Saturday, March 3, 2012

Indian coastal style green chicken curry from my memories

I grew up in Mumbai (former Bombay) but my dad's family is from a small village on the western coast of Maharashtra called Malvan, he moved to Mumbai when he was in 10th grade. Malvan is no longer the village it used to be and has turned in to a tourist spot for people seeking a coastal alternative to close-by Goa. I have lovely memories from having spend every single summer vacation in the village which we all as a family looked forward to getting away from the city. A typical day used to be something like this: wake up early have tea and light breakfast, then make a beeline for the village lake to avoid later crowds, swim for 2 hours or so and then get trek back eating a light snack on the way. Have lunch after noon and then either nap or run around, play, explore, read in my gandma's farm all afternoon long. In the evening we used to walk to some local spots or the beach, dinner prep started early because everyone ate early there unlike in cities, I used to help mom in the prep then :) Post dinner we just sat around chatting (the real one not virtual one), played cards or star gazed (there was no tv)!! Ha...such was life then which I am so glad I got to experience!! We also enjoyed nature's abundance, during the summer it was the tastiest-of-all hapus mangoes, jack-fruit and sun-ripened cashew nuts from my grandmas farm! We also enjoyed lovely coconut products and fresh catch from the sea.There was something about the village air or water that made even simple meals taste exceptional!
This particular recipe is from the cuisine that is fairly typical of coastal region near the village. It is fresh coconut based (abundant in the region) making use of cilantro, mint and freshly roasted and ground spices. Make sure you use whole pastured (deshi) chicken, which is low in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, with all the organs and bones because that's where the flavor comes from. I enjoy this curry with a side of kokum kadhi (a kokum fruit based coconut drink, the recipe of which I have shared) and a small amount of steamed white rice.      

1 whole chicken (pastured) cut into bite size pieces
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
1 + 2 tbsp Ghee
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
4-5 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp whole pepper corns
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic

1 cup shredded coconut (fresh/frozen)
2 cups packed cilantro
4 green chilies (like thai bird)
5 leaves of mint
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp yogurt
1 bay leaf (Indian type)
1 large onion (or 2 medium) finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro and 2 slit green chilies for garnishing.

In a bowl take the chicken, make deep cuts in it using a knife, rub turmeric and salt all over it and keep aside.
Heat 1 tbsp of ghee in a pan at low-medium heat, when hot add coriander, cumin, cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, toss them around for about 30 secs and then add ginger-garlic. Fry together till the garlic no longer smells raw. (Spices should appear slightly toasted and ginger-garlic light brown, be careful not burn them.) Remove the pan from heat and keep aside to cool down.
In a blender add the coconut, cilantro, green chilies, mint, lemon juice, yogurt and the roasted whole spices. Grind them to a fine paste using water only as needed. Marinate the chicken in this paste for a minimum of 20 mins (or overnight for best results).
To make the curry heat 2 tbsp of ghee in a pan (can use the same one used earlier for roasting spices) on a medium-high, add the bay leaf and onions once the oil is hot. Stir around till the onions become golden-brown; add a little salt to speed up the process. Once the onions are done, lower the heat to a low-medium, add the chicken along with the paste. If any paste is sticking to the bowl, rinse it out with water and add that water to the pan. Cover the pan and cook till chicken is done all the way (about 20 mins.) Finally check for the salt content and adjust as per your taste. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and slit green chilies.

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