We have a new book in our lives. This one was a very kind gift from my brother and his fiancée. It’s on another level where Indian food is concerned – ‘India Cookbook’ by Pushpesh Pant. If you want any inspiration regarding this wonderful cuisine, look no further. It has everything from spice pastes and pulses to breads and desserts. Apart from the comprehensive content, it’s simply written in a very readable style and well laid out for ease of reference. 

Dan has already recreated a couple of the fantastic recipes that I shall be reporting back on, the first being a fish curry that I’ll be talking about soon, the second being this very tasty chicken dish. We settled on ‘Koli Milagu Masala’ (Pepper Chicken from Chettinad) with the obligatory vegetable side dish – an interesting accompaniment named ‘Achari Gobi’ (Cauliflower in Pickling Spices). 

To make our version of the Pepper Chicken (serves two generously) you will need:

– Four tablespoons of sunflower oil

– 500g of chicken thighs (skinless/boneless)

– Three bay leaves

– Four cardamom pods

– One cinnamon stick

– One teaspoon of fennel seeds

– Four cloves 

– Half a teaspoon of urad dal (rinsed/drained)

– Ten curry leaves

– Two onions (peeled/chopped)

– One tomato (chopped)

– Salt

For the spice paste:

– Eight dried chillies

– One tablespoon of cumin seeds

– Three tablespoons of coriander seeds 

– One teaspoon of fennel seeds

– One teaspoon of poppy seeds (recipe says white but we used black)

– One teaspoon of black peppercorns

– Five cloves of garlic 

– One inch piece of fresh ginger (peeled/roughly chopped)

– One teaspoon of ground turmeric 

Method:

– Make up the spice paste to start. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large stove top lidded pan and add in the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, chillies, poppy seeds, fennel seeds and black peppercorns. 

– Fry for a minute until lightly roasted, then remove and allow to cool. Transfer to a spice blender and introduce the rest of the ingredients. Blend until you have a paste, adding a little water if required. 

– Heat the remaining oil to a medium heat, adding the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, cloves, fennel seeds and urad dal to the pan. Stir-fry everything for a couple of minutes or until the dal begins to change colour.

– Next, tip in the curry leaves, stirring continuously, and then the onions. Stir for a few minutes until softened. 

– Add in the spice paste and cook for around five minutes (sprinkle with a little water to stop it from sticking to the bottom of the pan), then the tomato and stir-fry for a further few minutes. 

– Add the chicken, mix thoroughly and pour in 500ml of water. Bring to the boil then reduce to a low heat. Place the lid on the pan and leave it to simmer for approximately twenty five minutes, unti the meat is almost cooked. 

– Take the chicken out and place on a warmed plate, then turn the heat up to thicken the curry sauce. Add the meat back in and return to a low heat for five minutes, until the chicken is cooked all the way through. 

To make our version of the cauliflower side dish (serves two generously) you will need:

– One cauliflower head (washed/cut into florets)

– Two teaspoons of sunflower oil

– Half a teaspoon of mustard seeds

– One teaspoon of coriander seeds (crushed)

– Half a teaspoon of Nigella seeds

– Half a teaspoon of cumin seeds

– One teaspoon of dried red chillies (crushed)

– Five garlic cloves (peeled/roughly chopped)

– One teaspoon of anchoor 

– One teaspoon of oil from any pickle (we used mango pickle)

Method:

– Soak the cauliflower in a bowl of hot water for ten minutes. 

– Heat the oil to a medium temperature in a stove top lidded pan. Add all of the seeds and fry for a minute or until they start to pop.

– Drain the cauliflower and tip it into the pan, stir-frying for approximately ten minutes. Add the garlic and chillies, then sprinkle with a teaspoon of hot water. Season with salt then place the lid on the pan. Cook for around five minutes. Stir and introduce the anchoor and the oil from the pickle to finish.

The authenticity of both of the above recipes is completely spot on, and more than capable of rivalling any take-away (or restaurant) curry. The cauliflower is dry but full of aromatic flavour and teams well with the chicken which brings a wealth of spicy, fragrant sauce to the meal. We served both with a small serving of basmati rice, a chapati, mango pickle (latest top discovery – again, courtesy of my bro) and a little chutney for contrasting sweetness, on the side. 

I’m very much looking forward to sampling more Indian delights from this great book. Stay tuned.

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