I never really liked curry or even the far broader category of Indian Foods until I moved to the Caribbean and discovered that there was no such thing as a spice called curry but all curry spice blends were different and depended on the knowledge and skill of the blender. From Trinidad to the Virgin Islands in the English Speaking Easter Caribbean the curry blend of choice is Chief Curry Powder which as stated on the label is a blend of coriander, cumin, garlic,turmeric, fenugreek, ani, and ajwa.
My wife had tried cooking curry a few times when we lived in Pennsylvania and I thought it was really nasty stuff even though my wife only used name brand spices. My daughter grew up on St Croix and she and her mother both loved curry and ordered it when having lunch out. Eventually we discovered Chief Curry Powder and everybody in the household got to enjoy curry. When my daughter moved to the states she tried making Curry with a name brand spice blend and called me in despair. She wanted to know what she did wrong because her curry was awful and I told her to read the label which unbelievably said “spices, turmeric, red pepper”.
As far as I was concerned, that label was a license to steal as it allowed the manufacture to dump any spice they had in over supply and try to hide those spices with tumeric and hot pepper. After extracting a promise to throw out all those things labeled “curry powder” and to only use Chief Curry Powder in the future, I suggested adding a tablespoon each of coriander, cumin and crushed garlic to the pot to try and save the meal. I also suggested if it was the wrong color, to slowly add turmeric a teaspoon at a time until she got the color she liked. It turned out fine and masked the flavor of the “spices” she had previously added with the original blend.
To further compound the concept of “curry powder”, I am beginning to find that most published recipes for Asian Indian Curry never mention “curry powder” but instead refer to making a “masala” or spice blend. I did a Google search for Murgh Masala and looked at the first five recipes. All five referred to this as a chicken curry and all of them made their own spice blends and never mentioned “curry powder”. Now with 1.2 billion Indians in India, I am sure that it is possible that one Indian cook may have tried a product called “curry powder” one time but am equally sure that no one who likes food would do it a second time unless it was Chief Curry Powder.
I do not consider myself an Indian Cook nor am I sure that I like all Indian food, However, I am definitely a fan of everything Monica presents at the Spice Diary and consider myself a student of hers (whether she wants that or not). With no further thoughts I present:
Monica’s Murgh Masala – Coffeepot Style
4 T olive oil
1 black cardamom
6 whole pepper corns
1 onions, finely chopped
1 T minced garlic
2 T ginger, grated
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 Large tomato chopped
2-3 pieces of chicken thigh
3 tbsp yoghurt
1 T dried coriander use Fresh when available.
- Heat the oil in the coffeepot for ½ hour.
- Add the cardomom and peppercorns. Once they begin to sizzle, add the onions.
- Add the garlic and mix well. Now add the ginger and mix again.
- Now add all of the dry spices and mix.
- Dice the tomatoes and mash well. Add to pot.
- Add the chicken pieces to the masala and let cook.
- After a few hours, the meat should be soft and tender. At this point add the yoghurt and let it cook for 10 minutes.
- Turn the heat off. Add the coriander and 1/4 tsp garam masala.
- Serve when ready.
I skipped cooking the potatoes called for in the original recipe because I intended serving it with brown rice. Also, since it is virtually impossible to do a reduction in a coffeepot, I skipped adding the water and then reducing the same and the only liquids came from the oil, onion, tomato, chicken and yoghurt.
Oops, was out of brown rice, but had noodles so rather than waste gas going to the store, I served the chicken with noodles.
This meal was excellent but it is a lot different than the flavors from the spices used in West Indian Chicken Curry. Indian and West Indian are two distinctly different types of food even though Asian Indians have had a tremendous impact on Island foods.