Monday, 21 April 2008

Indulging in India 4: Balti chicken in tamarind sauce

Now here's a great recipe that's full of flavour, even if you choose to leave out the chillies, as we must here if we want the Young Man to eat up his dinner like a good young human male (g).

It's another from India's 500 Best Recipes, which has an entire section on "Balti" cuisine. What's Balti cuisine? Glad you asked, because that makes at least two of us who didn't know!

A bit of Googling revealed that Balti is not actually Indian, but a made-in-Britain invention of (probably) Pakistani immigrants. The style is not so much based on any one regional cuisine, but more to do with the method: one-pot cooking. Sounds like just the ticket for a weeknight when you don't want a pile of dishes the height of Everest to scale after a hard day at work and in front of the cooker (g). (Yes, there are parts of the first world where electric appliances don't do your dishes for you. Imagine that!)

So, given it's a weeknight, you probably don't want a recipe with a list of ingredients as long as your arm. Rest assured, most of this list is spices, and you will have most of them anyway, if you cook any Indian at all. Most of us will certainly have the first surprising ingredient: tomato sauce. Hmmm. Guess we don't need much more than this to confirm the non-subcontinental origin of this recipe (g).

I used black sesame seeds in this, as they are what I have in the house at the moment. Here in Japan, we can get not only black and white sesame seeds, but black and white sesame paste (tahini) as well. Black sesame seeds have been roasted to darken them, and have a lovely deep fragrant nuttiness that you don't really get with their paler siblings. I thought they were brilliant in this dish, even though they gave it a fairly dark hue when combined with the poppy seeds. As always, you get to choose what you put in yours.

Tamarind is a flavour I absolutely adore. You will want a really nice tart tamarind paste in this one. If yours isn't so sharp, you can always add some lemon juice to bring the "sauce" to your desired level of piquancy.

Talking of tamarind, my dear Iranian friend, M, who is a bit of a magician when it comes to pulling amazing food rabbits out of her hat, produced some tamarind pods to my great delight the last time I visited. They were sent from back home (Iran), where they are all the rage at the moment, apparently, but the box said product of Thailand. I must get me some of those!! (This is the same M that once, when I mentioned a wish to one day try those Iranian "sweet lemons" I had heard so much about, whizzed off to the fridge, and ta-taaaa, miraculously brought back my bidding and the admonishment to maybe wish for something a bit more financially rewarding next time!!)

Finally, although it's not mentioned in the name, coconut is a primary flavour in this dish. With the sesame and poppy seeds, you've got lots of different textures going on in this one, which should be pleasing to many palates.

Oh, and you could just as easily cook this in the oven, browning the chicken in a flameproof casserole before throwing the whole thing into a 200 degree Celsius oven for 20 minutes or so, depending on the size of chicken pieces you are using.

Balti chicken in tamarind sauce

Serves 4-6

60 ml/ 4 tbsp tomato ketchup
15 ml/ 1 tbsp tamarind paste
60 ml/ 4 tbsp
7.5 ml/ 1.5 tsp chilli powder
7.5 ml/ 1.5 tsp salt
15 ml/ 1 tbsp granulated sugar
7.5 ml/1.5 tsp grated fresh root ginger
7.5 ml/ 1.5 tsp crushed garlic
30 ml/ 2 tbsp desiccated coconut
30 ml/ 2 tbsp sesame seeds
5 ml/ 1 tsp poppy seeds
5 ml/ 1 tsp cumin
7.5 ml/ 1.5 tsp ground coriander
2 x 450 g baby chickens, skinned and cut into 6-8 pieces each [S: no "baby chickens here, so I substituted 800 g wing sticks]
75 ml/ 5 tbsp oil [S: you can get away with much less, if you like]
120 ml/ 8 tbsp curry leaves [S: my small packet of dried curry leaves doesn't even contain that much so I just added a 5-fingered pinch]
2.5 ml/1/2 tsp onion seeds [S: I substituted half a small onion, finely sliced. Not the same thing at all, but a worthy addition]
3 large dried red chillies
2.5 ml/ 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds [S: I substituted powder and it was fine; seeds are on my list for the next visit to my favourite spice shop in Ueno]
10-12 cherry tomatoes
45 ml/ 3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
2 fresh green chillies, chopped

1 Put the tomato ketchup, tamarind paste and water into a large mixing bowl and use a fork to blend everything together. Add the chilli powder, salt, sugar, ginger, garlic. coconut, sesame and poppy seeds, cumin and coriander to the mixture. Stir to mix. Add the chicken pieces and stir until they are well coated. Set aside.

2 Heat the oil in a karahi, wok, or deep pan. Add the curry leaves, onion seeds, dried red chillies, and fenugreek seeds and fry for about 1 minute.

3 Lower the heat to medium and add 2 or 3 chicken pieces at a time, with their sauce, mixing as you go. When all the pieces have been added, stir well using a slotted spoon.

4 Simmer gently for about 12-15 minutes, or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Finally, add the tomatoes, fresh coriander and green chillies, and serve from the pan.


1 comment:

Cynthia said...

I love discovering all these "made in England, Indian dishes".