Confession: I love cooking Indian food.
All the spices and herbs, the infinite number of curries, the colors, the smells, it’s just too fun. That you can take the same ingredients and, depending on your ratios, can come up with a million different flavors and heat levels is awe-inspiring.
I used to be really intimidated by cooking Indian food. Curry! So many spices! What if it tastes completely horrible? I pictured myself toasting cumin seeds to an almost burnt level, putting way too much cayenne or ginger in and singing all of my taste buds off. I thought that I would always have to rely on pre-mixed curry powder, that the spices in Indian food were way too exotic or expensive for me to get. I thought any Indian food I made would just taste like a bland, inappropriately spiced attempt at a complex and exciting cuisine. And what’s worse, I imagined my Indian-loving husband would take one bite of my Indian food and pronounce it “Blegh!”
But, one day, I decided to just bite the bullet and try my hand at it. Because honestly, how can you possibly learn how to cook something without ever attempting to cook it? I found a recipe for tandoori-style chicken (no source on this; I can’t remember where I got the recipe!) and got to cookin’.
The recipe was fairly simple: curry spices mixed together and added to yogurt, which the chicken was marinated in for several hours. From there, just broil the chicken.
After taking the crispy, blackened chicken out of the oven, I thought to myself “well, that LOOKS like tandoori chicken”. One bite, and I knew: I had successfully made Indian food. Yay!
I’ve become much more confident since then. So much so, that I’ve begun to experiment and create my own curry recipes. Like this recipe here: Green Curry Chicken with Inside-Out Samosas.
Fresh mint and cilantro, garlic, ginger, lemon and all kinds of curry spices, ground together into a paste and folded into Greek yogurt. So delicious. The fresh herbs add a very refreshing flavor to the sauce; they cool down the spiciness of the garlic, ginger and ground spices. The lemon adds a nice crispness to the sauce as well. For the inside-out samosas, I did a mixture of Yukon gold, red and purple potatoes, just to add interest and color, as well as green peas.
I marinated the chicken in the yogurt sauce for about an hour before cooking it. One VERY important thing to note when making this dish, or any dish where you are using a sauce as a marinade: DO NOT TRANSFER THE SAUCE STRAIGHT FROM MARINADE TO TOPPING. When you marinade meat in a sauce, you run the risk of cross-contamination and, most commonly, salmonella. I used half the yogurt mixture to put on as a marinade for my chicken breasts, and reserved the other half to use as a sauce, so that it never came in contact with the raw chicken. You can use a marinade as sauce after removing the meat, but you will want to boil the marinade for about 15 minutes to be sure that any and all bacteria is killed off.
If you haven’t yet tried you hand at cooking Indian, I highly suggest you give it a go. Don’t be intimidated. You’ll definitely be glad you did
Green Curry Chicken
1” fresh ginger, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground mace
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/3 cup lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup Greek yogurt
4 boneless chicken breasts
In a food processor, combine ginger, garlic, cilantro, mint, spices, lemon juice and lemon zest. Pulse until ground into a paste. Spoon paste into yogurt and mix to combine well. Divide yogurt mixture in half. Refrigerate one half. With the other, coat each chicken breast completely. Place chicken breasts in a baking dish and pour marinade over top. Cover and let sit for at least 1 hour.
Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush with a small amount of olive oil. When the pan is hot, add the chicken breasts. Cook until grilled on each side and cooked through, about 7-10 minutes per side. Serve hot with the reserved yogurt sauce spooned over top.
1 1/2 lbs. potatoes, mixed variety
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2” fresh ginger, finely minced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp.ground cumin
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground paprika
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1 lemon
Peel the potatoes and dice into 1/2” cubes. Boil potatoes in salted water until just tender, about 8-10 minutes. After draining the potatoes, blanch the green peas in the salted water for 1 minute. Immediately submerge in ice water to stop the cooking. Set both potatoes and peas aside.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add cumin, turmeric and paprika and sauté until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add potatoes and peas and toss to coat with spice mixture. Remove from heat. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Toss to coat. Serve immediately.