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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Korma Chameleon

I've been trying to perfect a recipe derived from one for Korma Curry from The Home Book of Indian Cookery by Sipra Das Gupta. I realize that this probably sounds counterintuitive to most people, since a recipe is supposed to be a fairly reliable blueprint for making a great, if not perfect, meal. I like to experiment, so for me, a recipe is more of a template, making the results to be less predictable than most people would prefer. leaving you open to either a delightful Happy Accident or a quick bail out from the local fast food restaurant.

I've had this book for at least ten years, ever since I found it and several others at Shalimar of India in Cambridge, MA. - a favorite place of mine that has great take out & is fun to go to just to explore the sundries available -and I use the book mainly as a reference guide. I tried making Korma with Chicken and Cashews twice in the past week with mixed results, but for your sake I'll post the version of the recipe that worked best.

Here is the original recipe:

Korma Curry

2 lb. leg of lamb
4 onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons ghee
4 tablespoons oil
5 tablespoons yogurt
1/2 cup peas
2 small turnips
1 1/2 cups water

I made many changes and substitutions here. Remember - to me it is just a template to draw from. First, while the recipe called for two pounds of lamb, I substituted chicken, and used only 1/2 to 1 pound of it. You could easily substitute that with vegetables, Second, no turnips. Never been very big on turnips and this was no place to begin trying. I also didn't use peas, not because I don't like them, we just didn't have any on hand. Third, since I don't keep ghee around for cooking, I used butter. It just so happens that we got a pound of Irish butter over the holidays, so I used that. The other substitutions are listed in the recipe. I scaled back the amounts to make up a half portion or smaller & ended up with this:

Korma Chicken with Cashews

1 lb. chicken (I used thighs)
1/2 cup cashews, toasted & chopped
1 - 2 onions, chopped
1 teaspoon powdered ginger (use fresh grated if you have it)
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 - 3 teaspoons Tandoori Spice Blend
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon fenugreek powder
2 teaspoons sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup water
a pinch of aleppo pepper
salt and pepper to taste

I mixed the ingredients and put it in a small Pyrex baking dish with the chicken on top, covered it with foil and baked it, starting on 400 for about 10 minutes and then turning it down to between 250 to 350 while I prepared side dishes, which in this case were rice and spinach. You don't want to leave it on a high temperature for too long - only to get it hot and raise the internal temperature of the meat. Likewise, once it has heated up, you want to cook it at a standard temperature for 15 to 20 minutes, ensuring that it has cooked thoroughly and isn't too pink or under cooked inside. Baking will allow you to do something else in the meantime. Once the meat has cooked, it should be tender enough to cut with a fork.

At the risk of possibly repeating myself, here is a very simple recipe for rice that I like to use:

1 cup of jasmine rice
1 can of vegetable stock or chicken broth
1/4 to 2 cups of water
1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil
a pinch of salt

Stock/ broth cans often come in anywhere between 14 to 15 oz sizes, just shy of the two cup measure of liquid that is standard for most rice recipes. Who knows why. It's another mystery that ranks up with the 12 to a pack hot dogs vs the 8 to a pack hot dog buns, or why there is always a portion of three pieces of sushi among an array of sets of two, four or six.

Follow the usual procedure of bringing the liquid to a boil, adding the rice, stir, lower the heat to medium low and cover, cooking until the liquid has evaporated and you have - rice!

You can add other stuff such as chopped onions, diced garlic or sliced mushrooms. Go crazy - it's your dinner, after all!

For the spinach, I usually just steam it until it has just begun to wilt.

Bon App├ętit!

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