Currying Flavor: Spice and Secrets
Move over Cup o’ Porn. Today I’ve got a Plate O’ Curry! It should probably come as no surprise that my love of Indian-themed writing and my love of Indian-themed cooking have a lot in common: I do both with little to no planning involved and try to make things as tasty as possible. I mean, seriously. I don’t outline, and I don’t follow exact recipes. I will improvise with whatever I’ve got in both my literary and culinary arsenal at any given moment. (It’s probably a good thing that I only have to feed myself!)
When I set out to write Spice and Secrets, book two in my contemporary romance series, Bollywood Confidential, I had a basic notion of characters and story, but absolutely no idea how it was all going to turn out. That’s pretty much exactly how I approach my standard chicken curry. I know how it’s supposed to look, roughly how it should taste and what all goes in it…but the end result is entirely unpredictable.
So, as you can imagine, writing down a recipe was a bit of a challenge! I had to come up with baseline spice amounts. The horror! I think I’m a better writer than I am a cook…but I’ll let you all be the judge of that.
1 tbsp of canola or vegetable oil
1 cup of water
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed (bone-in chicken, all cut up, works as well!)
1 medium sized yellow onion, chopped.
1 medium sized tomato, chopped. (optional)
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced, or 1/2 to 1 tsp. pre-minced garlic.
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp paprika powder
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
3-4 whole green cardamom (for flavor)
3-4 cloves (for flavor)
Heat oil in a medium-sized frying pan or saucepan, add garlic and onion and cook on medium heat until the onions turn clear. Add chicken, tomato, salt and all powdered spices, stirring until the meat is nicely coated and not at all raw-looking. Add water and turn the heat to high so it comes to a boil. Then, reduce heat and cover. (The curry retains moisture and flavor better if covered. My frying pan doesn’t have one, and it all turns out okay.) Cook on low heat for 25 minutes. Check in occasionally to stir and throw in more spice if you feel like it. I like a little extra coriander powder at this stage, and if you like a thicker sauce, you can also add a few spoonfuls of plain yogurt. Towards the end of the 25 minute span, throw in the cardamom and cloves if you’ve got them. Make sure to test the meat to make sure it is fully cooked. Some stovetops will take less time, others longer!
Serve over white or brown rice.
Lazy Spinster’s Tip #1: If you don’t keep fresh vegetables in your fridge, using a frozen “fajita” mix of peppers and onions instead of fresh onion and tomato works just as well, and gives the added kick of peppers. Use half the package and just cook until they’re thawed before adding the meat.
Lazy Spinster’s Tip #2: If you don’t want to run around buying a ton of spices, try pre-made curry simmer sauces from Patak’s or Maya Kaimal. In flavors like tikka masala, rogan josh and vindaloo, they give you more of a restaurant-style experience. You pour it over sautéed chicken and voila!
For a taste of my fictional cooking, pick up Spice and Secrets on November 20, or check out Spice and Smoke, which is available at all major e-tailers now. Visit Variety is the Spice of Love for more about all my impulsive exploits.