Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Chicken Korma

Lately, I came to observe that the world's population can be split into 2 categories: coconut-lovers and coconut-haters. Neither side is right or wrong, but they both have very strong opinions. I am a coconut-lover, but I am also a food-lover; there are very few things I won't eat, or at least try. But I figured I'd warn coconut-haters: this curry is not for you. It's uber-coconuty, spicy, creamy and delicious.

It's also a classic mild curry, so you can try it even if heat scares you. This one builds up it's spices nice and slow. Just like butter chicken, Korma has become a very popular Indian dish that's enjoyed all over the world. As with most popular recipes, it means that "real" chicken Korma is described differently by everyone who has a favorite way of making it. Being a fan of the Patak's curry pastes, I use it here instead of making my own spice mix (yes, yes, I need to get around to trying to make my own curry pastes!), but adding extra coriander and tumeric will heighten the flavors and the beautiful sunny color!

1 3/4 pound chicken breast, cubed
1 cup plain yoghurt, preferably balkan-style
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium onions, finely sliced
1 fresh green chile, seeded and sliced
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, leaves picked
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Peanut oil
1 pat of butter
1/2 cup korma paste
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
2 tablespoons ground almonds
2 heaped teaspoons unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
Sea salt and ground pepper
1 lemon

Mix the yoghurt with the chopped ginger and garlic. Add the chicken to the yoghurt mixture and marinate for 3 hours, up to overnight. Put a large casserole-type pan on a medium-high heat and add a couple of lugs of oil. Add the onion, chile and chopped cilantro stalks to the pan, along with the butter. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions are golden. Add the curry paste, the chicken and the yoghurt marinade, the coconut milk, the chickpeas, the ground almonds and the shredded coconut (if using). Add a bit of water to just cover the meat, and give the mixture a good stir. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer for 30 minutes with the lid on. When the chicken is tender and cooked, taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with basmati rice, garnish with a few cilantro leaves and lemon wedges.

Dose the chili and ginger to taste; the coconut milk will keep everything nice and smooth, but the underlying spicy bite can be a bit stronger, if you swing that way. Ground almonds and shredded coconut are optional, but they give the sauce a nice body and a very interesting texture. As for the chickpeas, they make the curry a bit more bulky, and add a toothy bite to the tender, marinated chicken.

If there is no korma curry paste handy, you can use the following spices blend:

1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 pinch of ground white pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala

Simply add the spices when you would add the curry paste, and voila!

I love the blend of smooth coconut milk and the hint of heat from the chile and ginger: it's a very satisfying and complex flavor mix. For a vegetarian version, forget the yoghurt marinade: add the ginger and the garlic to the pan along with the onion and chile, and replace the chicken with 1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed and cut into bite-sized cubes. You can also go full-veg with a combination of the following:

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 head broccoli, cut into small florets
1 medium zucchini, cut on a bias in 1/4-inch slices
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut on a bias in 1/4-inch slices

All the delicious flavor and texture, 100% plant-based! Enjoy!

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