A lot of times, food; like music and scents; can trigger memories. It can transport you back to childhood, a special moment, a holiday abroad. A moment in time forever frozen and brought vividly back to life with a single meal. This is one of those recipes for me. It takes me back to my last day in India almost 20 years ago!
I was travelling India alone with my mom for just over a month – something I think I took for granted at the time – but also a journey and experience that was completely unforgettable to me. There’s something about travelling to your homeland; about meeting family that’s so far in distance but so closely connected in blood; that just triggers something in the spirit – that makes you question who you are and where you come from, and connects you with your roots even though over time we have all dispersed. It’s a trip I will always hold very dear to my heart and hang onto in my memory bank…until I am able to make the journey back there again. Anyway, this is a recipe that triggers memories of my time there…specifically of my last day…and more specifically, my last meal in the motherland!
It was somewhere around midnight and we were due to leave for the airport, but Indian culture being what it is meant that we couldn’t leave without eating. Needless to say, I wasn’t hungry, and at first glance, the meal looked rather unappetising; but respect meant that I had to eat some of it. And my oh my was I in for a surprise because this dish was unlike anything I had ever eaten before! It was subliminal. A pure treat for my taste buds! I even went in for seconds (maybe also thirds). But then our transport arrived and we had to leave in a hurry and I left without having a chance to ask for this recipe. It haunted me for months that I couldn’t recreate this meal that left such a surprising impact on my taste buds. Anyway, it was still the era of snail mail and telegrams and those public phones we used to use to make international calls (remember those?) – and all my attempts at retrieving the recipe led to dead ends. I gave up and resigned myself to never knowing the secret of that dish and allowed it to remain part of my memories of my time in India. That is until many years later when I found a recipe in a book that resembled this iconic meal that haunted me for so long because I didn’t know how to make it!
Long story short…after some tweaks and fine tuning, I have mastered this recipe that is so intricately tied to some of my favourite moments in my entire life; and now I get to share it on one of my favourite places on the internet – my blog!
First things first, I know that at first glance, this dish looks really underwhelming. But what it lacks in colour, it more than makes up for in flavour. Bear with me on this one… ‘cos I think it has the potential to become more iconic than Butter chicken – and here’s how I make it!
- 1,5 kilo chicken
- 100gr cashew nuts
- Garlic & Ginger paste
- white pepper
- garum masala
- green chillies
- 2 medium onions
- 375 ml fresh cream
Soak 100gr of cashew nuts in 1 cup of boiling water for about 20 minutes.
Marinate 1,5 kilos of chicken fillet with the following. Ideally, you can leave it to marinate overnight, or if you’re last minute like me, get straight into cooking.
- 1 1/2Tblsp garlic and ginger paste
- 1tsp salt (to taste)
- 1tsp white pepper
- 1tsp garum masala
- 1 heaped tsp jeera (cumin)
- 1-2tsp ground green chillies (approximately 5-6 chillies)
- 2Tblsp vinegar
- Add ghee to a wide base pot and heat with a stick cinnamon and a few cardamom pods (elaichi).
- Once ghee is hot, add chicken and cook on medium heat until chicken is tender and all water has cooked away (I like it to lightly grill in the pan).
- While chicken is cooking, you can proceed with the next few steps.
- Chop 2 medium onions and steam in a cup of water on medium heat until onions are translucent and leave to cool (if you have patience. I don’t)
- Then liquidise soaked cashews from step one and steamed onions together.
- Add 300ml fresh cream, and blend together further.
- Pour this cashew cream mixture over the chicken once it is cooked through, adjust spices (I usually add garum masala, ground chillies and salt) and add a squeeze of lemon (2Tblsp) and allow it to simmer together over low heat so that the flavours of the chicken and cashew cream can properly infuse together.
- Ideally, you want to make this in advance and allow it to stand for an hour or 2 so that all the flavours really pull together. If the curry is too thick, you can add more cream or water to get to the desired consistency.
- Garnish with coriander and some whole cashew and best served with roti! (I make the most perfect garlic and herb roti that will go perfectly with this)
Seriously one of my top recipes ever made. Totally indulgent and sensationally flavourful despite the lack of colour – don’t say I didn’t warn you !
Good luck trying it out.