Coastal chicken curry

Chicken thighs simmered in a rich onion and tomato masala curry, with coconut milk, almond aioli, curry leaves and aromatic spices.

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Raw California almonds arrive in my kitchen pantry, albeit in bulk. Thanks to the warehouse giant called Costco, many a shopper’s paradise especially for anything and everything in bulk and king size. Oh well, I can never say no to such a versatile and healthy nut. Well then, browsing through Bon Appetit magazine one day, I come across to a recipe called almond aioli – almonds and olive oil blended together . I find that a nice way to incorporate it in soups, stews, sauces and in this case, chicken curry.

On a recent visit to the restaurant Dosa, here, in San Francisco, I ate Tamil lamb curry. I simple fell in love with the curry, rich and infused with spices and coconut. I definitely tasted ground fennel seeds, which seemed predominant in the spice mix. I decide to replicate a version of the dish in my kitchen, for dinner, using chicken. Of course, I can never get to the exact recipe and delicious taste of the curry at Dosa. But I’m impressed with my version too, it turned out very well, especially with my twist of adding almonds. Rich and flavorful, with the fresh spices (including my precious cinnamon from my trip to Sri Lanka :-)) and coconut, used extensively in coastal Indian cuisine, this curry definitely is worth a try. And I do intend to make it again very soon…

Ingredients :

Chicken thighs, bone-in with skin removed – 4

1 large onion, sliced

Tomato puree – 1 cup

2 garlic cloves, minced or grated

1 inch piece fresh ginger, minced or grated

Curry leaves – 6

Green chillies – 1 tsp.

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Coconut milk – 1 cup

8-10 almonds

Ghee – 1 tsp.

Olive oil

Salt, to taste

Whole spices or garam masala – 1 black cardamom, 3 green cardamoms, a few peppercorns, a cinnamon stick, 3 cloves, 1 bay leaf

Ground fennel – 1 tbsp. I buy fennel seeds, roast them for a couple of minutes in a pan and then grind them

Coriander powder – 1 tbsp.

Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp.

Red chilli powder or paprika – 3/4 tsp.

Cumin powder – 3/4 tsp.

Mace powder – 1/2 tsp.

a pinch of nutmeg

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To make the almond aioli – Soak that almonds in water for 6-8 hours or overnight. Peel and add almonds along with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a blender. Blend to a paste.

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In a non stick pan, heat ghee. Sauté the onions till golden brown. With a little water, blend the onions to a paste s set aside.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a deep bottomed pan. Add the whole garam masala. Add the chicken pieces and fry on medium high heat for a few minutes till it develops a light golden color. Add the curry leaves, green chillies, ginger and garlic and sauté for a minute.

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Lower heat and add the dry spice mixture and stir well. Add the ground onion paste and tomato puree. Stir well to coat the chicken. Add the almond aioli and a little water to form a thick curry. Add salt to taste.

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Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer on low till the chicken is cooked, about 45 minutes or so.

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Add the coconut milk toward the end. Stir well and serve.

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