Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pepper N Spice N All Things Nice

That's what this girl's made of! Ahan! Yea! Wooo!

Err ... sorry about that. Got carried away. I'm in the middle of reading "Fool On The Hill" by Matt Ruff, and the story revolves around Cornell University and the characters who frequent it. It's a pretty good read, and since I tend to get very involved in my books, I feel as if I've already attended tons of frat parties and consumed copius amounts of alcohol. So I feel a wee bit of a fake buzz, plus it's late in the night as I'm writing this (hey, anything past 10pm is late for me these days, ok?!).

Reading this book reminds me of my own time in college. In particular, I remember the college food that was the daily feature of my life. Oh how far I've come! To think there was a time, years actually, when a slice of greasy cheese pizza, folded between the sides of a flimsy paper plate, and a can of Mountain Dew were my most frequent lunch options. No, wait, sometimes mushrooms made an appearance on the aforementioned pizza. Mushrooms are good for you, right? Huh, I guess those weren't the 'shrooms my friends were talking about .... *lost in thought* .. oh! Right ... where was I? College food - got it! Ahem, so apart from good 'ol pizza, sometimes I would treat myself to a calzone. And it would honestly feel like a treat - something special and crave-worthy. Then there were the really wonderful times when I had a few extra bucks left over at the end of the week, which I would happily plunk down on the counter of the ubiquitous Tim Horton's. I do still love my Timmy's! My fellow Canadians will know what I'm talking about. It was a day of celebration for all us friends when they first came out with their creamy iced cappucino. To this day, I get a nostalgic pang in my heart whenever someone mentions it (or is that my blocked artery?).

My most favorite spices in the world!

Back then I would never have enjoyed the complex flavors of my South Indian Pepper Chicken. Too fancy-schmancy for my then-retarded tastebuds. Now though, the blend of spices used in this dish makes me swoon! It's the kind of dish where you'll definitely be licking the plate at the end of the meal. So no, not exactly a 'first date' dish - more like 'third date'.

South Indian Pepper Chicken (I give all credit to my favorite Indian chef, Suvir Saran and his excellent cookbook "Indian Home Cooking". Did make a few adjustments though.)
Serves 4-6

1 whole chicken, cut into small pieces
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Marinate the chicken with the above ingredients for about 30 mins - 1 hour.

14 fresh curry leaves (kadi patha)
2 tsp black mustard seeds (rai)
1 tsp cumin seeds (zeera)
1 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi dana)
1 tsp black peppercorns
6 whole cloves
3 green cardamom, whole

Roast the above ingredients in a non-stick pan over medium heat, for about 2-3 mins. Keep swirling the spices around so that they don't burn. We just want them to release their oils.
Let these spices cool down a bit, then grind them up together. Set aside.

Stick your nose in that and take a good long whiff!

3 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 whole dried red chillies
4 green cardamom, whole
1-2 hot green chillies, chopped
12 fresh curry leaves, torn
2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
1 13.5oz can thick coconut milk

1. Combine oil, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, dried red chillies and green cardamom over medium-high heat till then seeds begin to pop and darken.
2. Add the chopped green chillies and the curry leaves. (step back - this will splatter!)
3. Add the fragrant ground spice mix and quickly stir it about for 30 secs.
4. To this, add the shredded coconut and stir it as well for another 30 secs.
5. Saute the marinated chicken pieces in this mixture for 5 mins, making sure they're all well coated with the spice mixture.
6. Add the entire can of coconut milk now, with a 1/2 tsp of salt. Bring to a boil, then let it simmer for 25 mins, till the chicken is done and tender. This dish goes really well with rice or roti.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful spices!

Anonymous said...

Your blend of spices looks really good. I would have never thought of roasting them first to release the oils - will keep that in mind for next time.

Ooooooh and yes, I love Timmy's too! I'm attending school in the States and really miss the "Timmy's runs" my friends and I would go on during late study nights.

Muneeba said...

Glad I could pass along the tip, Toxobread. And yayyyyy, I found a fellow Timmy's fan!

Thks to you as well, 5 Star Foodie!

Anonymous said...

Whoa! We can smell it now. And it smells good!

Sweta (My Indian Dietitian) said...

Mmmmm-I love chicken,but started cooking it only recently.I'm always on the lookout for easy recipes.The pepper chicken looks good,reminds me of my mom's dishes-I come from the coastal belt,and coconut milk is a must in all our dishes!Thank God for canned coconut milk-will try it out!!

Mary said...

I've had this bookmarked forever, but finally got around to making it. The sauce looked a lot browner than yours, but VERY tasty!