You could subtitle this post “Or, a recipe that uses all that fresh coconut meat you just produced, because you followed my previous post’s instructions like the awesome person that you are.” Yes, it’s a shrimp curry that features fresh coconut. This is loosely inspired by South Indian spices and ingredients, and requires a medium amount of work because, hell, I like doing work in my kitchen. Why do you have to have everything done so fast?
This recipe is going to get a bit ridiculous. Fair warning. I was heading out into the Ontario farmlands with my two friends, Jim and Andrew, to record a rock and roll album at Chalet Studio, and since we were staying overnight, we needed to bring food. One problem: Jim is a stubborn vegan, and Andrew leans vegetarian (or at least, he did) so I built a hybrid vegan biryani out of recipe ideas for 3 or 4 vegetable curry and rice dishes. The end result was pretty great: a spicy-hot tomato curry infused into richly flavoured baked rice, with large pieces of potato, cauliflower, and carrot mixed throughout. The whole thing was topped with fried cashews and raisins, and lidded with phyllo pastry (egg-free, naturally).
Some days – a few every month – I’m not really in the mood for doing a lot of work to put food on the table. I still want something good, but uncomplicated and containing only a few, simple ingredients. Some days, that means grilled cheese sandwiches, and other days this recipe for simple chicken curry. “Curry is simple and not a lot of work?”, I hear you ask, incredulous. Well, it’s true – or more true than false.
Chana Masala – another one of those Indian buffet staples – means simply “spiced chickpeas” (or close enough). My most memorable experience eating chana masala was not at a buffet, but at a downtown food court in Boston. It’s not that it was great food (it was good) but I did find it surprising that there was an Indian vendor at a food court. It made me realize that in Toronto, there is no food court (outside of Gerrard st.) I know of has any Indian food, and I’ve been to many food courts (sadly). One day, I hope that changes. I’m getting tired of Manchu Wok, and don’t even get me started on Subway. Ok, moving on…
Hot Chili-Coconut Masala
You like your food spicy? Then this is the masala for you. Dried chilies and toasted coconut provide the main flavour punch, while a myriad other spices provide texture and colour. This is a western Indian-style spice blend, and is not for the faint of tongue. It’s hot, and I say that as someone who likes my food fairly spicy compared to the norm. It’s quite hot. You’ve been warned.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Hey look, it’s everyone’s favourite British culinary creation. That’s right, tikka masala keeps showing up in Indian restaurants, but it’s not a traditional Indian-style curry. For one thing, the sauce is made almost entirely of tomatoes. There’s a very good reason tomatoes haven’t appeared in Indian cuisine until more recently: the tomato is native to South America. Since “The Americas” weren’t “discovered” yet, no one else in the world had any access to the tomato until the Spanish brought it back to Europe around 1500 or so, and from there it slowly spread across the globe (the Middle East didn’t start cultivation until around the 18th century). An interesting side note: Italy only began incorporating the tomato into it’s cuisine somewhere around the 16th-18th centuries; the now-ubiquitous tomato sauce is relatively new to Italian cuisine. Stew on that for a while.
So, chicken tikka masala? It is commonly accepted to have been invented in the UK (Glasgow maybe) and if I was picky, I’d say it’s almost fusion, but mostly it’s still a product of Indian culinary techniques and traditions.
This spice blend is exactly what it sounds like – the masala used to season tandoori dishes, including tandoori chicken. Tandoori chicken, for example, is chicken marinated in yogurt and this spice blend (along with garlic and ginger, perhaps). Of course, traditionally, an abundance of chili powder would provide the red colour we’re all familiar with; most tandoori chicken recipes now ask for red food colouring instead of overpowering heat. This masala will not turn your chicken bright red, but it will provide seasoning.
- 10 tsp cumin seeds
- 4 tsp coriander seeds
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tsp cloves
- 2 tsp ginger powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp kashmiri chili powder (regular cayenne powder will do, but kashmiri powder will help impart a red colour when used)
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp mace powder (I suppose you can use nutmeg if you don’t have this but, again, mace provides colour as well as flavour)
- 2 tsp coarse salt