Recipe: Chicken with Red Chilies
K.M. and I tend to make the same few Indian favorites, over and over again. Chicken Rolls, Chicken with Almonds and Sultanas, and Shrimp in a Dark Sauce, (both from Madhur Jaffery’s Indian Cooking), and Alu Kabli. They are all spectacular dishes – but how did we end up reducing the cooking of one of the worlds’ most vibrant and interesting countries down to four dishes?
It’s not like K.M. grew up eating just these four dishes. Not one of them is even a Bengali recipe. So one of my goals for the New Year is to break out of the rut – use the cookbooks I have and look for some new ideas. I went to a food photography workshop back in November and was lucky enough to meet Sala – the talent behind the blog Veggie Belly. I was blown away by her photos and her Indian recipes – and I’m excited to start cooking from her blog.
I’ve also got a new book – of course: Vij’s At Home. Like everyone else on the planet, I’ve heard of the famed restaurant in Vancouver, but somehow I never got hold of a copy of the first Vij’s book. So far, though, the second one is enough to keep me busy for a while; in fact, I plan to make all 35 of the recipes featured in the vegetarian chapter over the course of the next year.
I’ve got a headstart – over the last few months we’ve dined on eggplant and paneer pate with green beans, potatoes and spinach in coconut curry. And I finally managed to make decent dal.
But one recent Indian meal was a real showstopper. Oven-Baked Spicy Brussels Sprouts Crumble And Sour Cream Curry, from the Vij’s book, paired with a new recipe of my own – Chicken with Red Chilies.
It’s a bit of a stretch to call this a new recipe. In college, as soon as we got access to housing with kitchens, K.M. and his girlfriend used to make a dish we all called Kashmiri Lamb, for eager crowds – for some, including myself, it was our introduction to Indian food. K.M. and Lisa always served it with rice, and homemade pooris (deep fried puffy flat breads). I was hooked on Indian food for life. Long before I knew I’d be hooked on that particular Indian for life as well.
The recipe for the lamb dish came from Madhur Jaffery’s A Taste of India; how we came to call it Kashmiri lamb I’ll never know, since Jaffery named it Lamb Cooked In The Kolhapuri Style; the dish is from Maharashtra, not Kashmir. But it was keeper, and one I continued to make through my early twenties.
It’s taken me more than 10 years to realize that I could adapt the recipe and make it with chicken. And I know it’s one that’s going right back onto the list of Indian standbys. Clearly, I’m going to have to work a little harder in the months ahead to make an actual break from my own traditions.