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Chicken Coconut Curry

Margerita Pulè attends the Mona's Meals Contemporary Indian Workshop and writes up Allen Diwan's fantastic Chicken Curry recipe.

 
Chicken Coconut Curry

Information

Main Ingredient Chicken
Preparation Time 30 minutes
Cooking Time Less than 1 hour
Course Main
Recipe Serves 4
Recipe Type Contemporary Indian
A long time ago I worked in an Indian restaurant. It was run by three Bangladeshi brothers who worked incredibly hard (harder than most Irish people) to make a living. They barely left the restaurant; between lunch and dinner they would put a few of the chairs together, cover themselves with a tablecloth and go to sleep. At about six o’clock they’d get up, shake off the tablecloth and put it back on the table, ready for the waitress (me) to set the places.

Although the food was definitely made for European palates, (they always cooked something totally different for themselves to eat), I was terribly impressed by the seemingly vast array of spices they had by the cooker, the huge vat of pilau rice, which they filled with spices and Kerrygold butter and the lovely tandoori oven where they cooked the naan breads. They also used the oven to dry their socks in, which rather brought the whole thing back down to earth, but we won’t dwell on that part,

Liton, the manager thought he was quite the dashing man about town. He was the public face of the restaurant; he’d chat up and charm any customers that looked like they were going to spend a few quid.

One of them brought his wife over to Ireland; she was a beautiful, delicate and graceful girl that made me feel like an elephant beside her.

One night, their mother died, and even in the face of this tragedy, they refused to close the restaurant. They were on the phone behind the waiter station all night, in floods of tears, but were still cooking for the bewildered customers. One couple who ate there almost every week asked Liton how things were going, and he sat down at their table and cried and cried. It would have been funny if it wasn’t so sad.

It all sounds terribly clichéd, but I suppose it was a cliché, right down to the laid back African they had washing dishes for them. But it was a good place to work, even if they did try and steal my tips.

All this is in relation to nothing really, because comparing three Bangladeshi brothers cooking “Indian” food with full Irish cream with Allen Diwan’s contemporary Indian cooking is probably like comparing Irish stew with, say spaghetti al vongole just because they’re both European. But there you have it. Allen Diwan, of Diwan’s Restaurant in Qawra gave a Mona’s Meals Contemporary Indian Workshop way back in October. We made onion bhajees with chutney, chicken coconut curry with pilau rice and rice pudding for desert. It was all great fun, but for me, the most valuable thing Allen taught us was the basic few ingredients for a curry base, after which you can add different things like tomatoes or coconut milk to make different curries. It sort of took the whole mystery out of it, and I’ve been cooking, ahem, ‘proper’ curries ever since.

PS: I also spent some time working in a Thai restaurant in Broome, Western Australia. The chef/owner’s paranoia seemed to increase with the humidity of the place and on slow nights he’d drive around, pulling up outside the town’s other restaurants and spying on them to see how many customers they had. But that’s a story for another day.
Method

 

Whole Spices – a stick of cinnamon, a star anise, some cloves, and some nutmeg

1 Tablespoon Cumin Seeds

2 large onions, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or 1 tablespoon of minced garlic

1 thumb ginger, finely chopped or 1 tablespoon of minced ginger

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon curry powder

3 tomatoes, chopped or a small tin of polpa

2 Chicken breasts, cubed

1 handful curry leaves

1 tin coconut milk [400ml]

 

Fry up the spices and cumin seeds. Add what seems like a hell of a lot of onions and fry until translucent, not brown. Add the ginger and garlic and fry well, but again, do not allow to brown, otherwise Allen will appear in your kitchen and throw the whole lot out. Add turmeric powder and curry powder and cook for a very short time, otherwise they will burn. Put in the chopped tomatoes and allow to simmer for a while.

Next add the chicken pieces and fry for a bit. Throw in the curry leaves, pour in the coconut milk and simmer for about twenty minutes or until the chicken is cooked.

 

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Mona Farrugia
January 24, 2011
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@Charlotte
On a texture level, coconut milk is the equivalent of fresh cream.
Flavour wise, it's a different issue, as the coconut milk is adding a sweet flavour to the recipe, balancing out the sourness of the tomato. So reduce the tomato by about 1 tablespoon.

 
 
charlotte schembri
January 24, 2011
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Hi Mona/Margerita,

I know I'm probably being a pain, but I just dont like the taste of coconut milk. What should I used to obtain the same consistency? Milk or single cream?

 
 
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