Monday, July 16, 2012

The Lull After Graduation

মুরগী আর টমাটো ভুনা

Chicken and Tomato Curry with Thick Gravy

Chicken curries are usually the easiest to cook

The title is a lie. 

Life is crazy right now, with having to sort out a new job and what not. I'm writing this post to see if it'll help me relax, in the same way cooking curry does. There's something about combining all the spices in a pot, blending and experimenting with ingredients to produce the perfect flavour, that melts all my stress away. Often enough you'd find me in the kitchen at 1 AM after an intense study session, defrosting chicken and pulling spices from the cupboard, wondering what vegetables I could cram into this dish to get out a balanced meal.

This recipe is something that I figured out quite early during my university days, because lets be honest, adding tomatoes to curry doesn't take much imagination! Mom does a version of it too, and I'm describing her version below as it's a little more sophisticated (and tastes better!) than mine. 

Note of caution though, turns out I didn't write down mom's suggested amounts for ingredients for this one, so what I've listed here are all approximate amounts. I'm running estimates off the frozen 500g of chicken breast I have in the freezer and how I'd cook it!

  • 3.0 medium tomatoes, halved
  • 1.0 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, each 2.0 cm long
  • 2.0 teaspoon of garlic paste
  • 1.0 teaspoon of ginger paste
  • 1.0 tablespoon of onion paste
  • 0.5 teaspoons of powdered turmeric
  • 1.0 teaspoon of powdered chilli, or more to taste
  • 0.5 teaspoons of powdered cumin
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • 500.0 g of chicken breast, diced

  • Boil the tomatoes till they are soft enough to be puréed, and set aside. This is done to stop the tomato from releasing acid into the dish while it is cooking, as this would make the chicken too soft.
  • Heat some on oil in a pot.
  • Turn the heat on high, and add the chopped onions and cinnamon sticks and fry the onions till golden. 
  • Add the garlic paste, ginger and onion paste one at a time, stirring to mix.
  • Add salt, powdered turmeric and chilli, and again stir to mix.
  • Add a quarter cup of boiling water and keep frying the spice mixture, stirring continuously to prevent it from burning. 
  • Add the powdered cumin and keep frying, adding more boiling if the mixture if it seems too dry. Continue cooking the mixture like this till the spices release a distinct cooked smell. In my experience, 12 minutes is enough for the amount of spices I list in this recipe.
  • Once the spices are cooked, add half the freshly ground black pepper, followed by the diced chicken breast and stir to mix. 
  • Let the dish cook for 1 min, then add the rest of the black pepper, again stirring to mix it in evenly. 
  • Turn the heat down to medium and leave the dish to cook uncovered.
  • Take previously boiled tomatoes and purée them. Leaving the texture rough is fine, so need to use a food processor. 
  • Add the puréed tomatoes to the dish and stir to mix them in. Leave the dish on the stove till the chicken is cooked through. This should take about 25 minutes for small pieces of chicken. Check for salt before removing from heat.
  • Serve with rice or flat breads like ruti. 

Top left, spice mixture when its cooked. Top right, adding the raw chicken.
Bottom left, adding the tomatoes. Bottom right, the dish just as the heat is turned off.

Additional Notes

Traditionally, curries are often cooked with potatoes, so feel free to add some diced potatoes while the chicken is cooking. When to add potatoes is difficult thing to say as it all depends on the type of potato used. I generally add my potatoes at the same time as I add my chicken, and you can always leave the dish to cook till the potatoes are done. 

Adding chopped peppers into the dish 10 to 15 minutes before taking it off the stove adds flavour, and gives it a nice colour. I don't like the peppers in my curries to be crunchy, hence the long cooking time! Finally, add a little yoghurt to the dish 5 minutes before taking it off the heat if you want to take the edge off the spices, or for a creamier taste. 

The curry with potatoes and peppers