You know sometimes when you want to have a restaurant style curry that has those nuances of smokiness and the lush thick gravy, forget all that palaver, you can make it yourself at home!
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good restaurant curry, be it a take out or eating in sometimes, but it’s quite satisfying just to be able to make your own at home. This is not a British Indian restaurant style recipe that requires the base gravy, this is just good old traditional home cooking but using the ember smoking technique to incorporate that smoky aroma and flavour!
How smoky you have it is entirely up to you. My husband can’t tell if it’s a subtle smoking, he does prefer that stronger infusion. I don’t mind it either but what you do have is that wafting drift of smoky air that lingers constantly enticing you.
There is another’s recipe on the website which I’ve posted previously but today’s recipe is slightly different. For the first time in decades I cooked one small baby chicken for just me and hubby.
That was such a bizarre experience as I am so used to cooking larger portions for a family of 5 or more. Now that my girls have all flown the nest it was rather odd cooking a small quantity. Having said that there is enough to feed 4 healthy adults!
It’s a stripped back recipe today. Somewhat ad hoc but ultimately, it’s the smoking process that makes the dish. I use my mini food processor to blitz the garlic, ginger, fresh tomatoes, green chilis and a Scotch bonnet because I love hot!
Not sure what the weight of the chicken would be but I would imagine it’s approximately 600 to 700 g. But nonetheless it is just a small whole baby chicken cut up, washed and left to drain.
I’ve done a list of ingredients below and quantities.
Quarter cup of oil
3 peppercorns (optional)
1 piece of cinnamon stick
3 cardamoms split
1 bay leaf
2 cloves (optional)
1 square inch piece of fresh ginger
2 green chilis
1 Scotch bonnet (optional)
2 medium tomatoes quartered.
5 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons tomato purée mixed with half cup of water.
2 tablespoon of dried Kasuri methi
1 large finely chopped onion
2 level teaspoons of East End Basar powder
1 level teaspoon of Cumin powder
1/2 a teaspoon of coriander powder
1 level teaspoon of turmeric
2 teaspoons of salt
1 level teaspoon of chili powder.
Handful of fresh chopped coriander garnish.
1 small piece of charcoal
A little bit of ghee, butter or oil to drizzle.
Firstly if you have a food processor, chuck in your ginger, garlic, fresh chilis, fresh tomatoes and scotch bonnet if you are using it and blitz it to get a course paste. If you don’t have a food processor then either finely grate or mince the ingredients. For a speedy way to peel garlic cloves please place the bulb or cloves in the microwave for 30 seconds then let it cool. Your life will be so much easier as the skin will just peel away.
Start with ideally a non-stick pan, you can use a steel-based karahi or whatever you are comfortable with. The non stick will give you bit more control later on cooking out the spices. Heat the pan and then add your cooking oil and bring it to heat.
Next add in your whole spices, cinnamon, cardamom’s, cloves, peppercorns and bay leaf. Gently fry this until it takes on a slightly darker colour. This will indicate that your oil has been infused. You should get a gentle aroma coming from your pan. At this point add your chopped onion and let this fry gently in a medium heat until lightly golden and softened.
Now add your blitzed/minced paste of garlic, ginger, tomatoes, chilis and or scotch bonnet. Add the salt and gently fry for a few minutes, reduce the heat cover with the lid and let this cook gently until oil splits and the raw smell changes to a slightly roasted and mellow aroma. This stage is important in that you gently let the natural oils in those ingredients impart. Stir often and keep an eye on it because you do not want it to burn or catch the bottom of the pan. Add splashes of water if required but continue to cover and cook until all the oil separates.
Now add ¼ cup of water and your powdered spices. This is the basar, cumin, coriander, chilli and turmeric. Give it a good stir and cover with a lid and let it cook on a medium to low heat. Here’s the key bit in any curry cooking, cooking out the spices. This step can take up to a good 10 minutes but it is worth every second. Continue to cook the spices stiring every now and then until it reduces down, the oil splits and surfaces. At this stage you will gently let the spices cook until they split and crater at the sides of your pan and it’s just about to stick. Stir, add a few tablespoons of your tomato purée, and cook again repeating that process until you’ve used up all your tomato purée. Each time you let it just about to stick then add the liquid. This will give your curry lots of flavour. Once all the puree has been used up you will cover it up in a low heat and let the spice mix totally release all its oil and evaporate all its liquid content. When you get to the point where you part the masala/spices you should see pools of oil gathering. You are ready now to add to your chicken.
When you have added the chicken give it a good thorough stir, cover, increase the heat to medium-high and let this cook. You will find that the chicken releases some juices and you will notice a thick gravy forming. Once the chicken has taken on the colour reduce your heat to medium, add half a cup of water cover and cook until your chicken is cooked through. Stir occasionally.
Add your dried methi, leave it uncovered and reduce the gravy to your liking. I like my gravy thick. When oil splits and rises to the top, this is the sign that your curry is cooked. Switch off the heat. Now you’re ready to smoke it.
Take a small dish or a piece of foil. Place it in the middle of the pan on top of your curry. You will need a well sealed lid ready and at hand. In a teaspoon have your ghee or oil ready.
Heat a piece of charcoal until its completely fired through. Using some heatproof tongs pick up your charcoal ember and place it on the foil or dish. Get your lid ready, pour the ghee or oil onto the hot ember and immediately put your tight lid on. If you notice any smoke escaping grab a kitchen towel and place it around to seal the leaks. Let it smoke for approximately 10 minutes.
Once the 10 minutes are up remove the lid, remove your foil and ember, give the curry a stir.
Garnish with fresh coriander and serve.
If you’re entertaining, for a little bit of a wow factor take your dish and present it to the table then lift the lid so your guests will have that tantalising dramatic smoke effect which will also create a nice little smoky ambience in your dining room.
Serve with plain rice, naan, for his chapatis flatbread whatever takes your fancy. Enjoy this smoky little number!
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