Desi Chilli Chicken

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Whenever I make this dish, I’m reminded of a recent trip to India which ended in pain and tears. The good kind. Obviously. 

It was the night before we were due to fly back home when I decided to visit an Indo-Chinese street food cart next to my grandma’s house. I had passed this cart everyday and had been eyeing up the “goods on offer” carefully considering if I should do the deed. To clarify, doing said deed would involve purchasing a portion of their ever popular chilli chicken and hakka noodles. Sounds simple enough right? But deciding on whether or not you should get involved in an authentic street food experience in India is a dubious proposition indeed (concerns of the “aftermath” consumes much of the reason why).

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Fancying myself as somewhat of an adventurous foodie, I decided to go for it. I handed over my 30 rupees and minutes later, a piping hot mountain of noodles topped with a glorious looking portion of chilli chicken headed my way. I dug in. The first mouthful…wow. In fact every mouthful tasted better than the last. I couldn’t stop. I must have been at it for at least half a minute when I suddenly halted. I looked up and found streams of tears rolling down my cheeks.  Then came the immense burn on my tongue, followed by panting. In short, I was a HOT MESS. In hindsight, this should have been where this culinary escapade ended. But it didn’t and I couldn’t not have more! The burn became more painful but I ploughed on. I fought back the tears and carried on like some sort of deranged addict. The end soon came when the hyperventilating started and I started getting weird looks from, well, everyone. Quite possibly the most exhilarating eating experience of my life!

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Understandably when I returned home, I was itching to recreate this dish and did so successfully but without the cry-me-a-river effect! This recipe is a slight twist on the original but is packed full of flavour which makes it oh so good! Scooped us with hot chapatis or even spicy noodles you will want to try this. Give it a go and let me know what you think!

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Desi Chilli Chicken
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 400g boneless chicken breast, cut into thin strips
  2. 2tbsp gram flour
  3. 1 tsp black pepper
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 1/4 tsp red chilli flakes
  6. Egg white from 1 egg
  7. 4 tbsp sunflower oil for frying
  8. 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  9. 3” ginger, finely chopped
  10. 2 birds eye green chillis, finely chopped
  11. 2 tbsp tomato puree
  12. 1 medium onion, diced into 2” chunks
  13. 3 stems spring onion, cut into 1” chunks
  14. 1 small capsicum, cut into 2” chunks
  15. ½ tsp salt
  16. ½ tsp paprika
  17. ½ tsp coriander powder
  18. 1 tsp amchur
  19. 1 tsp garam masala
  20. Handful coriander, finely chopped
  21. Small handful fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
Instructions
  1. Place chicken in a bowl. Add the gram flour, pepper, salt, red chilli flakes and egg white. Mix well.
  2. Heat oil in a wide non-stick pan. Place chicken in the oil and cook for 3-4 minutes until it is white and slightly golden in colour on both sides. Remove from pan and keep aside.
  3. Using the same pan and oil, reduce the heat to low/medium. Now add the ginger, garlic and chilli. Sauté for a couple of minutes. Now add the tomato puree and mix well.
  4. Add the onions and sauté for 1 minute. Now add the spring onions and capsicum and mix. Add the chicken. At this point, add salt, paprika, garam masala, amchur. Mix well. Add the fresh mint and coriander.
  5. Check for salt and adjust accordingly. Remove from heat.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/

Dal Makhani

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What pasta is to Italians is what dal is to Indians. It’s a staple across the country and when accompanied with rice it’s a dish considered to be the “bread and butter” of the cuisine. 

My cousins in India find my love of lentils a little odd. They often roll their eyes when their respective mothers tell them that “dal is for dinner”.  In fact if you asked my cousin Sahil what he thinks of lentils his response is a facial expression akin to that of the straight faced emoticon (yeah the one that has a horizontal line for it’s lips). He’d rather have a “McMaharaja” burger than masoor dal which is fair enough (Maccy D’s in India is pretty great) but I just don’t think he is giving it the chance it really deserves!

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For me, dal is quintessentially Indian. One of my fondest memories when spending summer holidays in India, was the sound of pressure cooker whistles going off at lunchtime throughout the neighbourhood. The aroma of pulses cooking away would fill the streets and I would immediately feel hungry. From moong and masoor to toor and channa, each household has their favourite dal and unique way of preparing it. I love how the amazing variety of lentils can result in endless flavours and dishes! 

Today’s recipe is one of my absolute favourites. Dal Makhani is silky, creamy and spicy all at the same time. Typically served with buttery chapatis or naans it’s utterly comforting and you are never judged for taking seconds (or thirds!). Enjoy…

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Dal Makhni
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup black urad lentils
  2. 1/4 cup kidney beans or rose cocoa beans
  3. 1/4 cup channa lentils
  4. 1 1/2 tsp salt
  5. 1 medium onion
  6. 3 large garlic cloves
  7. 3 peppercorns
  8. 3 cloves
  9. 1 black cardamom
  10. 1 bay leaf
  11. 2" piece cinnamon stick
  12. water
  13. 3 tbsp ghee or butter
  14. 1 tsp cumin
  15. 2" ginger, finely chopped
  16. 2 plum tomatoes & 2 tbsp tomato juice
  17. 2 birds eye green chillies
  18. 1 tsp coriander powder
  19. 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  20. 1 tsp garam masala
  21. 1/4 cup cream (optional)
  22. handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Instructions
  1. Place the urad lentils, kidney beans and channa lentils together in a bowl and soak in water overnight. Rinse and keep aside.
  2. To a pressure cookery, add the soaked lentils, onions, garlic, peppercorns, cloves, black cardamom, bay leaf, cinnamon and salt along with 4 cups of water. Carefully place the lid on the cookery and place on high heat. When the first whistle goes off, reduce to low heat and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Allow the steam to escape naturally before opening the lid.
  3. Mash the lentils using a masher until they are blended together.
  4. If you do not have a pressure cooker, place above ingredients in a sauce pan along with 5 cups of water and cook until lentils are tender. (This will take approx 45 minutes). If the water reduces before they are cooked, add more throughout. Once cooked and mashed, keep aside.
  5. Heat ghee in a non-stick pan. Once hot, add the cumin. When the cumin begins to splatter, add the ginger and for 2 minutes until slightly brown.
  6. Now add the tomatoes along with the chillies. At this point, add the coriander powder, chilli powder, garam masala and fresh coriander.
  7. Cook for 2 minutes. When you see the oil separating, add the lentils and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add cream and cook for another minute.
  8. Check for salt and adjust accordingly. Turn off heat.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/

Afghani Chicken Drumsticks

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The temperature went into double digits today. Double digits people. That means no more scarves, no more knee high boots and dare I say it no more de-icer? It also means that the sun has got his/ her hat on and Summer is quickly approaching! Yes I am doing a happy dance as I type this (mad skills I know). As the weather gets slightly warmer, I enjoy taking advantage of the grill and my husband with his epic salad making abilities.  

I love recipes that involve marinating and grilling – they’re so easy to make, require minimal washing up and can be prepared in advance. What’s not to like? This Afghani chicken marination is a particular favourite of mine. The addition of ground cashews and almonds makes for a lovely, creamy base. Combined with the tartness of the lime and the heat from the chillies…can I get a MMM MMM MMMM?! 

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Hope you enjoy! As always, let me know what you think in the comments 🙂

Afghani Chicken Drumsticks
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 8 chicken drumsticks, skinless with slits cut into them
  2. 4 tbsp yoghurt
  3. 2 tsbp extra thick double cream (optional)
  4. 3" ginger, peeled
  5. 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  6. 2 green finger or birds eye chillies (optional)
  7. juice of 2 limes
  8. 5 almonds
  9. 10 cashews
  10. 2 1/4 tsp salt, or according to taste
  11. 1/2 tsp paprika
  12. 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  13. 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  14. 1 tsp garam masala
  15. 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  16. 1/4 tsp ground green cardamom (optional)
  17. handful fresh coriander including stems, roughly chopped
  18. 2 tbsp oil or ghee
Instructions
  1. Line a baking tray with foil and turn your grill on the highest temperature setting
  2. Place the chicken in a bowl.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients apart from the yoghurt and cream into a processor and blitz into a paste. Empty into a bowl. Now mix in the yoghurt and cream.
  4. Pour this marinade over the chicken and mix well. If you have time, cover and refrigerate over night. If not, place in oven straight away.
  5. Cook for 10 minutes. Then turn the chicken over and cook for an additonal 10 minutes or until the chicken is white all the way through and has begun to char slightly.
  6. Turn off grill and serve with salad and tandoori naan!
Notes
  1. You can soak the almonds and cashews in a little water beforehand so it is creamier when blended in the processor.
  2. Feel free to use any cut of chicken - chicken thighs are also great for grilling!
  3. You can marinate the chicken for up to 48 hours - the longer you leave it the better.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/