Getting a curry right is a major achievement. Not because it’s difficult, but simply because of the enormous pleasure that goes into the making and eating of this glorious dish.
Getting a curry right is a major achievement. Not because it’s difficult, but simply because of the enormous pleasure that goes into the making and eating of this glorious dish. KZN curries, while having their historic origins on the Indian subcontinent, have over time evolved into dedicated local variants. Spices grown here taste marginally different from those in India – no surprise given the different climates – while the taste combinations reflect the diversity of this great country. This curry brings a variety of colours, ingredients and textures into play.
To make this beginners’ curry for 4, you will need:
8 chicken thighs
Sunflower or canola oil
8 cloves garlic
100mm fresh root ginger
4 firm tomatoes
White, brown or basmati rice
4 sprigs of curry leaves
Fresh dhania (coriander) leaves for the garnish
Salt, pepper to taste
1 to 4 big green chillies
2 tablespoons of Spice Emporium’s Homemade Pickle Masala
First, let’s address the spices. I usually suggest that you make your own masala, but in this case, the store-bought variety is just fine for beginners, who will use their insight to develop taste combinations of their own.
Making a curry with pickle masala is highly revolutionary, since pickle masala was invented for condiments such as mango atchar. But believe me, the taste is outstanding in a curry like this. Which brings us to the green chillies – chillies are addictive, possibly because of the endorphins they trigger. While a very nice experience, add chillies to a dish with a moderate hand!
Their consumption is very personal – some people can’t handle chillies at all while others, like me, have an asbestos mouth and a relentless love of chilli endorphins. So remember to take your fellow diners into account when adding the hot stuff. Removing the pips lowers the heat but take great care not to touch your eyes, lips or nose after working with chillies.
The next step is to put the peeled garlic, whole peeled ginger and quartered onions into a food processor. If you’re using the one to four large green chillies suggested on the ingredient list, add them too, either whole or de-pipped. Rev the machine until the contents are reduced to one step away from pulp.
Select a heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour in sufficient sunflower or canola oil to thinly cover the bottom and warm to medium heat. Spoon in the ingredients from the food processor and stir-fry for three to five minutes. Don’t let this stick or burn. Add a little more oil if the mix gets too dry.
Now add the chicken thighs. Some cooks prefer to discard the skin, but this cook leaves it on. Turn the thighs in the mixture so as to coat them all over. Cut the tomatoes in half and with your bare, but clean, hands crush them over the pot. This disperses the juice and creates irregularly shaped chunks of tomato flesh, which is good.
Add one or two cups of water, plus two sprigs of curry leaves and bring the pot up the boil, then simmer for 45 minutes. Serve with the rice of your choice. Basmati rice is aromatic and filled with flavour, while brown rice is the choice of health fanatics. Beer fanatics should chase this marvellous meal with one or two ultra-chilled Pilsensers. – David Basckin |fw