Prerna’s Chicken Curry

From Chicken Curry Day by Prerna Singh



Serves 4–6

2½ pounds whole chicken, cleaned and cut into pieces
¼ cup lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
1½ cups chopped onion
3–4 cloves garlic
2 inches ginger root
2–3 hot green chili peppers (adjust according to how much heat you can handle)
2–3 dried bay leaves
1½ cinnamon sticks
3–4 whole black cardamom pods
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
5–6 cloves
½ cup mustard oil (can substitute vegetable or olive oil)
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
2½ tablespoons coriander powder
1½ cups chopped tomatoes
1½ teaspoons garam masala powder
1½ tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
Handful of chopped cilantro
Salt to taste

Place the chicken pieces in a shallow bowl. Combine lemon juice, salt, and black pepper and pour over the chicken. Set aside for 30 minutes to marinate.
Meanwhile, grind onion, garlic, ginger, and green chili into a thick paste and set aside. Roughly pound the whole spices (bay leaves, cinnamon stick, black cardamom, cumin, and cloves) and set aside.

Heat oil in a thick-bottomed pan with slightly higher sides. (A pressure cooker or wok would be a good alternative.) Add the pounded spices to the hot oil. Stir as they sputter. Add turmeric, stir, and then add the previously prepared onion paste. Turn the heat to medium and cook while stirring occasionally until all the liquid has evaporated and the paste is dense and golden brown.

Add salt, coriander powder, and chopped tomato. Turn the heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally. As the tomato slowly breaks down, the concoction will turn into a slightly smooth, loose paste and the oil will begin to separate.

Add garam masala, stir in the marinated chicken, and mix everything very well. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally. The chicken will add a lot of moisture initially, but after 15–20 minutes of cooking over medium heat, the sauce will start to thicken. If using a pressure cooker, cover, lock, and wait for two whistles, then turn off heat and leave covered for another 15 minutes. I prefer slow cooking, so at this point I turn the heat to medium low, uncover, and simmer for another 20–25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the gravy is reduced to a thick consistency.

Once the chicken is cooked, add ghee, cilantro, and salt to taste. Stir well. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes before serving with roti, other bread of choice, or rice.


Roti: An Indian Staple

Indian meals are never complete without roti or one of any number of other wonderful flatbreads. There are endless ways to make Indian flatbreads, and it mostly varies by region. For instance, soil in the southern part of India is very good for rice crops, so breads there are mostly made of rice flour. The northern part is fertile for wheat and grain cultivation, so wheat flour is what is mostly consumed in the region. A basic roti like this is made in many homes almost every day.

Start with 3 cups flour in a bowl. (I like to use all-purpose flour mixed 3:1 with whole wheat bread flour.) Add water little by little, mixing it into the flour using your other hand. My mom says that adding a little milk to the dough while kneading it makes the rotis even softer. When you feel the dough is formed, transfer it to the counter or a flat dish and knead for about 4 to 5 minutes. Cover the dough with a thin, damp kitchen towel and let it rest for about 5 to 10 minutes.

Cut the dough into small pieces and roll each into a ball. Dust the countertop or a wooden board with flour, and working on one ball at a time, roll out each ball into a flat, round shape using a rolling pin. Dust the dough balls with additional flour as needed to keep them from sticking to the rolling pin.

Heat up a skillet (or an Indian tava, if you have one). Cook roti one at a time by placing on the hot surface to cook for 15 to 20 seconds or until they puff up and you see small bubbles on the surface. Then flip to cook the second side for about 5 to 10 seconds before transferring to a cooling rack. Serve.