I am looking for a camera in my apartment.
Not just any camera. But the one that I’m pretty sure that my roommate, Anu’s, parents have installed. To watch us.
And by us. I mean me.
(Quick! Differential diagnosis? GO! GO! GO! Axis II Personality Disorder – Narcissism. Reference delusions. Paranoia.)
I’ve been collecting evidence, you see (Really Jo? Collecting evidence? Is THIS what you should be doing with your time?) and the thing is. All signs point to hidden camera.
How else can you explain why they magically appear every time I am mid curry. Covered in cilantro, garam masala, cardamom pods. Scurrying around the kitchen like a crazy white girl who knows nothing about making Indian food.
I can see them now. Sitting in front of the Spy Cam. Watching fervently, eyes glued to the screen so that the second I reach for the turmeric, they shake their heads. Sadly. Say to each other, “By god she’s at it again.” And head on over to our apartment, all the way from New Jersey, so that they can be on stand-by in case anything goes truly awry.
To be fair, though. After reading Madhur Jaffrey’s memoir – Climbing the Mango Trees – I understand why they would be so protective of their food. Indian culture is one that is rife with heady spice mixtures, intense flavors, and copious amounts of heat. All meant to be enjoyed while sitting at a table with every member of your extended family. Eaten slowly. Savored. Shared. Letting each bite explode in your mouth with reckless abandon.
It’s no wonder that Jaffrey became so enamored with food, both eating it when she was younger, and, I assume, cooking it as an adult. And so really, how, as a self-proclaimed foodie, could I be expected not to?
The thing that I find hardest about cooking Indian food is finding an authentic recipe. One that is not Westernized and completely altered to suit our maladapted American palates.
This is where Jaffrey comes in. Her reverence of her culture is so great and made so obvious in the book that I am sure the recipes she offers are no less than the real McCoy.
And after tasting this Murgh Korma. You will be too. Never have I created a dish that is so rich in flavor, so spot on, so intensely delicious that you just. Can’t. Stop. Eating it. Whole chicken pieces stewed with a creamy yogurt sauce that, although rich in texture, is actually quite light. A dish that I could serve Anu’s parents with pride.
At least, that is. Until I found out that they were vegetarian.
Do I see Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian in my future? You bet.
(Just for the record, I adore Anu’s parents and I highly doubt they are judging me at all in any way when they come over. Okay. Maybe just a little. But only out of love. 😛)
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Chicken Cooked in a Yogurt-Almond Sauce (Murgh Korma)
Serves 4, adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Climbing The Mango Trees
1 2.5-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
4-5 coves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp blanched, slivered almonds
1 1/2 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2-1 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onion, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced into fine half-rings
two 2-inch cinnamon sticks
8 whole cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
3 1/4-ish pound whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces, skinned
2 tbsp golden raisins
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
1. Put the ginger, garlic and 1/4 cup water into a blender or food processor. Blend until you have a smooth paste. Add the almonds and another 2 tbsp water. Blend again until you have a smooth paste.
2. Put the yogurt in a bowl and whisk the garam masala, coriander, cayenne, and salt into it. Stir well to mix.
3. Put 1 tbsp of the oil into a large, preferably nonstick saute pan and set it over medium heat. When it is hot, put in the sliced onions. Stir and fry for 10-12 minutes, until the onions are reddish brown. Remove the onion with a slotted spoon, leaving as much oil behind as possible. Spread the onion slices over a paper towel-lined plate.
4. Put the cinnamon, cardamom, and bay leaves into the same pan over medium heat. Stir once or twice. A minute later, put in the chicken pieces, only as many as the pan can hold in a single layer. Brown the chicken pieces lightly on both sides, removing them to a bowl. Do all the chicken pieces this way. Add the golden raisins to the pan. Stir a few times, then add in the paste from the blender. Stir and fry for 2 minutes. Now put in the contents of the bowl with the chicken, the contents of the yogurt bowl, and the fried onions. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer, still on medium heat. Cover, turn the heat to low, and cook gently for 25-30 minutes, stirring gently every now and then, until the chicken pieces are tender. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
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