Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chicken Xacuti | Chicken Shaguti

Chicken Shaguti is the version cooked in Hindu Brahmin homes in Goa. This dish is also known as Chicken Xacuti and has its roots influenced by Portuguese cuisine. One thing which stands out is the manner in which this dish is made by Goan Hindus vs Goan Christians. The jury is still out on that and I think the biggest differentiating factor is the use of Lime vs Vinegar and local chillies for e.g Bicholim Chillies vs Kashmiri Chillies. If you visit any home in Goa for a Shaguti lunch, you will hear this comment coming often. This recipe is from a very close friend's Mum who hails from Siolim, Goa. My favorite Chicken recipes are Chicken Shaguti, Chicken Cafreal and Kori Rotti.

The color of Chicken Shaguti curry is greenish brown and is thicker than fish curry but very rich, intense and spicy. The meat is first dunked in a marinade with turmeric powder, large knobs of crushed ginger and loads of herbs. The quantity might seem a lot, but it is what the recipe requires and hence the masala is 'zhanzhaneet' as my friend informed me. In Goa, we usually eat this with Pao, Katri, Unno, Tandlachi Bhakri or white rice. Since this is a curry with a very strong gravy base, Rotis prove to be meek and cannot withstand the strong intense aroma of this curry. The base of the gravy can be used to cook Prawns and Clams. The vegetarians need not lose heart. You could use the same gravy with Paneer, Soya Chunks, Potato or Beans of different kinds. I enjoyed this style of chicken cooked in a spicy gravy.

~ Chicken Shaguti ~
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Yield: 6-8 servings

Chicken (Dark Boneless Meat) - 3 lbs.
Goan Garam Masala - 1 tbsp
Indian Bay Leaf - 2
Coconut milk - 1/3 cup
Turmeric powder - 3 tbsp

Onion (medium, sliced finely) - 5
Garlic cloves (peeled and slit into two) - 10-12
Grated Coconut (fresh or frozen) - 1/3 cup

Green Masala/ Harvo Masalo -
Ginger (peeled and cut into large chops) - a large knob of 2" piece
Green Chillies - 3
Coriander leaves - 5-6 strands
Lime juice - half of a lime

Shaguti Masala -
Coriander seeds - 1 tbsp
Black Pepper (whole) - 10-12
Poppy seeds - 1 tsp
Cloves - 6
Cinnamon (broken into pieces) - 2" piece
Fennel seeds - 1 tsp
Red Chillies - 2
Tamarind (optional) - 1 tbsp


For Garnish -
Coriander leaves (finely chopped) - 2-3 strands

Contraptions required -
Coffee Grinder

Chicken in Marinade - Clean and trim the chicken of any excess fat. Wash and pat dry. Cut each piece to 2" chunks and add to a mixing bowl. Crush ginger and green chillies roughly and add to the chicken. Do not make a mushy paste just crush them roughly. Make a smooth paste of coriander leaves with little water and add to the chicken. Mix well and add turmeric powder and Goan Garam Masala powder along with salt and lime juice. Leave the chicken in marinade for atleast 4 hours.
Shaguti Masala - In a wide mouthed frying pan, heat a tsp. of oil and roast all the spices in masala except Poppy seeds. Add the ingredients one by one and toast lightly on low flame. Add the Poppy seeds toward the end and allow to cool. Grind this to a powder and keep aside. You could also make this in advance to save time.
Onion-Coconut-Garlic Paste - In the same pan used before, heat few spoons of oil and saute onions, coconut and garlic. Fry them well till they turn reddish brown. It takes around 15-20 minutes to get the right color of browning. Once done, turn off the flame and allow to cool completely. Once done, blend to a paste with little water. Save the water rinsed to add to the gravy at a later stage.
Assembly - In a large deep-bottomed wide mouthed vessel, heat few spoons of oil/ghee, add bay leaves and add the chicken with marinade side by side. Increase the heat and let the chicken brown on both the sides. The chicken will turn couple of shades darker, will be part cooked and turn opaque. Add the water from the rinsed marinade (about a cup of hot water), add additional water (1/2 cup of hot water). Cover with the lid on and let the chicken cook. This process takes about 30-40 minutes. Check if chicken is done, if done add the onion-coconut-garlic fried paste and the Shaguti Masala. Mix well, adjust salt and seasoning and bring to a medium boil and cook for 5-8 minutes. Once done, turn off flame and garnish with chopped coriander leaves. I served with cooked white rice.

Note - I made the Shaguti masala separately in my coffee grinder. If you wish, you could grind them together to a paste after separately frying. This recipe is spicy and hot, reduce the proportion if the need be. If you do not have Goan Garam Masala, use your own brand of Garam Masala.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Madhur Jaffrey's Chicken Korma

Last year on a cold chilly December night, a book took me down the memory lane. It was a trip that stirred nostalgia as she deftly narrated pages from her childhood and growing up years. I am talking about Madhur Jaffrey's childhood memoir - Climbing the Mango Trees. I read it, enjoyed it and realized why she is the undisputed doyen of Indian cooking. I recall seeing her shows coming on TV where she was clad in finest silks, would rave and reminisce about the food dearest to her heart mostly in outdoor locations cocooned in lush green foliage, all orchestrated with perfection.

Her Chicken Korma recipe particularly fascinated me because it boasted of Punjabi Garam Masala something I have been wanting to make at home from a long time. The recipe was a regal approach in terms of cooking chicken. I was smitten by the rich Korma gravy and before I realized my kitchen corners and crevices welcomed the rich and striking aromas of Cardamom and Pepper. I could imagine kings and queens in ancient India feasting over this simple, subtle flavored rich tasting chicken curry. The way she writes and describes her recipes have a lesson or two for me as a writer. The specificity of directions, precision of measurements and succinct steps bowled me over.

The Korma recipe has juicy moist chicken chunks swimming in light and intense gravy. I marinated the meat to add extra punch. The gravy is made with Yogurt and fried onions and finally garnished with golden raisins that plump up like jewels. I used store available Brown Fried Onions, the ones which can be directly added to garnish on top of Biryanis and enrich gravy of any sorts. The chicken remained juicy and moist since it was literally drunk and high on the rich silky gravy. I added little butter to finish the gravy and make it silky smooth. This recipe is a keeper and we plan to make it often. Needless to say, I xeroxed all the recipes in the book and have added them to my recipe collection. I have a wide happy grin on my face. :)

Madhur Jaffrey's Chicken Korma minimally adapted from her memoir
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

Chicken - 3 lb. of Dark Meat

Yogurt - 1 and 1/2 cup
Punjabi Garam Masala - 1 and 1/2 tsp suggested, I added 1 tbsp
Coriander powder - 1 tbsp
Cayenne powder - 1 and 1/2 tsp

Ginger paste - 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Garlic paste - 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Meat tenderizer powder - 1 tbsp
Almonds (blanched) - 3 tbsp
Onions (sliced) - 1 and 1/2 cup
Golden Raisins - 1/2 cup
Indian Bay Leaf - 2
Cardamom - 8 suggested, I added 5 crushed
Cinnamon - 2 of 1" piece
Butter - 1 tbsp

Punjabi Garam Masala -
Cardamom seeds - 1 tbsp
Pepper corns (whole black) - 1 tsp
Cloves - 1 tsp suggested, I reduced it to 1/3 of tsp
Nutmeg - 1/3 of a Nutmeg
Cinnamon - 1 of 1" stick
Cumin seeds - 1/3 tsp
Got about 2 and 1/2 - 3 tbsp of powder.
*** Grind to smooth powder in a coffee grinder, store in
an air tight container ***

For Garnish -
Coriander leaves - 3-4 strands
Fried Onions - 1/2 cup

1. Chicken Marinade - Clean and trim the chicken. Wash and pat dry. Marinate the chicken in 1 tsp each of ginger paste, garlic paste, salt and meat tenderizer powder.
2. Herb and Almond paste - In a blender make a paste of Ginger and Garlic with little water, make a paste and add blanched almonds to it, add little water. Keep the paste aside.
3. Yogurt mix - Mix the yogurt with coriander powder, cayenne powder and salt.
4. Chicken Fry - In a deep bottomed pan, heat few spoons of oil and add add cinnamon, cardamom and bay leaves. Add the Chicken now and fry well on both sides till they turn a shade darker and are part cooked. Remove from the pan and transfer to a paper towel.
5. Building the gravy - In the same pan, add some more oil, add the onions now and fry them till they turn brown. Add the herb paste now and saute for couple of minutes. Add the yogurt mixture now and cook well on a low to medium flame for about 5 minutes. Add the golden raisins and chicken now, stir well to mix all the ingredients. Taste for salt and seasoning and adjust accordingly. Cook (cover with lid on) on low to medium flame for about 45 minutes and till the chicken is juicy and well cooked. Check if done, turn off flame. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Sprinkle fried onions on top of Korma while serving. I served them with Rotis.

Note - Cook the curry on low to medium flame, if you bump up the heat the yogurt will curdle away. You could add onions early on, fry and keep aside. I added them and did not bother to remove. Madhur recommends removing them and draining on paper towel and adding later to the gravy. Adding butter to the gravy for finish results in a gravy which has silky and smooth texture, omit this step if required.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mixed Berries Milkshake

We both enjoy fruit based milkshakes. This one has especially helped me replace insane amount of coffee that I usually drink. I add natural sweeteners and the drink is a great post-workout boost to your metabolism although the milkshake flavor is less sugary with natural sweeteners.

Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries and a lonely Blackberry

I prefer buying fresh produce and making quick shakes and gulping them immediately. The tub of fresh mixed berries from Whole Foods come handy for putting together great tasting milk shakes.

Incidentally, the Blueberries happen to be one of my best friend's favorite. She can survive on these cute looking berries and not complain for days together. She stood by my side all through during last few months and has been very understanding, especially during the tougher days. She is in India and I thank God innumerable times for her presence in my life. On Women's Day, I ponder and reflect on the camaraderie, joy and richness she brings to everyone around her. She is my moral pill and my joie-de-vivre!

Happy Holi to all those who celebrate!

~ Mixed Berry Milkshake ~
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Processing time: 1 minute

Mixed Berries [Blackberry, Raspberry, Blueberry, Strawberry] - 2 cups
Low Fat Milk (cold) - 1 cup
Water - to dilute
Honey - 1 tbsp
Ice chips - about 1/2 a cup
Maple Syrup - 1 tbsp

Rinse the fruits with a kitchen brush and blend them in a Juicer/ Blender with sweetener of choice. Enjoy fresh and consume immediately.

Note - The seeds from some Berries do not bother me, if it bothers you just switch to Strawberries alone.