Imagine for a moment that you are a British citizen in the late 18th century. Your service in the military has taken you to the Indian subcontinent where your government has steadily been increasing its influence. You have just arrived and are feeling hungry so your mates and you venture into a local open air marked to sample Indian cuisine. A bearded man in white robes serves you a bowl of strong smelling meats and vegetables in gravy.
You look at it with apprehension.
When you bring the first spoon to your mouth your palate, accustomed to simply seasoned English dishes, is lit up. Flavors of sweet, salty, sour, spicy, etc. fill your mouth. You had never tasted anything like it, and grow accustomed to it during your stay.
When your time in India is over you bring the knowledge of this dish, as well as the spices required to make it home with you to England. You are not alone. Many other British expatriates follow suit.
By the early 19th century curry was being served in England. Its popularity grew and became a part of the cuisine. Curry continued to spread around the globe, becoming especially prominent in the Caribbean. Much of these Curries are powder based, simplifying a process which traditionally involved using whole spices, chilies, and fresh herbs.
I love curry and every time I eat it I feel like that British soldier trying it for the first time. No two curries are the same. A little bit of this and a little bit of that come together to make a little bit of awesome in your mouth.
I make a very simple chicken curry with store bought curry powder, fresh vegetable/herbs, and coconut milk sauce. Everything cooks together in the oven (Though I have done it on top of the stove and it works just as well). My family likes it. I like it. I hope you like it as well.
1) 6-10 Dark meat chicken pieces
2) 1 large white potato cut in large chunks (large so the potato won't cook apart)
3) 3 tbsp of your favorite curry powder
4) 1 small onion
5) 1 to 3 cloves of garlic
6) 1 tomato, diced
7) 1 can of coconut milk
8) 1 to 2 hot peppers (the type and number of pepper will depend on how hot you want it)
9) ¼ cup chopped cilantro
10) ¼ cup chopped scallions
11) 1 lime
12) 1 tsp brown sugar
1) Place the chicken in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add one tablespoon of the curry powder. Mix the chicken to coat it with the seasoning. Cover and let sit for 3 hours or overnight. Note: I cut the bony ends off of the drumsticks. That's just a personal choice.
2) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Finely chop the onion, peppers, and garlic. I like to blend them all together in a food processor. Set aside. At this time also dice the tomato, and chop the potato.
3) In a stove and oven safe baking dish (I use an old enameled Dutch oven) heat a thin layer of oil. When the oil is hot brown the chicken, working in batches if you have to. Remove the chicken from the pan leaving the oil. Turn the heat down to low.
4) Add the remaining curry powder to the oil and immediately stir it around. It should sizzle slightly, but if it burns you had the heat too high. Stir the curry powder in the oil for about 30 seconds.
5) Add the chopped onion mixture and tomato to the oil and curry powder. Stir everything together and let it simmer for about 3 minutes.
6) Set the chicken on top of the vegetable mixture. Add the potatoes. Pour the coconut milk over the chicken. I won’t say how much coconut milk to use because it depends on how thick you want the sauce. Half a can will yield a thick sauce. The whole can will yield a thinner sauce. At this point I like to add a teaspoon or two of brown sugar but that is optional. I like the slight sweetness it imparts on the final dish.
7) Place the pan in the oven and cook for 1.5 hours with the lid cracked slightly to allow for evaporation. Check it after 1 hour to make sure there is still enough liquid. There should be because the chicken will release its own juices, but ovens do vary.
8) When the 1.5 hours is up, remove the chicken from the oven. If the sauce is too thin for you, remove the chicken and potatoes and reduce it on top of the stove. If it’s perfect move onto the next step.
9) Squeeze the juice of the lime over the chicken and sprinkle it with the cilantro and scallions. This final step may be considered garnishing, but to me a garnish’s number one purpose is to make a dish more appealing to the eyes. Here the lime, scallions, and cilantro’s number one purpose is to round out the flavor. To me they are necessary ingredients and my chicken curry wouldn’t taste right without them.
The dish is now ready to serve. I like it over rice.