Andhra-style Methi Chicken Curry

Mallika Basu - Andhra-style Methi Chicken Curry

Posted 27th January 2014

Forget New Year’s day, my resolutions usually follow my birthday. Take all that unconditional love, unfettered attention, add increasing age, propensity for senility and voila, you get a stupid New Year’s resolution that will last a day. If lucky.

This year was all about the possibility of middle age spread. No matter that I am nowhere near middle age yet. Prevention is better than cure. So when a local mother declared she was doing the Autoimmune Paleo, I immediately paid attention.

If you haven’t heard about the Paleo, you must be living in the dark ages or something. This, people, is the diet du jour. Basically, you eat what your cavemen ancestors did, pre-agriculture. (Paleo is short for Paleolithic – geddit?) If it wasn’t available through hunting, fishing and gathering back in the old days, it’s not worth eating.

So far, so fascinating.

Except, I should have known this would never work for me. For a start, hunting, fishing and gathering already sounds like more physical labour than I have done in my entire life. Then there is the brain power needed to work out what entered our diets through agriculture. So sweet potato okay, not white potato? Hello migraine.

And finally, I am Indian. I live on rice and lentils. It is the stuff my dreams are made of. Life without both? You cavemen have no idea what you were missing.

Nonetheless, I embarked on the ancestral dietary pattern. Kale Omelette for breakfast. No drama. Mackerel and Avocado salad for office lunch. No big deal. Chocolates winking at me at tea time. Tempting. Then I came home to find a tall stack of warm Methi Theplas, freshly made by nanny K, on the kitchen worktop. End of.

I have on good record that no one trusts a skinny cook. If evolution has taught me one thing, it’s to be sensible with portions. Dinner time meals, in particular, tend to be a one pot dish with protein and vegetables, served with a reasonable portion of carbs. Usually a fistful of steaming hot Basmati rice. Chicken curry, tends to feature a lot.

This Andhra-style Methi Chicken curry, a Paleo-friendly Chicken Curry no less, combines sweet tangy tomatoes with the bitterness of healthy fenugreek, a match made in heaven. Fenugreek is available in abundance in Indian winters, and a staple ingredient when the temperatures dip. Imagine my delight when I found a frozen bag of chopped fenugreek in my local supermarket?

That’ll be a last time I’m a Dodo about a diet.

Feeds 4:

750gm chicken thighs and drumsticks, skinned and on bone

1 tin of tomatoes (or 4 medium fresh tomatoes)

1 large onion

10 curry leaves

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp ginger and garlic paste

100g frozen chopped methi (or 1 cup fresh methi)

Half tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp garam masala

2 tsp chopped fresh coriander

Salt to taste

1 tbsp oil

Chop the onion finely, and the tomatoes if using fresh. In a large pot, bring the oil to heat on medium. When it’s hot, toss in the cumin seeds and the curry leaves.

As they sizzle up, mix in the onion and a pinch of salt. Saute for about five minute until the onions start taking colour. Next spoon in the ginger and garlic, and saute for another five minutes until the whole lot turns a darker golden.

Then add the turmeric, chilli powder and saute for another five minutes to cook the spices. If the spices start getting stuck to the bottom of the pot, add a little bit of hot water and stir to release them. Now, stir in the tomatoes. I used a tin because I didn’t have fresh tomatoes handy, and I can safely say the result was delicious. But fresh would be great too, of course!

Bring the tomatoes to boil, and then lower the heat to medium and cook until the masalas in the pot take on a jam-like texture. At this point, add the chicken pieces. Whack the heat up again and brown the chicken pieces, coating well with the masalas. Then add a cup of hot water, lower the flame to a medium and cook the chicken for about 20 minutes until cooked. The chicken will separate from the bone when the drumsticks are cooked.

You can decide how much gravy you want in this curry. I kept a soft thick curry, to eat with rice. But if you want it more to go with rotis/parathas, keep the chicken cooking until the curry dries up.

Finish by stirring in the fenugreek leaves, fresh coriander and garam masala. Simmer gently for five minutes, add salt to taste and enjoy the methi chicken curry with a side of rice.

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