Today I woke up craving Indian food. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a really amazing, homemade Indian dinner. Too long, actually. As good as the Indian restaurant can be, it never really hits the spot entirely. Last time we were there, all I wanted was lamb curry; and that’s what we ordered. But what we got was overcooked lamb in a so-so gravy. Not at all amazing. Piyush and I left with full tummies but we were both a
little lot disappointed. Sometimes I just don’t want to cook though…and most of the time I regret it.
My craving for lamb curry still hasn’t been completely fulfilled, and it probably won’t be for a couple more weeks. I thought about going to the store and picking up a package of lamb but at around $13/lb…and because I had 2 fresh chicken breasts in the fridge, I just couldn’t justify it. So I decided to replicate a dish that I had ordered both in the U.S. and in India, but had never made at home. Tonight Murgh Makhani was on the menu! Murgh Makhani is better known in the States (and probably worldwide) as Butter Chicken. It’s usually really, really rich and for some reason a lot of restaurants here add extra spices, like clove and cinnamon. My version is a pretty spot on replica of the Murgh Makhani Piyush and I ordered from this totally random restaurant outside of Jaipur. I believe their’s used more butter, shallots instead of onions, and it had a much deeper orange color because tomatoes are always big, beautiful, and bright red in India! They also didn’t use yogurt. My stomach tolerates yogurt better than cream or milk, so I decided to add some. I suppose if you want to be traditional about it…skip the yogurt, increase the cream.
In India you would never have just a meat dish for dinner, so I took a quick look in the pantry and noticed I had a can of tomato sauce and a can of chickpeas. Channa Masala, it was! I also wanted something light and fresh to accompany the heaviness of the murgh makhani dish so I added cucumber, onion, chile, corriander (cilantro) and tomato to my shopping list. I can’t remember what it’s called but I had the most amazing little “salad” all over India. You can add all sorts of stuff to it, but by itself it’s so simple and fresh! As soon as it popped into my head…I knew I wanted it!
Earlier in the day, before I had started any preparations for dinner…and while I was cooking 15 cups of strawberry-lavender jam (more on that later)…my friend Megan called. I haven’t seen her in a couple years and she wanted me to go shopping with her. Of course I was going to go! I finished the jam, quickly marinated the two chicken breasts and was out the door with her in no time. I forgot all about dinner (well, not totally. I did remember to pick up the items on my shopping list!), and Megan and I had a good time. We didn’t get home until around 5:30 and I didn’t really feel like cooking at that point. But I put on my happy face and did it any way. I started the salad while Megan was still here so she could give it a taste as well. It’s so easy to make and it seriously comes together in less than 10 minutes. Megan was happy, I was happy, and Piyush—with his hard to please palate—was happy! It tasted just like I remembered and for a second I felt like I was back in India!
While I chopped up the ingredients for the salad, I started the channa masala and had that cooking away in no time! I flipped on some Bollywood music and got in the Indian cookin’ groove. I had everything completed for dinner in just under an hour! Not too shabby! I’ve got to admit though, I dirtied up a LOT of dishes and my kitchen now needs a little love and attention…but tonight’s dinner was worth it! I don’t feel quite so bad about cleaning up if I enjoyed what I’ve ate.
Indian Style Salad:
- 1 medium cucumber, de-seeded and diced
- 1/4 to 1/2 red onion, finely diced
- 1 roma tomato, de-seeded and diced
- handful of fresh corriander (cilantro), finely diced
- 1/2 serrano chile, finely diced
- fresh lime juice, to taste (you don’t need all that much)
- chaat masala, to taste (not very much—maybe 1/2 tsp?)—optional
- salt, to taste
- Mix everything in a bowl and stir well. Refrigerate until ready to eat.
While I was in India I had this salad plain, with aloo bhujia, and I also enjoyed it with a variety of boiled veggies. Delicious!
- Olive oil
- 1/2 c. red onion, chopped
- 1 serrano chile, chopped
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- 1 tbsp. ginger paste
- 1 tbsp garlic paste
- 1 tsp garam masala (more if desired)
- 1 tsp kashmiri chile powder (I used a little more)
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 c. plain yogurt —whisked until smooth
- 1 c. 1/2 and 1/2 (could substitute soy milk, cream whole milk…ect.)
- 1 extra large tomato, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 chicken breasts —marinated and diced
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- fresh corriander
To be honest, I just throw stuff in a giant ziplock bag along with the chicken breasts. I don’t measure anything—sorry! I usually throw in some olive oil, lemon juice, garam masala, corriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric, salt, pepper, and kashmiri chile powder.
Let marinade a couple hours—better if overnight though!
- Heat olive oil in dutch oven. Saute onion and chile until soft. Add garam masala, chile powder and ground cumin. Stir and cook until everything becomes fragrant (about a minute). Add ginger and garlic. Cook one minute longer.
- Add butter and lemon juice to the pan. When butter is completely melted add the chopped tomato. Cook until it starts to break down. Add tomato paste. Cook one more minute and then transfer sauce to the blender (you can skip blending it, but I don’t really recommend it). Blend.
- Add 1/2 and 1/2 and whisked yogurt. Blend again until everything is combined. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, add chicken to the dutch oven. Stir-fry, adding a little sauce if needed—you don’t want it to dry out! Cook until it’s no longer pink. Then add the remainder of the sauce to the pot.
- Toss in the bay leaf. Add more chile powder, if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- In a small, separate bowl add 1 tbsp cornstarch and enough water to thin it out. Add to the curry and stir until thickened. About 10-15 minutes.
- Garnish with fresh corriander.
Everything was on the table so quickly. I served everything with some Basmati rice and an aloo paratha. The rice was made in our rice cooker while everything simmered on the stove. The aloo partha was simply taken out of the freezer and heated on the stove top. You could totally make this at home in less time than it would take to drive to the Indian restaurant, order and get your food! You’ll also save about 30 bucks…and the disappointment that sometimes comes after you take that first bite and realize you should have just made it at home all along!
Oh! I forgot to add… this meal is enough for about 6 people! So we definitely have dinner for tomorrow (and probably lunch for the day after!) as well!