CHICKEN JALFREZI

Since I got married I have been learning my husband’s mother tongue of Bengali. I grew up speaking Hindi (and “Hinglish”); although both languages stem from the ancient language of Sanskrit, they are very different. My high school French teacher once told me I had a natural “flair for languages” but as an adult, it’s safe to say I have lost said flair!

It’s okay though. I have accepted that mastering the language is more of a long-term goal. I can say “I’m hungry” and “What’s for dinner?” – so important key phrases are in the bank. In the short-term, learning how to recreate my mother in law’s amazing Bengali dishes are more of a pressing matter (er priorities…hello?). 

Today’s recipe is not from her cookbook, but rather one that Jan, one of my cookery class students, asked me how to teach her. It’s a curry house fav in the UK and I found it fun to recreate at home. A dry, spicy chicken dish cooked with peppers and onions – it has crunch, colour and flavour all packed into one! Fun fact – the “jal” comes from the Bengali word “jhal” which means spicy (see I am learning!). Enjoy the recipe below lovely people.

 

Chicken Jalfrezi
Serves 4
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For the chicken marinade
  1. 500g skinned chicken thighs, cut into small bite-size pieces
  2. 2 heaped tbsp yoghurt
  3. 1 tbsp oil
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 1 tsp garam masala
  6. ½ tsp kasuri methi/dried fenugreek (optional)
For the sauce
  1. 3 tbsp ghee or oil
  2. 2 green cardamoms crushed open (optional)
  3. 1 tsp cumin seeds
  4. 1 onion, thinly sliced
  5. 1 1/4tsp salt
  6. 3 garlic cloves peeled and grated
  7. 2” ginger, grated
  8. 2 green bird eye chillies, finely chopped
  9. 3 fresh tomatoes, finely diced
  10. 1 tbsp double concentrate tomato purée
  11. ½ tsp garam masala
  12. ½ tsp coriander powder
  13. ½ tsp paprika
  14. ½ tsp turmeric
  15. 1 green pepper, thinly sliced
  16. ½ red pepper thinly sliced
  17. Handful fresh coriander
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat your grill at the maximum temperature setting. Place all "marinade" ingredients into a bowl and mix together. Now, place the marinated chicken on a foil lined oven tray.
  2. Grill chicken for 10-12 minutes until cooked (the chicken should be white all the way through once fully cooked).
  3. Remove from grill and keep aside.
  4. Heat the ghee or oil in pan on a medium heat setting. Once hot add the crushed green cardamoms and cumin seeds. When they begin to sizzle in the oil, add the onion along with ¾ tsp salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes until translucent.
  5. Now add the garlic, ginger and chilli and mix. Continue to cook for a further 2-3 minutes until golden brown.
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes and purée to the pan and stir. Cook for 2-3 minutes allowing them to completely soften.
  7. Reduce heat slightly and add the garam masala, coriander powder, paprika, turmeric and the remaining salt and mix well. When you see the oil begin to separate from the masala paste, add the grilled chicken and the sliced peppers.
  8. Mix well on a medium/high heat and cook for 3-4 minutes. Finish with a sprinkle of fresh coriander. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Remove from heat.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/

Smoked Aubergine Mash (Baingan Bharta)

 

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I always think it’s funny how there are foods we used to hate as kids but now love as adults. Not that I consider myself an adult. I see myself more as a tall kid. Am I aware that 5ft 2 is not technically tall? Sure I am, but lets not ponder on that.

I was a good eater as a child (my childhood photos reveal that) and I’d like to think I wasn’t particularly fussy. Granted I had some weird foodie combinations that I loved but who didn’t? Crisp and coleslaw sandwiches were a must whilst watching cartoons on a Saturday morning. Any crisp would do, though crisps made from maize or corn were preferable. Mango pickle mixed with yoghurt was a regular “snack”, oh and I could eat mountains of black olives and pickled onions at any given time. Perhaps I was an odd child…please don’t judge me. 

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But I digress. Generally, I ate very well and there were just a few things I detested which oddly, I now love! Any sort of seafood was a no go, however Chingri Malai Kari is now one of my absolute favourite dishes. I found bitter melon revolting growing up but now regularly crave it. I couldn’t stand the smell of anything cooked in ghee but now it’s a staple in my everyday cooking. It’s odd isn’t it?

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Baigan Bharta also featured on the loathe list but now I can’t fathom how I lived so many years without it! Spicy, smokey (almost BBQ esque) and slightly sweet, baigan bharta is an utterly satisfying dish that’s perfect with hot buttery chapatis. The mashed consistency of the aubergine is akin to baba ganoush so it also works great as a dip, in wraps and smothered on crackers too (I’m thinking canapés at dinner partys people). I hope you like this recipe. It’s surprisingly easy to make and packed full of flavour. Keep me posted on how it turns out for you! 

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Smoked Aubergine Mash (Baigan Bhartha)
Serves 3
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Ingredients
  1. 1 aubergine
  2. 2 tbsp oil
  3. 1 small onion, finely diced
  4. 1 green chilli, finely diced
  5. 2 tomatoes, diced
  6. 1 level tsp tomato puree (double concentrate)
  7. 1 1/2 tsp salt or according to taste
  8. 1/2 tsp chilli powder or according to taste
  9. 2 tbsp peas, boiled (optional)
  10. Fresh coriander
Instructions
  1. Grease the aubergine with oil and roast it over an open flame till it is fully cooked. It should take about 5-7 minutes. When done, the skin should be charred all over and and the aubergine flesh will become soft.
  2. If you do not have a gas cooker, you can also cook the aubergine in the grill at the highest temperature until soft. Note, this will however not achieve the smokiness in flavour.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Then peel and discard the skin. Mash the flesh with a fork and keep aside.
  4. Heat oil in a non stick pan. Then add the onions and chilli and cook for 3-5 minutes until light golden brown in colour.
  5. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, salt and chilli powder and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
  6. Now add the mashed aubergine and peas and mix well. Reduce the heat and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add the fresh coriander. Check salt and chilli and adjust accordingly. Remove from heat.
Notes
  1. If you are roasting over a flame, use tongs to hold the aubergine and rotate every few minutes. It may also help to cover the cooker around the ring with foil so it is easy to clean once the aubergine is roasted.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/

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/