I am celebrating my 250th recipe on this blog! I wanted to follow Indian jubilee traditions by posting a recipe of a sweet but I then thought of creating something which is unique in using a minimal number of spices and with a short cooking time. I also wanted it to be low fat with minimum wasted nutrients. The result is this fried chicken which is mouth wateringly delicious, quick and easy to make, saves fuel, and is good for health – it sounds impossible, but it is true!
The Madras Curry Powder was developed in Tamil Nadu in the kitchens were food was cooked to suit the palate of the British during their Raj. It is quite different from the ‘garam masala’, the North Indian curry powder, which is mentioned in most so-called Indian recipes. Although the Madras Curry Powder has many spices in common with garam masala, it is also has fenugreek seeds, turmeric and, may be, curry leaves, which are typical constituents of Tamil cooking. This powder, though very popular in Britain, is available in very few shops in Tamil Nadu and has never been part of Tamil cooking, which has its own extensive range of curry powders. May be it is too mild for our palate :), and I doubt if people even knew about it since it was made specially for the British. I myself stumbled across it only a decade ago in an exclusive spice shop, which caters a lot to foreigners. Nevertheless, I find it a very versatile curry powder which can be used for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.
I have always been fascinated by the idea of Caramel Chicken. I came across both English and Tamil recipes but I found them to be impractical. I have combined and modified the recipes to make it easier to prepare and reduce wastage. I decided to use country tomatoes instead of the hybrid variety for their acidic flavour. The caramel chicken goes very well with Dinner Rolls, fried rices, and pulavs.
A long time ago, perhaps in my first year of B.Sc, I had an essay by Winston Churchill on his school life where he mentioned his dislike for dumplings. This made me very curious to know what dumplings were and why they engender such hatred. I went through many British and Australian cookbooks and discovered that dumplings seemed inoffensive and harmless. I tried a few recipes and my family loved them – maybe in Churchill’s school days, British schools didn’t even add pepper to the dumplings! The popularity of dumplings at home made me create my own recipe for Dumplings in Chicken Stew.
I first experienced the mesmerising taste of chicken and pineapple at the Atlantic Hotel’s Shenbagam Restaurant in 1977, but I didn’t have a recipe for it. I later acquired The Cook’s Color Treasury sometime in the 80s in which I discovered this recipe only recently. I immediately tried it out and loved the taste, but I would say it is not as good as the Atlantic version. I have simplified the procedure, used fresh cut pineapple instead of the canned variety, and included ginger-garlic paste and chicken stock. I have mentioned that wine is optional, as many Indians do not like the taste of wine in food because the fermented flavour it imparts is associated with spoilage in the Indian mind.
Doctors also can be good cooks 🙂 This recipe is from my ophthalmologist cousin Suriya, who specialises in low fat cooking. She served these cutlets when we had gone over for dinner, and we loved it. She was very happy to give the recipe. Her method used the entire chicken as she doesn’t get only the skinless, boneless breast. I have modified the recipe by using chicken breast and also cooked the chicken using my own recipe for chicken stock. In this way, I get the cooked chicken for the cutlet and the stock for other dishes.
I found this dish in my mother’s recipe book, which she had copied from her grandmother’s. I do not know if this dish is actually made in Calcutta 🙂 My great-grandmother hailed from Thanjavur, and her family were closely related to Vedanayagam Sastriar who was a Samasthana Kavignar (court poet) during King Serfoji II’s reign. I assume this recipe would have come through the court’s cooks as she was unlikely to have come across a Calcutta dish through other channels. It is very easy to prepare. My great-grandmother made this dish with mutton, but I tried it with chicken and found it to be vastly superior to the mutton version. This can be served with Khamiri Roti or Pooris.