Saturday 24 November 2012

Korma Curry, Boat Style


I have often thought about the difference between what I do versus your standard urban food blogger, cooking in his or her five star kitchen. Complete with all the electricity and associated equipment. I have also thought at length about what I call in Afrikaans “afskeepkos”. Food made in negligence. I have gone so far as to post (or is it “pose”?) the question on my FaceBook wall, with some reaction.

The answer is not easy to find, as the term “afskeepkos” is a neologism, even in Afrikaans.

The proper answer needs to be researched and pondered, if you will.

The gist lies in the application of the mind in preparing food. Whatever food it is. Leftovers may look and taste like, well, leftovers. Or you can apply your mind and use those same leftovers in an altogether new dish.

Or you can use some of the stuff that you munch on before dinner as part of the dinner dish ingredients.

We are not here to discuss the vagaries of language and application of the mind, we need to cook up something simple for dinner on board. Using two pots and one burner. Perhaps this one will go down in history as having applied the mind.

Chicken Korma is one of the more well-known dishes in India. It is made with onions and cashews, along with the requisite spices. And it is extremely simple to make. If this dish takes more than fifteen minutes in preparation, you are doing something wrong.

The nominal recipe is to use the ingredients in the list below. There are a myriad variations and even my own version differs between batches. But they all taste exquisite.

This one is normally made in the kitchen at home, where you have access to a stick blender or equivalent. Aboard a small yacht there is none of that, hence this adaptation.


For the chicken

500 g (1 lb) de-boned chicken.
3 medium sized onions. More is better for this dish.
½ cup whole cashew nuts. Or one whole cup, but then the dish becomes very rich.
1 clove fresh garlic
1 fresh hot chilli
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
5 black peppercorns
1 cardamom pod, shedded
1½ teaspoon medium masala powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
Small stick cinnamon bark
1/4 teaspoon aniseed seeds.

Or combination of the above. The chillies, garlic, onions and cashews are not negotiable.

1 teaspoon green masala paste (recipe here)
1 teaspoon garum masala
bunch of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
spritz of fresh chives, chopped
some salt to taste
2 tablespoons butter

For the rotis

½ cup white or brown bread flour. I used brown bread flour
½ inch slice of a brick of butter
pinch of salt
¾ cup lukewarm water


For the Chicken Korma

Fry the cashews in a dry pan until they are nice and brown. It works better if you have a cast iron saucepan or pot, because the pot heats the food from the side as well. The heat retention also helps with the rest period at the end. I used my 20cm Le Creuset saucepan for this.

Take them out and crush them as fine as you can get it. I used a coffee mug and the back ends of my kitchen knives. Keep the crushed cashews to one side. Add a dollop of butter to the pan and fry the dried whole spices until the flavour comes out. I use my mortar and pestle to grind the whole spices a little before frying them.

Add the grated onions and fry until they are nice and translucent, beginning to turn brown. This may be difficult as the onions will be very watery because you grated them. Add the chopped fresh chilli and and garlic and fry for another two minutes, then add the dry powder spices. I crushed the cashews while frying the onions to save time by multiplexing. Fry for another minute, then take it off the heat. Add the crushed cashews and a little water to make a batter-like sauce. Then put it back on the heat and bring to the boil.

In the home version you chop the onions coarsely, then fry them until they are brown. The spices are added as above. When everything is ready, the fried whole cashews are added back to the mix and blitzed with a stick blender to make the sauce, adding water as required.

The sauce can be quite thick, leading to burning if careless, so watch it. Add a little water if you get worried.

Now add the chicken. I cut the chicken into thickish slices, as opposed to cubes. They cook faster if they are thinner. Cook slowly until the chicken is tender. Add salt as required. Make sure you don't use too much water. The dish needs to be almost just runny when done. If it is too watery it becomes a mess to eat and most of the flavourful parts get left in your plate. When the dish is nicely done, add the garum masala, the chopped coriander (dhania), and the chopped chives. Put the lid on and set this lot aside to rest.

For the Rotis

This was one of my more successful experiments. The internet is a wonderful place if you understand that different folks have different names for the same stuff. Like rotis. Some call them flat breads, others call similar bread tortillas, even though they may not be made from corn flour.

Whatever the case, I used an idea from a recipe for tortillas. You rub the butter into the flour and add the salt to the warm water. Then add the water little by little to the flour making a very soft dough. This dough will be nice and elastic for only a short time, so work diligently. Knead the dough for five minutes until it becomes satiny. Then roll it into a long sausage about two inches thick (50mm). Cut this into 50mm sections to make small balls.

Roll each ball out into a small disk about 4mm thick. Bake in a dry pan on medium heat until it starts to puff, then turn over. You will know that it is done when it starts to burn in spots. You get a production line going, baking one at a time and rolling the next one while you wait. I used my 24 cm non stick frying pan from Le Creuset, it works a charm.

In the meantime, the main dish is resting and developing flavour. Don't worry. If you used a cast iron saucepan it will not even cool down to edible levels while you are making the rotis. Else heat it a little as required.

You can dish up straight from the saucepan at the table. Two rotis per person is more than enough, there will be leftovers.
And it is accepted practice to use the rotis to wipe out your plate.

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2013-07-06

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