comforting in sitting by those glass windows of the bus spending sleepless nights, watching the short-lived sights on the highway glistening in the moonlight; something that nudged the child in me while I spent hours racing with the moon; something that whispered to me to stay patient and that the choppiness of sea had to end at some point and that calm would inevitably prevail.

I remember vividly how travelling overnight on one of these buses was my escape route every time I felt the need for some solitude to get the calm restored. Those were the days when I quite literally loved the journey much more than the destination. I would invariably have a list of things to sort out in my head, that would take hours of arguing with myself, beating myself up, shedding a few tears and in the end pacifying myself right before feeling rejuvenated to take on the world and all it had to throw at me, all over again. By sunrise, when the skies turned a lovely hue of violet and blue, before turning into that lovely shade of pink I would without fail have had the rosiness in life restored.

Having said that, there is one other thing I have always looked forward to especially on my journeys from Trivandrum to Bangalore. The food. Amma has always (every single time) packed a yummy dinner for me every time I was travelling from home. More often than not, it would be a couple of soft chappatis and a spicy beef roast. I would be thinking about the tight package in aluminium foil, even before I got on to the bus. And I shall shamelessly admit to you at this point, that I would gobble it up as soon as the driver turned on the engine, which means I would be starving by the time 8PM (which is dinner time for normal souls) came a knocking.

I seldom had reason to fret because the bus would take a halt for dinner and on the Trivandrum Bangalore route, it was almost always at Haripad, the little township in Alapuzha district, home to great, authentic Kerala cuisine. As soon as the bus would stop at a little run down shack on the wayside, I would be the first to fly out of the door, quite contrary to the demeanour that is expected out of a young lady travelling alone in my part of the world. I would just not give two hoots to the looks and the stares that have been meted out to me for daring to look like anything but a docile house cat because only the women who travelling with their husbands or fathers or brothers were expected to step out of the bus as late as..wait for it..8pm.

I would find for myself a cozy nook in the shack and call for a plate of hot, soft, lacy, appams along with a plate of steaming hot, spicy egg roast or chicken curry. I don’t think I have it in me to put into words the emotion that every bite of those super soft appams dunked liberally in the hot gravy engulfed me in. You have to experience the raw culinary skill hidden in these run down shacks to believe it. Nothing I write will do justice to the love that is served as food in these little joints.

Today I share with you the recipe to the Kerala Egg Roast which is almost as the same as the Tamizhan Muttai Thokku. It is a hearty, semi gravy dish with spells out comfort for all the days you are feeling meh. Super easy and totally worth the negligible amount of effort it takes.

Things you will need:

  1. Eggs- Hard boiled and halved- 4
  2. Onions- 2 medium sized, chopped finely
  3. Garlic- 2 big pods minced
  4. Tomatoes- 1 large, chopped finely
  5. Turmeric powder- ½ tsp
  6. Chilli powder- 2 ½ tsp (I use the normal chilli powder, but feel free to use Kashmiri chili in case you are not up for some heat)
  7. Coriander powder- 2 tsp
  8. Garam masala powder- ½ tsp (available in all indian stores)
  9. Cumin seeds- ¼ tsp
  10. Black Mustard seed- ½ tsp
  11. Dried red chillies- (the large ones that is used for tempering) 2 or 3
  12. Curry leaves- 1 sprig

 

How to go about it

  1. In a wok, heat some oil on medium heat. Splutter the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, dried chillies and curry leaves. Sauté the chopped onions and sufficient salt till they turn soft and a nice golden brown. Should take about 7 minutes. Please feel free to keep sautéing because well cooked onions is what gives this recipe the flavour.
  2. Add the minced garlic, sauté for about 2 minutes, until the raw smell is lost. Add the tomatoes, mix well and keep the wok closed for about 2 minutes. After that, open the wok and keep sautéing till the tomatoes are mashed well and the onion tomato mixture start to look homogenous.
  3. Add the masala powders to this and keep sautéing till the oil starts to leave the sides of the gravy. Add some more oil if the mixture starts to look too dry. Sauté for about 5 full minutes.
  4. Add half a glass of water to this, mix well. Add the boiled and halved eggs to the gravy. Make sure you don’t stir excessively and mash the eggs up. Be easy on the eggs, coat them with the thick gravy, close the wok and let it simmer for about 4 minutes.
  5. Open the wok, if the gravy looks nice and thick, your Kerala style egg roast is ready to be served with chappatis, appams or idiyappams. Dig in 🙂