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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Who has a great Butter Chicken Recipe?

I love a good curry, but I can't cook one to save myself. I'm not talking about whipping up a bit of beef with curry powder and tomato soup and raisins, either; I mean something that might be thought to resemble a genuine dish of Subcontinental persuasion.

Of course, we run into a problem. Just like Chinese food, which any self-respecting Chinese person will tell you cannot be bought at any New Zealand fast food outlet that claims to be selling Chinese meals, the Indian food we can buy here sits somewhere between the genuine article and the sweetened, watered down versions dished up by such institutions as the Tulsi chain of restaurants.

And here I must make a confession. I think that I prefer the Kiwi imitations of Indian cuisine. Tulsi actually make a pretty nice curry, as far as I'm concerned. Supermarkets sell various brands of pre-prepared curry dishes, whose genuineness-to-flavour ratios are also suitably skewed, but you know how I feel about pre-packaged sauces. Some of the poorest people in the world can whip up delicious curry meals out of hardly anything, so why should we have to pay exorbitant prices for the branded stuff? Cooking from scratch, that's the thing.

I'll mention here, of course, that I'm sure those poor folk don't have access to as much meat, or as much dairy, or even the yoghurt and tomato paste and coconut cream that we have the luxury of picking up at the store, and for that I am a) greatly appreciative, and b) even more admiring of how fantastically they must be able to cook.

Please, noone raise the fact that Indians by and large eat very little meat, and that in comparison, the menu items offered in your average New Zealand Indian restaurant do not by any means reflect this. That's a whole can of worms I'd rather not open.

So we've established that what we call Indian food here is not what an Indian family would call dinner; in fact it might be what they would call junk food, and laugh at us, in the same way that we would laugh at someone who deepfried a kumera and called it a hangi. Nonetheless, it's a curry of this calibre that I would like to be able to cook up at home: something fragrant and sweet but not too spicy, because some of us here (though not I) have delicate palates. And besides, I like to taste the complexity of a dish as full of different tastes and textures as a curry, and too much heat can actually be counter-productive to the enjoyment of the meal. IMHO.

I'm currently looking at trying this one by Mallika (Image Copyright Quick Indian Cooking 2007), which strikes me as awfully authentic and might be a whole lot more curry than we're hoping for;

And this one, which is at the other end of the scale, coming from a TVNZ breakfast show, and is probably as tame as a tortoise in a torpor;

And finally this one, for the slow cooker, by the crazy woman who used her crockpot every single day of last year. (Image Copyright A Year Of Crockpotting 2008)

Can anyone recommend any more good curry recipes, be they Butter Chicken (our favourite), Tikka Masala, Korma, Rogan Josh, etc? Since I've just very recently discovered Jasmine rice, which goes beautifully with curry, I intend to make more curries this year, particularly when the days get shorter and the nights colder.

So please post your favourite curry recipes in the comments, either as a comment or as a link, and I'll get back to you when I've tried it out.



Crockpot Lady said...

crazy?! well, I guess a little...

:-) -steph

Dan said...

Crazy in the nicest possible way, of course.


I'll bet you were glad when day 365 rolled around!

Le laquet said...

I work in Gravesend, there's a huge Sikh population and I have learnt to cook curries from the girls I work with.

Try this recipe for tarka dal -

250g/9oz chana dal (yellow dried split peas), rinsed until the water runs clear
1 litre/1¾ pints water
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 small onion, chopped
3-4 whole green chillies, pricked with a knife
2cm/¾in piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
3 large tomatoes
¾ tsp ground turmeric
¾ tsp garam masala
1½ tsp ground coriander
salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful chopped fresh coriander leaves

1. Place the lentils and 900ml/1¾ pints of the water into a pan, stir well and bring to the boil. Skim off any froth that forms on the surface of the water with a spoon. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer, stirring regularly, for 35-40 minutes, or until the lentils are just tender, adding more water as necessary.
2. When the lentils have cooked through, remove the pan from the heat and use a whisk to break down the lentils. Set the mixture aside to thicken and cool.
3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and fry for 20-30 seconds, or until fragrant.
4. Add the onion, chillies and ginger and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until golden-brown.
5. Blend the garlic and tomatoes to a purée in a food processor. Add the purée to the pan and stir well to combine.
6. Add the ground spices and 100ml/3½fl oz of water to the pan and stir well to combine. Season, to taste, with salt and simmer over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until the oil from the sauce has risen to the surface of the sauce.
7. Add the cooked lentils to the sauce and stir well, adding more water as necessary to loosen the mixture. Bring the mixture to the boil and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the chopped coriander just before serving.

And this flickr photo set for keema gajar which contains a recipe.

Mallika said...

Hey, so sorry for this late reply but it looks like I have an overzealous spam filter!! My recipe isn't very hot at all. Butter chicken should be creamy and gentle on the palate. Enjoy!