This was the Christmas Eve/husband's birthday dinner of Chicken Korma, Bhatura and Gujerati style beans with mustard seeds. When husband first arrived here from England he had never eaten Indian food. I'm sure that anyone who knows the U.K. would find that as odd as a person in the states never having had Pizza or Italian food, but it was true. I already knew that he loved Chinese and Thai food so moving over to Indian wouldn't be a huge leap. We both like things spicy and moderately hot and living as we do near a whole host of Indian markets along Moody street in Waltham, makes getting supplies not only easy, but an adventure in new smells and tastes and occasionally pointed to a word in a cookbook and having the locals show me what it is.
I chose a recent addition to the repetoire. A Korma. Madhur Jaffrey is my cooking goddess when it comes to Indian dishes and this was no exception. It was adapted from her latest book called 'From curries to kebabs: Recipes from the Indian spice trail'. In the book she explains the origins of the dish called Korma.
"Most of these dishes originated in the Islamic courts of the Moghuls in the 16th to 19th centuries and of the Muslim rulers of the Indian subcontinents that preceded them...In India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the lands of its evolution, it generally suggests a rich banquet/party dish, using a lot of yogurt in the cooking as well as expensive spices and flavourings such as cardamom, nutmeg, saffron, and nuts."
And let me assure you...it does and it is worth every single stamen of saffron you put in it. I would call this a great Indian dish to indoctrinate newbies in to the cuisine as it generally is not as hot as other dishes in the repertoire.
Royal Chicken Korma (Shahi Murgh Korma)
1 tsp saffron threads
4 TBS heavy cream, heated until hot.
Using a bowl or cup soak the saffron threads in the hot cream for 2 to 3 hours stirring occasionaly. The cream will form a skin, but don't worry this will disolve into the dish in the end.
5 - 6 TBS corn, peanut or canola oil
12 cardamom pods
4 medium sticks of cinnamon
6 bay leaves
5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 medium onions (about 10 ounces) sliced into very fine half rings
2 TBS peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
8 cloves of garlic, crushed to a pulp with a little salt in a mortar and pestle or with the side of a knife
4 TBS whole peeled almonds (I often use slivered, blanched almonds)
4 TBS golden raisins
2 TBS ground coriander
1 TBS ground cumin
1 cup of plain yogurt, lightly whisked until smooth **
2.5 to 3 tsp salt
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp garam masala
Pour the oil in a large heavy bottomed frying pan with a lid, over
medium-high heat. When it is hot add the cardamom, cinnamon an bay
leaves. Stir once or twice and add the chicken pieces in one layer.
If they will not fit comfortably in one layer, do them in two batches.
Brown the chicken on both sides and then remove to a plate of a bowl
leaving behind the whole spices.
Add the onions to the pan and fry until reddish-brown.
Add the ginger, the garlic and stir for a minute.
Add the almonds, raisins, coriander and cumin.
Stir until combined and then add the chicken and any accumulated juices back to the pan.
Now add the yogurt, salt and cayenne pepper.
Stir and return to a simmer.
Cover with a lid leaving a crack open on the side and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, Raise the heat to high and cook, stirring while the liquid boils away.
You wish to end up with a thick sauce clinging to the meat.
Add the saffron cream, garam masala and 1/2 cup of water. Cover tightly and cook on low for 5 minutes.
** A note on the yogurt. When I could get the Greek yogurt called Fage I would always use that as it was creamy and thick and tasted lovely. But do to a spoil sport who ratted them out for not having an interstate license to transport milk products we haven't had the lovely nectar around here for almost a year. After reading about the various types of milk and their fat and protein content in the newly revised 'On Food and Cooking: The science and lore of the kitchen by Harold McGee' I began to seek out the new yogurt made locally from Water Buffalo milk which is much richer then cow's milk. Water Buffalo are used also in the production of Buffalo Mozzarella cheese as well. Cow milk varies in fat content from 3.6 percent for a Holstein of a Friesian to 5.2 percent for a Jersey whereas Water Buffalo has 6.9 percent.