It’s no secret that I love Indian food. Love may even be an understatement. Truthfully, I am obsessed with the cuisine!
Sure, I enjoy the typical restaurant fare: chicken tikka masala, saag paneer, and even heaps of naan slathered with ghee (clarified butter). Yes, I admitted it. I love ghee. But, that’s not the point…(**quickly changes topic**)
What I’m trying to say is that the restaurant stuff is good, but it doesn’t even hold a candle to the rustic and inventive food served in the Indian home. There is absolutely no comparison.
The curries my mother-in-law (Maa) and my father-in-law (Baba) create aren’t just food. No way. If you could just have one taste, you’d understand; these curries are love.
This is a very simple recipe, really. It doesn’t take long to throw together, and is quite forgiving. You can toss in any stray veggies laying around in your refrigerator, and substitute the chicken with any protein you desire (mushrooms are an excellent vegetarian option!).
This dish reminds me so much of the hearty beef stews I grew up enjoying…and believe it or not, I don’t even miss the beef (for the record, we don’t consume beef in our household; so even if I did miss the beef, I’d have to get over it rather quickly).
Because not everyone has the opportunity to enjoy an authentic meal in an Indian household, I thought I’d share a home-style recipe here, on my blog.
This recipe, although not quite the same, is very similar to a recipe Maa would make for me while I was in India. Occasionally my stomach would get a little upset, and even the thought of spice would make me nauseous. She would make this curry–similar to a stew–because she considered it to be more “bland.”
Now, don’t be confused by the word bland. This curry is anything but bland. It’s just not all that spicy (hot)–but, you can definitely add chili peppers if you’re feeling a little wild or adventurous. This curry also doesn’t include any fancy whole spices (cinnamon, clove, cardamom, ect…) or any cream. Although, I do toss in a bay leaf–for good measure.
I made this curry using skinless and boneless chicken thighs. In India, you’d make this curry using a whole–cut up–chicken; but I didn’t have one on hand. The meat–whether you are using chicken, lamb, or even fish– is usually cooked on the bone, as this lends incredible flavor to the gravy.
Because my chicken thighs were boneless, I added chicken stock–instead of water–to thin out the curry. This simple substitution really adds a lot of flavor that the curry would otherwise lack. If you do use water, rest assured. Your curry will still taste good; it just might be a little flat–for lack of a better word.
To get started, I heat up a little oil in a dutch oven and toss in some cumin seeds. Aside from adding a little flavor, the seeds also let me know when the oil is hot enough to add the onions. Once the oil reaches the desired temperature, the seeds will begin spluttering and popping. Garlic, ginger, and a few spices get added to the cooked onions to make a wonderfully fragrant–and dry–“curry paste.”
Once everything is well cooked and fragrant, tomatoes are added. I also add a small amount of either chicken stock or veggie stock to help deglaze the pan. At this point, the curry will look something like this:
If you’re really going for a rustic presentation, you can continue to cook this until the tomatoes completely break down; but what I like to do is to dump the mixture in my blender (remove the bay leaf). I just prefer the masala to be a little smoother and less chunky. Either way, it’ll all taste about the same.
At this point, I’ll leave the blended gravy to the side; and toss a little oil back into my dutch oven. I sear the chicken. Once it has nice color, I dump the gravy and a little chicken stock back into the dutch oven–right over the chicken. Then I give it all a little stir.
I toss the bay leaf back into the pot, and add any vegetables I want to use. This time I used a whole package of mushrooms, 3 sliced carrots and about one cup of frozen peas. I also have a little taste and adjust the salt/black pepper.
Although this curry can be cooked relatively quickly, I love to cook it low(er) and slow(er). I turn my flame to medium, toss the lid back on the pot and let it all cook one to two hours–checking every 30 minutes and adding additional stock, if needed. I like to cook it this way because it ensures the chicken is nice and tender. It’ll fall apart, actually. It also helps to develop the unmistakable “curry” flavor.
Home-Style Chicken Masala
Serves 6-8 people
- 6-8 chicken thighs (I used boneless/skinless)
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 large red onion- diced
- 1 tbsp. garlic paste
- 1 tbsp. ginger paste
- 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- 3 tsp. ground garam masala
- 2 tsp. ground corriander
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp. ground chili powder (more or less, depending on how spicy it is. Mine is quite spicy.)
- 2 large roma tomatoes- diced
- 2 tsp. plain yogurt- whisked
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tsp. salt–or to taste
- about 2 c. vegetables- whatever you have on hand
- chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water- as needed to thin the curry
- Using one large pot with a tight fitting lid, heat oil over medium-high heat and add 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds. Once they begin to pop, add the diced onions and fry until the pieces become translucent.
- Add the ginger and garlic pastes. Keep stirring.
- Add all the quantities of ground spices, and the bay leaf. Keep frying. The mixture should be quite dry and begin to stick to the bottom of the pan. About three minutes.
- Add the chicken to the pan and cook on high-heat for about 5 minutes, until the chicken has fully browned. Add any vegetables you are using at this point.
- Turn the heat back to medium-high and add the tomatoes to the pot. Add about 1 cup of chicken stock (or water) and simmer until the tomatoes have cooked down. Add the whisked yogurt. Stir it all together and then bring the mixture to a fierce boil.
- Put the lid on the pot, turn the heat to medium and simmer for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours–checking and stirring every 30 minutes.
- Taste and adjust the salt-level. Add additional chicken stock if the curry has become to thick.
- Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and serve with rice.
I served this fantastic Indian-style stew on top of some simple short-grain rice. It would be excellent eaten with some homemade chapatis (Indian tortillas)…but sadly, I make terrible chapatis. Hmph. Maa tried to teach me, but I just haven’t quite caught on. Maybe someday I’ll get the hang of it…