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MURG KARI (Chicken Curry)
To serve 4 to 6

2 to 2 1/2 pounds skinned chicken legs and thighs and boned, skinned, breasts
3 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons scraped, finely chopped fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground hot red pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel or fennel seeds pulverized with a mortar and pestle
1/2 cup water
1 cup finely chopped fresh tomatoes, or 1 cup chopped, drained canned
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
1/2 cup unflavored yogurt
1 teaspoon garam masala (see below)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels and sprinkle them with
2 teaspoons of the salt. In a heavy 10- to 12- inch skillet, heat
the oil over high heat until a drop of water flicked into in
splutters instantly. Add the chicken and fry for 3 or 4 minutes,
turning the pieces about with a spoon until they are white and
somewhat firm. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the onions, garlic and ginger to the oil remaining in skillet
and, stirring constantly, fry for 7 or 8 minutes, or until the
onions are soft and golden brown. Reduce the heat to low, add the
cumin, turmeric, ground coriander, red pepper, fennel and 1 tablespoon
of the water, and stirring constantly, fry for a minute or so.
Stir in the tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of the fresh coriander, the
yogurt and the remaining teaspoon of salt.

Increase the heat to moderate and add the chicken and any juices
that may have accumulated in the plate. Pour in the remaining
water. Bring to a boil, meanwhile turning the chicken about in
the sauce to coat the pieces evenly. Sprinkle the top with the
garam masala and the remaining tablespoon of fresh coriander, reduce
the heat to low, cover tightly and simmer for 20 minutes, or until
the chicken is tender but not falling apart.

To serve, arrange the chicken attractively on a heated platter,
pour the sauce remaining in the skillet over it, and sprinkle with
the lemon juice.

Ground Spice Mixture

To make about 1 1/2 cups

5 three-inch pieces cinnamon stick
1 cup whole cardamom pods, preferably green cardamoms
1/2 cup whole cloves
1/2 cup whole cumin seeds
1/4 cup whole coriander seeds
1/2 cup whole black peppercorns

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Spread the cinnamon, cardamom,
cloves, cumin, coriander and peppercorns in one layer in a large
shallow roasting pan. Roast on the bottom shelf of the oven for
30 minutes, stirring and turning the mixture two or three times
with a large spoon. Do not let the spices brown.

Break open the cardamom pods between your fingers or place them
one at a time on a flat surface and press down on the pod with the
ball of your thumb to snap it open. Pull the pod away from the
seeds inside and discard it. Set the seeds aside. Place the
roasted cinnamon sticks between the two layers of a folded linen
towel and pound them with a rolling pin or a kitchen mallet until
they are finely crushed.

Combine the cardamom seeds, crushed cinnamon, cloves, cumin seeds,
coriander seeds and peppercorns in a small pan or bowl and stir
them together until they are well mixed. Grind the spices a cup
or so at a time by pouring them into the jar of an electric blender
(Note: This was written before spice grinders and food processors
became as widespread as they are. B) and blending at high speed
for 2 or 3 minutes, until they are completely pulverized and become
a smooth powder. If the machine clogs and stops, turn it off, stir
the spices once or twice, then continue blending. As each cupful
of spices is ground, transfer it to a jar or bottle with a tightly
fitting lid.

Garam masala may be stored at room temperature in an airtight
container, and will retain its full flavor for 5 or 6 months.


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