Okay, boys and girls, I know it's been a long time since I talked about what I cooked, but all I've been doing are pasta dishes and you don't really want to know that.
But lately, I've been toying with ideas for curries again. As a curry lover, this dish has become a preoccupation every time I have the urge for something spicy. Then a friend introduced me to a YouTube chef from India, Mr Sanjay Thumma, a.k.a. the VahChef of VahRehVah.com
Vah! This man has an online empire - Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and even apps on Google Play and the Apple App Store. He films in English, Telugu and Hindi, and his wife is also involved. Okay, the grammar could use some work, but that's no impediment to his reach, apparently.
More importantly, he's changed the way I do curries by taking away some of the doubts I have about spices, certain herbs and turmeric. The latest curry thing I made is not what I'm talking about now but more on that later.
What I'm talking about is boneless chicken curry pasta.
(So sorry, boys and girls, for inflicting carbs on you again.)
First, take a pair of chicken chops - deboned drumsticks, really - and marinate with about two tablespoons of yoghurt, some curry powder and salt.
I'm nervous when buying raw meat because I worry about getting it home before it starts going bad. Back home, however, I had fun working the marinade into the chicken, sneaking some under the skin and giving it a nice rub.
Satisfied, I let the chicken sit in the marinade in a plate, which I cover with cling film and allow to marinate overnight in the fridge. Usually this means seven to eight hours, but I ended up leaving it for up to twelve. I wasn't worried, as I was the only one eating it. The drumsticks can't complain; people do pay for yoghurt rub-downs.
Meanwhile, I get the mise en place - the palette of prepared ingredients - ready. Chopped onions, curry powder, cooked pasta, chopped tamat- sorry, tomatoes ... the usual. A video featuring Gordon Ramsay teaching five basic cooking skills had me chopping onions joyously - now as therapeutic for me as mincing garlic.
From Chef Sanjay, ginger-garlic paste. Grate three good-sized cloves of garlic and a thumb-sized piece of ginger and mix into a paste; you should get about a heaped tablespoon's worth. I think the proper way is to grind the ginger and garlic, both peeled, in a pestle and mortar.
Boys and girls, prepping a mise en place is tough, especially for curries.
Against certain wisdom, I cut the marinated chicken into smaller pieces, throwing away the bony knobs left behind, and rubbed the marinade on the now-uncovered bits. I'd expected to fry the chicken in the pan with some oil, but ended up braising it instead because as soon as the meat got hot, vah! A deluge of juices!
Possible reasons: left-over water from rinsing the chicken, the juices and fat from the chook and the marinade, or maybe because the heat was low. Way too much moisture from two deboned drumsticks, in my opinion.
I tried not to overcook it, as I would be returning the meat into the pan with the curry sauce for the pasta. Once done, I set it aside, juices and all, and work on the sauce.
Fry the onions in some oil (time to whip out the rice-bran oil I was recommended) until they start taking on some colour, then throw in the ginger-garlic paste and continue frying for a bit until the aroma from the paste emerges.
Take it off the heat, stir in the curry powder and mix until it forms a dry-ish paste, then return to the heat and fry until it smells even better. Don't do this for too long, as the curry powder would burn.
By now parts of me that weren't covered were infused with the bouquet of a curry in the making. If you have this problem, shower quickly and wash your hair before you go around your house and spread the aroma. And make sure your kitchen is well ventilated.
Stir-fry the chopped tomatoes in this paste for a bit, then add a bit of water. I'm partial to drier curries, so I kept the water at a minimum. The tomatoes have to cook or it'll take longer for them to dissolve into the sauce.
Then, I let the whole thing simmer until the tomatoes and onions disintegrate, stirring to keep the sauce from burning.
Thick sauces tend to have air pockets that lift the liquid off the bottom of the pan, creating patches of heated metal that will burn the sauce when the air goes out. They can be hard to spot, so watch the pot and stir every couple of minutes or so. At least, that's my theory.
Taste the sauce and adjust the level of salt in it. Rescuing an oversalted dish can be troublesome, so always start with a little bit.
Once the tomatoes and onions start to disappear into a gooey mass, I threw in the chicken, juices and all, stirred and allowed the sauce to simmer under low heat. I learnt later the chicken wasn't sufficiently salted, but the sauce helped.
When the sauce is almost ready, about one tablespoon of butter went in. I'd put more butter, but I'd have to have a really bad day to make my curry sauce that much richer. No additional yoghurt, since the marinade already has it.
Our on top of the pasta, toss thoroughly and serve.
As expected, the yoghurt made the sauce sourish, but the level of spice was just fine. And the butter gives richness and a tiny bit of a milky sweetness ... I am so adding butter in all my curry dishes from now on. The ginger-garlic paste adds more taste as well as warmth and aroma. So worth the peeling and grating.
Days later, I tried pasta with an "empty" (meatless) curry sauce. Instead of onion, I used shallots (too much, I think) and added an inch of grated turmeric root. What I got was something reminiscent of the Nyonya-style curries, or the sambal Mom used to stuff fish with before frying.
It's the shallots and turmeric but, my goodness, the work involved.
Peeling shallots can be tough, and one is tempted to remove the first succulent layer as well when peeling. But don't - all that adds up to a lot of wastage, if you're using a lot. So I adopted a tip from the Internet: soak the unpeeled shallots in water to soften the "paper".
Peel the turmeric with a spoon; like ginger, you don't want any of the skin on when you grate it. For one obvious reason, it's preferable to wash the grater and anything else that comes into contact with turmeric immediately after you're done with them. Five days later, the stains, albeit reduced, are still on my thumbs and forefingers.
But all the effort and turmeric stains were worth it. The shallot-based curry sauce was awesome. Shallots are Awesomesauce™.
Mutton curry pasta and home-made bottled curry sauces, here I come.
Categories: Epicurean Editor