Sunday, July 31, 2011

Shahi Korma: Chicken curry in cashew cream

A particularly rich curry from northwest India and from Pakistan is Shahi Korma. "Shah" meant king or emperor, and thus this particular dish is "royal." Kormas, named for a Persian word for similar dishes, are asociated with Muslim cuisine, particularly "Mughlai" cuisine, food from the Mughal Empire.

A korma is a creamy, light-colored stew with little red color from either peppers or tomato. Although rich with aromatic spices, these dishes are typically not pepper hot. Ground cashews plus cream often finish the dish, but ground almonds or, in the south of India, coconut are also sometimes cooked into kormas.

Chicken korma is one of the more common versions of the dish and, other than the fish version, is the fastest cooking.

Coarsely cut cilantro is a frequent garnish.

Serves six with rice

Shahi Korma with Chicken and Cashew Cream

2 medium-large onions, diced
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/4 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeƱo peppers, most seeds removed, minced
4 whole cardamoms
2 tablespoons ground coriander
4 teaspoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons turmeric
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup water
1 medium-large potato, peeled and in 1-inch cubes
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thigh
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons ground cashews (cashew butter) whisked with 3/4 cup water
1/4 cup heavy cream
Coarsely cut cilantro for garnish

Dice onions and begin frying them with the oil in large pot over medium heat. Stir often, scraping bottom of pot.

Prepare ginger, garlic and hot peppers, mincing them finely together. Measure ground spices into a small bowl. Peel and cube potatoes, and keep them in water.

Trim excess fat and tough parts from chicken. Cut chicken with the grain into 1-inch wide strips.

When onions are golden brown, reduce heat. Fry in the whole cardamoms plus the ginger-garlic-pepper mixture for 2 minutes. Add ground spices, and stir and fry gently for one minute. Stir in 1/2 cup water.

Add potatoes, and simmer, stirring them frequently, adding a little water to keep mixture moist, until becoming tender (test with toothpick).

Add chicken plus salt. Raise the heat to medium hot. Cook, stirring frequently and scraping bottom of pot, until chicken has fully changed color. Add a little water as needed to keep mixture moist but not wet. Simmer covered, stirring frequently, 10 minutes.

Whisk cashews and water until smooth. Then stir mixture into chicken. Bring to a gentle boil.

Stir in cream and bring back just until hot. Taste and add salt as needed.

Dust generously with chopped cilantro when served.

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