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Down for the count

8.October 2009

I have a big, whomping, hardcore, two-part post about my sister’s wedding and associated festivities in the pipelines, but I also have a big, burly, mean head cold that is making it very difficult to think or write clearly. So, the big, whomping wedding post will have to wait.

Yesterday I felt well enough by the evening to be hungry and had just enough energy to stand up and cook myself some dinner. I knew I wanted something hearty, packed with vitamins and good things, something spicy enough that I could taste it without it scalding my poor husband’s undulled taste buds, something aromatic enough to clear my sinuses, but not so smelly that its scent would still be around when my cold has subsided. It was a curry kind of night.

I’m new to curry cooking.
I try to be an adventurous cook, but I’m often cowed by overly complex recipes or ingredient lists containing more than ten items. When I received a copy of Raghavan Iyer’s 660 Curries (if you like curry and don’t own this book, buy it immediately), I read it straight through. The first part has amazing instructions on how to think about the different spices called for in curry recipes, the differences between the regional cuisines of India and the many different kinds of curries encompassed in his tome. It’s a brilliant, non-condescending, informative, gentle introduction to what always struck me as a complex and intimidating cuisine. I like this book a lot. (Disclaimer: I am not Indian, I have never been to India, and, as such, I cannot vouch for the authenticity of these recipes. I can, however vouch for their deliciousness.)

The one curry I’ve made repeatedly from this cookbook is called Moghalai-Style Chicken (with spinach, almonds, and raisins). I made it last year for our dating anniversary. It was perfect yesterday, because we received a whole mess of beautiful spinach in our Boston Organics box. Anyway, I’m losing my train of thought (I think the cold medicine is wearing off). With no further ado:
Moghalai-Style Chicken (Kishmish Waale Murgh)
(adapted from 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer)

  • 1/4 c canola oil (I was out and substituted olive oil, which wasn’t as bad as I feared)
  • 1 large red onion, chopped (the more the better, in my opinion)
  • 1/2 c golden raisins (I like their sweetness with the caramelized onions, so I use more than this)
  • 1/2 c slivered almonds (They will burn. Be careful.)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small chunks – last night I sliced them, which actually made them soak up more of the flavor, I think.
  • 1 T Punjabi garam masala (He gives us a recipe for this elsewhere in the book, but I haven’t gotten my act together to buy the spices and make it. I used Whole Foods brand. It’s fine.)
  • 2 t coarse kosher or sea salt (I prefer the flavor of a really coarse sea salt – if using anything else, increase the salt to taste)
  • 1/2 t cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 t ground turmeric
  • 8 oz fresh spinach leaves, washed and chopped (We topped out at 10 oz yesterday. It shrinks so much, it wasn’t overwhelming. And it’s healthy too!)
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. (Don’t try this in a wok. It may become a crusty burned mess, if the pan doesn’t have a nice, heavy bottom. Or maybe I’m just careless.)
  2. Add onion, raisins and almonds. “Cook until the onion softens and then turns dark brown with deep purple hues and the raisins turn honey-brown and look succulent, 15 to 20 minutes.” (This is the kind of helpful suggestion that makes the book so great. Also, SERIOUSLY don’t try to up the heat. You will burn everything. Trust me.)
  3. Stir in the chicken and cook it until it sears and turns light brown.
  4. Stir in spices and salt. Cook for 20-30 seconds.
  5. Stir in the spinach and 1/2 c water. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally until chicken is cooked through.
  6. I like to serve it with brown basmati rice. Very tasty.

**Note: I decided at some point to add a big spoonful of ginger paste to this recipe. Yesterday I added two. It adds a nice aroma, but doesn’t overpower the other ingredients. Try it. Maybe you’ll like it? Last night I also served it with a small glass of orange-flavored airborne. An inspired pairing, if I say so myself.

Also, a question: I have a gluten-free friend coming to stay and would like to bake her something tasty. Do you have a fail-safe, non-complicated, delicious gluten-free recipe? Also, do you have a good suggestion of a low-maintenance gluten-free flour? I dig all the mixing of various flours, but I just don’t need to have all of them on hand. I’d like to keep it simple. Suggestions much appreciated.

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