A few weeks ago Barbara over at Tigers and Strawberries posted Sweet or Savoury, the next Spice is Right theme. Basically, take a spice and use it in a (new) way to you.
It wasn't that long ago when anything around here beyond the standard s&p with a few token herbs and spices was considered "exotic." Being raised on South Indian food, most of what I ate fell into that strange and extremely satisfying category. My mum did her best to figure out Canadian food: sometimes dinner was successful, sometimes it wasn't. All of this is to say, between Canadian and Indian traditions, I've grown used to meals where ginger, cardamom, cloves and other spices appeared in both main and sweet dishes.
So what to do?
Well...with all the reading I've been doing for the 2006: Not So Vanilla series, I've come across a few savoury vanilla dishes. I can honestly say that I don't think I've ever (knowingly) eaten a savoury food that used vanilla.
At first I looked for vanilla chicken recipes. Unfortunately, most of what I found reminded me of Marge Simpson's butterscotch chicken (the treat she mentioned she’d make for Bart after he came back from the dentist)--they could be interesting or they could be...well...gross.
So I decided to get creative...sort of.
I also decided to try and do this one sans assistance. Since my ankle didn't bother me until the very end when the time came to serve, I thought I did very well. I let the exbf take care of the serving ceremonies. It felt so good to be back in the kitchen again. Unfortunately, that feeling was short-lived as later that week I re-injured myself.
I took a look at my standard Chicken Kurma recipe and decided to play with it a little. I made it milder, switched out the cashews for almonds and, of course threw in a vanilla bean.
I think I'll call this a recipe-in-training: far from perfect, but there's potential. Since I was rather tentative as to exactly how much standing I could do, my shortcuts—pre-ground almonds and store-bought grated coconut—leave me wonting a revisit, but doing it properly (fresh coconut and whole nuts) and allowing me to play with the coconut-nut ratio. If anyone decides to try this and finds ways to improve upon it, please let me know. I think this kurma would do well with pork or prawns as well.
The result wasn't too bad-- a mild, chicken curry with a lovely vanilla scent, served over steaming basmati rice.
Vanilla Chicken Kurma
50g grated coconut
50g ground almonds
1 dsp vegetable oil
3 shallots, thinly sliced
2cm ginger, grated
1 fat clove of garlic, minced
300g tomatoes, chopped
1 handful coriander leaf, finely chopped
1 18cm/7” green chilli, minced
1 pinch vanilla salt
1 25cm vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
2T sour cream
900g boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs, cubed
1t garam masala*
2dsp coriander seeds, ground
1t cumin seeds, ground
0.5t ground black pepper
Putting it together
1. Combine the coconut, nuts, oil and enough water to form a medium-thick paste; set aside. If you are using whole nuts, put the coconut and nuts into a grinder and blitz until thick, then enough add water until it reaches a tapenade or pesto-like looseness--you shouldn't need any oil.
2. Fry the shallots until light brown in about three tablespoons of oil over med-high heat. Then stir in the garlic, ginger and chilli and fry for about a minute. Tip in the tomato, coriander leaf, ground masala and garam masala, vanilla pod and seeds, vanilla salt and about a half-cup of water. Fry until the tomato melts, turning everything into a paste.
3. Add the sour cream and stir until it dissolves. Tip in the chicken and coat thoroughly in the sauce; let the pot come to a boil. Turn down the hob to about med-low, cover the pot and let simmer until the chicken is fully cooked—this will take anywhere from 20 to 35 minutes. Taste for salt
4. Add the coconut past to the mixture and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
To serve, garnish with some toasted almond slivers, golden-fried shallots and a few leaves of fresh coriander leaf.
* Ideally you’d make your own blend, but if you have to buy it, try and go to an Indian grocer as they may have different blends available.
tags: Chicken The Spice is Right 2 Vanilla
Before the nonsense: 44 cups; 3 free coffees, 1 free doughnut
Now: 43 cups, 7 free coffees