Friday, 15 January 2010

Chatty Chicken

For us, more and more, Friday night is curry night.  It started when, back in 2008, my new year's resolution required me to learn to cook Indian food properly.  Two years later and I still love the sound of spices and bay leaves popping and frizzling in hot oil (or more lately ghee, which I now buy in cans).  I'm not a fan of  super-hot curries, preferring instead the flavour of the spices to really come through, rather than feeling I've been bludgeoned to death with chillies.  I add any extra heat I need with a generous dollop of lime pickle.

Chat (or chaat) masala is a spice mix with a citrussy, slightly sour kick to it.  Masala, in fact, means spice mix while chaat is the verb 'to lick', which I think tells you all you need to know about this mouth-watering, lip-licking blend!  It is available as a ready-mixed blend, but is easy to make, as are many of the Indian spice blends but, as so many are made with ingredients you can find in any reasonably well-stocked spice rack, it seems a good idea to have a bash yourself occasionally.  Having said that, chat masala does really, in the authentic sense, call for things without that range but, living in the sticks as I do, I don't have access to a handy Asian grocer for amchur, asafoetida and black salt; this version is very much my interpretation.  I was given a Typhoon CrushGrind for Christmas but you can use a mortar and pestle; it's not too taxing.

My Chat Masala

This makes enough to make the curry below.  Of course, you can make more and store it in an airtight jar in the cupboard if you want...

1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
2 small dried whole red chillies

Toast these in a dry frying pan until the aromas are released, then grind.  Stir in a pinch each of turmeric, ground ginger and salt.  You can then add a smidgen of cayenne pepper for extra punch if you like.

Chicken Chat

I prefer to use yoghurt in curries for the slightly acidic bite it gives, but find that it can sometimes 'split' during cooking, so I add the cornflour to stabilise it.  Replace it with single cream if you'd rather.

5 tbsp cooking oil or ghee
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2cm piece ginger root, grated
chat masala (see above)
200ml water
1 tsp cornflour
150ml natural yoghurt
6 chicken thigh fillets, halved
150g spinach

Heat the oil or ghee in a deep pan (one which has a lid).  Fry the onion until soft then add the garlic and ginger.  Stir in the chat masala, then pour in the water.  Stir the cornflour into the yoghurt (and see above); add this to the pan too.  Stir well, then add the chicken pieces and cover the pan.  Cook at a simmer for 25 minutes (which gives you time to sort out rice, set the table and pour a well-deserved glass of wine).  Stir in the spinach at the last moment, let it wilt into the sauce, and then serve!
Cath xx

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