Saturday, 20 February 2016

Homestyle Chicken Curry

Now, I know I've mentioned "homestyle" chicken curry in this blog before, but as far as I can tell, I've never actually blogged how to make this.

This is a curry I grew up with, not what you get in a restaurant, or takeaway. Every weekend we would go to one of a handful of "aunty's" and "uncle's" homes (most were not related, but from our community, and so we always remained close) and every family would bring a dish, and we would all share the meal.  The regular dishes were chicken curry, meat curry, kofta (meatball) curry, potato cauliflower or potato peas, and one or 2 daals.  I swear I could always tell which "Aunty" had cooked which dish, just from the smell and taste, but sometimes we would also recognise the casserole set belonging to so-and-so, and that gave it away! 
Everyone cooked the same dishes, but with slight variations. For example, one chicken curry would use cardamom, another would not, yet another would have onions chopped finely, one would have large petals of onion still visible, and so on with the minor variations which had obviously been passed down through the generations within each family. Each child instinctively knew the aroma of their own home cooked food, and gravitated towards that by preference, but I did always have my own feelings about each cook's best dishes.

So when I grew up and developed an interest in cooking these dishes, particularly when my own grandmother had died, and my mother might be abroad for a few months of winter, I had to ask people to explain to me how to cook these things. My beloved sister-in-law is a terrific cook, and she kindly and patiently explained to my westernised brain how to write down a method for some of the foods I loved, and one of my closest Aunties, though slightly mystified, very vaguely described her process for making a few other dishes.

This chicken curry is one which that Aunty actually explained to Godpapa one time I was pregnant and craving home food, but unable to stomach the smell of cooking anything for myself. I've tweaked it to match up more with the flavour my own mother and grandmother cooked, so I will include both variations.
This is nothing like anything you would find in a "curry house".  That's not a bad thing. Once you try this, you will be hooked.

Use skinless drums and thighs ideally, but skinless thigh fillets will do in a pinch. I tend to use a 900g/1kg packet.
Finely chop an onion and fry gently in a large pressure cooker or saucepan in a little oil.
Once it is light brown (be patient, this is important for flavour) add a teaspoon each of grated ginger and garlic. (Be brave and experiment with the quantities of these. I prefer slightly more garlic and slightly less ginger. Many supermarkets now sell frozen grated/pureed ginger and garlic in very convenient cubes, and even mixed ginger and garlic frozen cubes. This makes life much easier for an occasional cook.)  
Stir them through until the sharp raw scent has mellowed and then add the chicken pieces and fry, stirring, until they are browned in places.
Now add:
1tsp cumin powder
1tsp coriander powder
(1 cardamom pod, slightly cracked - Aunty's version)
(a generous grinding of black pepper - my grandmother's version)
a small dried red chilli. Whole if you want it mild, twisted and crushed if you want a good kick.
You can also add chilli powder to taste if you like at this point.

Fry off the spices but be careful not to let them burn.
Now add either 3-4 chopped fresh tomatoes (Aunty), or a can of chopped tomatoes (my family) and a small splash of water also, and salt to taste, maybe half to one teaspoon.

Now either pressure cook for 15 minutes, or cover and simmer for 40 minutes until tender. If it is too watery, remove the lid and simmer until the gravy is thicker.

Enjoy with pulao rice or chapatis. But that's two whole other blog posts right there!

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