A few years ago, I became interested in the healing power of spices, specifically those such as tumeric (pronounced “too-merick”), an ingredient in curry powder that is known to contain medicinal
properties that stimulate liver functioning and reduce inflammation. I also became interested in cinnamon, which here in the United States isn’t typically used in savory dishes but is commonly present in North African and Indian curries. Like tumeric, cinnamon contains medicinal properties, particularly those that reduce blood sugar and increase brain functioning.
While I could go on and on about the different spices used in curry and their medicinal properties, what I’d really like to focus on is the cooking and eating part: Chicken curry is as much fun to cook as it is to eat — trust me.
Now, I should disclose that I grew up on a steady diet of American foods — meat, potatoes, spaghetti, and lots of starchy stuff — all the favorites. So, at 16 years old when a friend of mine who worked at an Indian restaurant invited me to try curry, I was skeptical to say the least. Looking back on the experience, I behaved something like a food autistic — I was resistant to any change in my food routines. At that time, in my mind, if food hadn’t been prepared using lots of Lawry’s seasoned salt, well, then it just was plain unacceptable.
Here I am years later, unwilling to reveal my age, but willing to say that as an adult I am thankful that my teenage friend had enough patience to continue urging new things on me, especially curry.
Okay, okay, back to cooking and eating. Chicken curry is a dish that gives the cook an enormous amount of creative control and flexibility — so let yourself go while preparing and eating it! It’s a dish that contains spices that open each one of our five senses, and perhaps the sixth one, too — the aromas themselves were thought by the ancients to carry magical and spiritual forces. Don’t forget to let the magic of the spices open your senses and excite your palate!
Below you will find my recipe, which I hope you enjoy, but by all means feel free to experiment and innovate!
1 package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
¼ cup of plain nonfat yogurt
3 Serrano chili peppers
2-3 cloves of garlic
½ Vidalia onion
6 cups of chicken stock
1 can of tomato paste
2 cups of Basmati rice
½ cup of fresh cilantro
Homemade curry powder
2 tbsp. of ground tumeric
2 tbsp. of ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. of ground cumin
2 tbsp. of ground sweet paprika
2 tbsp. of ground onion powder
2 tbsp. of ground coriander
2 tbsp. of ground ginger
2 tbsp. of ground fenugreek
2 pieces of Greek pita or Indian naan bread
1 sliced lime
1 sliced tomato
Using your fingers, mix all of the curry spices together in a bowl and set aside.
Cut the chicken into one-quarter-inch cubes, add the yogurt, and then season liberally with the curry powder. Allow the chicken to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Finely chop the onion, chili peppers, and garlic and set aside.
In a medium-size frying pan, heat two tbsp. of olive oil and lightly fry the onion, chili peppers and garlic.
Add the chicken, keeping on medium heat for five minutes, then reduce to low and add two cups of the chicken stock and one-half can of tomato paste. Stir.
Turn on low heat and simmer. Continue to stir periodically.
In a Dutch oven or similar sized pot, bring four cups of chicken stock and one tbsp. of salt to a boil and add two cups of the rice. Cover and let cook for eight minutes on high, and then reduce to low and simmer for 20 minutes until the rice is fork tender.
Chop the fresh cilantro, slice the tomato and warm the bread for garnishing.
Spoon the chicken curry on top of the rice, and garnish with the chopped cilantro.
Serve hot with slices of the pita or naan bread, slices of tomato and lime.
Watch your mouth water and your friends “ooh” and “aw” at what you present!
Michelle Lawrence, MA, MPH, specializes in cooking African-based dishes and relationship-enhancing dining experiences for families and couples. She can be reached at 612-251-9516.