Saturday, 17 January 2015

Chicken in a Karhi Sauce

Karhi, according to curry doyenne Madhur Jaffrey, is “one of the glories of India”. It is really a soupy sauce made with chickpea or gram flour (called Besan in Hindi and Urdu) and yoghurt. If the yoghurt is old and sour she says, so much the better. Sometimes karhi has dumplings (pakoras or vegetable fritters) in it (as in the Delhi- style karhi), sometimes it has vegetables in it (as in the karhi from Western India) and here, in this desert dish from Rajasthan, it has been transformed into a wonderfully unctuous sauce for meat. It is enjoyed with plain rice but you could also serve it with Indian flatbreads.

Traditionally, it is sweeter than the other variants, because sugar or jaggery is added to it, but it can be made without sugar for a more sour taste. This recipe does not use sugar but is not too sour in its overall taste. If it is eaten without pakoras its consistency is slightly thinner. The Gujarati kadhi is made preferably from buttermilk as it gives a more smooth texture compared to yogurt. Variations on this basic dish includes the addition of certain vegetables, notably bhindi (okra) in which case it is known as bhinda ni kadhi. Lamb may be used & slow cooked (Karhi Gosht) in place of chicken. The spices are the same in this recipe. 

This recipe makes use of black & fragrant kalonji (nigella) or onion seeds. I find this ingredient above all others is an excellent gentle tonic for the lungs, and whenever I have a cough, the beginnings of a cold, or a tight chest, this dish works wonders in clearing phlegm & rebalancing the respiratory membranes. The ginger helps too. The overall temperature of the dish is warm so its ideal for winter evenings.

2 tablespoons chickpea flour

250 ml/8 fl oz natural yoghurt. the sourer the better

Put the chickpea flour in a bowl. Slowly add 450 ml/15 fl oz water, mixing as you go. Whisk in the yoghurt with gusto!

Whole Spices:

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon whole kalonji (nigella)
1 teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole brown mustard seeds

Combine the cumin seeds, /kolonji, fenugreek and Fennel in a small dish.

4 tablespoons corn, peanut or olive oil
OR 4 Tbsp Ghee

140g/ 5 oz onions, peeled and finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed to a pulp

Pour the oil into a wide, preferably non-stick, lidded pan and set it over a medium- high heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds. As soon as they pop, which will be within a matter of seconds, add the cumin seeds, kalonji, fenugreek and fennel seeds. A second later, add the onions, and cook, stirring, for 4-5 minutes, until they turn brown at the edges. Then add the garlic and stir for a minute.

Powdered herbs:

1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1- 1.5  teaspoons salt

Assemble the powdered herbs & salt in a small bowl or dish.
1 Whole chicken, washed, cut & diced

OR… (for Karhi Gosht):

675 g/ 1.5 lb boneless lamb,
cut into 2cm/1-inch cubes

Put in the meat, ground cumin, turmeric, ginger, cayenne and salt, and stir for a minute. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for 10 minutes, lifting the lid now and then to stir. Stir the yoghurt mixture and add it to the meat. Stir and bring to the boil, then cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook For about 1 hour.

Guest vegetable
(e.g. okra, courgette, or as pictured red/ sweet pepper)
Adding a vegetable is optional. I have added red (sweet) pepper here to provide some natural sweetness rather than jaggery or sugar. Put it in shortly after the meat had bedded in, is stirred & is simmering away.

a handful of fresh curry leaves, if available

4-5 fresh, hot green chillies, either bird‘s eye or the cayenne variety

Crush the curry leaves lightly with your fingers and throw them into the pot. throw in the whole chillies as well. Cover and simmer gently for another 5 minutes or until the meat is tender.

Serves 4-6

North Utsire

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