Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Chicken with Tomatoes, Peas and Garam Masala

The inspiration for this particular recipe came from a piece in a Saturday Guardian (or maybe The Observer, not sure) by Nigel Slater, on cooking with garam masala (the original can be seen here). I've  tinkered with it somewhat though, in particular adding extra spices as well as extra veg in the form of peas.

A bit of googling shows that chicken garam masala is in fact quite a common and popular dish in India. The term garam masala itself in Hindi literally means “hot mixture” and is a blend of spices common in North India particularly, as well as other South Asian food. The word garam (hot) actually refers to the intensity & pungency of the spices rather than referring to chilli heat.

The individual spices used in garam masala (they are toasted and then ground together) vary enormously according to both region and personal taste, hence none can really be considered more authentic than another. Typical versions may contain black & white peppercorns, cloves, mace, black & white cumin seeds, cardamom pods (black, brown & green), nutmeg, star anise and coriander seeds. Commercially available mixes here tend to also use a higher proportion of less expensive spices such as dried red chili peppers & garlic, ginger powder, sesame and mustard seed and so on. Of course it is always better to grind and mix your own spices if you can - saying that though, this recipe does use a commercial mix for ease.

Chicken with tomatoes, peas & garam masala
Serves 2

1 tbsp groundnut oil  
½ tsp black mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ cinnamon stick
⅛ teaspoon black peppercorns 
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
25g ginger, grated or finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small hot red chilli, finely chopped
150g chicken breast, cut into approximately 1 inch pieces
¼ tsp ground turmeric
1½ tsp ground coriander
⅛ tsp cayenne
2-3 ripe medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
¼ tsp salt
100ml hot water  
50g frozen peas
1½ tsp garam masala
juice of ½ lime
small handful coriander, chopped

Heat the oil in a wide heavy bottomed sauté pan and when hot (but not smoking) add the mustard and cumin seeds, cinnamon, and peppercorns and fry for a minute.

Turn the heat down and add the onions, garlic, chilli and ginger. Stir occasionally and cook for as long as possible (at least 20 minutes) and until the onions are golden brown.

Add the chicken, turmeric, cayenne and ground coriander and fry for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and salt. Simmer for ten minutes or so until it looks like the oil is starting to separate out then add the water and simmer for a further 10 minutes.

Add the peas and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Finally add the garam masala and simmer for 5 minutes more.

Add the lime juice and chopped coriander, and serve with basmati rice.

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