Coming back to myself & Ma's Sunday Yoghurt & Turmeric Chicken Curry
My Ma’s chicken curry is all I need when I need to re-connect with myself
This Chicken curry is enough to transport me back to my childhood Sundays, and to not care about anything else than the present moment when I mix the rice with the chicken curry with my hands, break off a piece of chicken, scoop some rice and put the morsel in my mouth.
I moved out of my hometown over a decade ago. Over the years, my deepest memories and imageries of the city I was born in and lived till I turned 20, became of a sleepy comfortable place spent without much struggle or adjustments, things seem to happen easily. I did not have to fight for my seat in the local train for my daily commute or share my space with other flatmates or be on my toes like I had to do in Bombay where I moved next. My hometown, Ahmedabad occupies a deeply congenial place in my mind. It is not a city to me anymore rather it is a feeling , a feeling of 'home', deeply rooted to my identity.
I spent a long time making special efforts to move away from my hometown. As long as I know I have always wanted to move, to keep going; to the next, to the next until I didn’t know anymore. I have always been convinced that there is something bigger and better, some call it restlessness , I called it 'ambition'. I wanted to move from my hometown to a bigger city, so I did. It seemed that the more I move the better I would do , I am afraid of withering away. And if anything that I have learnt in the last couple of years ; is that I am not good at being in the 'present' . I am constantly thinking about the future and though I hate to admit it , often the past. Lots of spiritual practices, like a course in an Ashram that I took a couple of years ago say that one of the key sources of being content is to accept the present moment as is and to most importantly live it.
Sometimes being 'present' just means a simple home cooked meal. And one thing that makes me live the present moment better than anything else is a good Sunday meal followed by an afternoon siesta as I fall asleep with a good book. If I ever feel that I need to enjoy my present, I turn on the stove, put on a pressure cooker, pour some mustard oil, sear potatoes cut large in squares in salt & turmeric & set it aside; then I add some bay leaves , some cardamom, cinnamon and cloves crushed together in a stone mortar and pestle and add it to the oil heating away. Then I add some crushed onions , garlic, ginger and small pieces of tomato. Then I stir and stir, till the whole house is filled with the aroma, I stir constantly for a long time till the oil leaves the 'masala'. I finally pour in the chicken that has been marinating in yoghurt , salt and turmeric for a long time. I then pour water , and put it all in a pressure cooker and then I wait. I wait as my best childhood Sundays come back to me.
Getting up in my home in Ahmedabad and pouring over the Sunday Times, having a late breakfast, finishing my homework, enjoying a long soak in the bathtub with a book. And then sitting down on the dining table, serving some hot rice on the plate , as Ma puts the chicken leg with some gravy, the chicken leg set aside for me always; along with two large potato pieces, the first bite that makes me forget everything.
In the present I am sitting in Bangalore in the home that I share with my husband, our apartment has an open plan kitchen so the aroma of the masala spreads to the whole house when the chicken is simmering away in the stove. In the end I turn on the pressure cooker ; One two three…..whistles and I am home. I am here and I don’t want to be anywhere else, not the past, not the future, but here.
This simple light Chicken curry is a perfect way to make a delicious meal without using polarising spices and at the same time letting the main ingredient, in this case the chicken shine through so what you are tasting is the beautifully cooked chicken complimented by the spices as opposed to being overpowered by it. . This has a light and thin gravy , perfect for a sleep inducing Sunday meal
Serves: 2 very hungry people
½ Kg Chicken
2 Large Potatoes cut in large squares- 4 slices max if it a very large potato and 2 slices if its medium sized
1 Large Onion
7-8 cloves of garlic
A large quarter piece of ginger
11/2 Cups Yoghurt (or enough to cover the chicken fully)
1 Large tomato
2-3 bay leaves
3-4 cloves, 1/4 piece of Cinnamon stick , 2-3 cardamom pods
2 Green Chillies slit in the middle
Mustard oil- as needed
Salt, Turmeric powder, Red Chilli Powder
Water- enough to cover the chicken ( at least 2 cups)
Ideally start with this step 2 hours before you cook the chicken, the longer the better. If you want to have this for lunch, then marinate the chicken with the yoghurt and 2 small teaspoons of turmeric and salt to taste as soon as you get up. Cover the chicken and put it back in the fridge (not the freezer). Remember to defrost it first.
If you’re in a hurry , then give the chicken at least 20 minutes but the magic is in the marinating.
Cut the potatoes as instructed above
Cut the onions and make a paste in the blender. Make a paste of the ginger and garlic separately. You can make a seperate puree of the tomato or just cut it in to small pieces.
Put a pressure cooker on the stove big enough to hold the chicken , potatoes and gravy.
Pour in some mustard oil and sear the potatoes till they are fried from the outside and slightly brown, set aside in a bowl
Crush all the whole spices from the ingredient list (No.9) above in a stone mortar & pestle or crush with a heavy steel utensil (remove the pods from the cardamom)
Now put the pressure cooker back on stove, add in mustard oil
Add the onion paste and let it brown a little, now add the ginger & garlic paste , now sear for long constantly stirring with the ladle on high to medium heat, make sure it does not burn
After the above masala is fried sufficiently and the raw smell of onions etc is starting to fade, only then add the tomato, keep on stirring for some time until you see oil escaping from the masala (this step is super important)
Now add the marinated chicken and mix for a good 7-8 minutes until you see the masala added in with the yoghurt
Add water (to cover the chicken and depending on the amount of curry you want, as I eat it with rice I add a good amount)
Put on the pressure cooker lid and set on medium heat for at least 10-15 minutes or 7-9 whistles. Use your judgement to make sure the chicken is cooked (different chicken cooks slightly differently)
Served with: Rice or a good homemade bread.
*Note: Don’t skip the step for marinating the chicken for at least sometime in the yoghurt
I mostly use frozen chicken (Godrej’s ‘Real Good’ brand is great). But if I have the time I like to make a trip to my neighbourhood butcher who slices the chicken exactly how I want.
*Use chicken curry curry cut with bone and not the boneless versions if you're buying frozen chicken. Half the taste lies in the bones.
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