Category Archives: Chicken and Turkey

Aromatic Thai Curry (Geng gari) with Chicken and Asparagus

If green asparagus can perfectly face the flavours and heat of an Indian curry,  why not test it with Thai one? Leafing through David Thompson’s Thai Food I chose a curry called “aromatic”, combining both Indian and Thai seasoning ingredients. When I say “I chose a curry”, I mean the paste because this extraordinary book has a different paste recipe for every single curry. Though the original recipe calls for duck, I replaced it with chicken (the author suggests different protein sources anyway). This modification, the presence of asparagus and of button mushrooms didn’t stop this curry from being one of the best I’ve ever had.

I couldn’t post this recipe without writing once more about Thai Food by David Thompson, one of the best cooking books I have ever seen (and I talk about all the cuisines from around the world). If you like and cook – or would like to cook – Thai food, this is the most genuine, complete and simply the best written source of recipes I can imagine. It can be a bit intimidating at first, but as soon as you start putting it into practice, every single dish will make you say “wow”, especially if, like me, all you know is food served in Westernised restaurants. As always, I’ve made some alterations to the original recipe, “slimmed” it down skipping coconut cream and replacing a part of coconut milk with water (to be frank the only part I didn’t change was the curry paste) so make sure you check the original source.

TIPS: Beware, the crucial point here is preparing your own paste, which makes this curry unique and so different from those made with store-bought product. Dried spices can of course be bought in Indian shops (or even normal supermarkets) and the fresh ingredients in Thai shops. I have been recently buying fresh turmeric in my organic shop, so you might check these too. I cannot say if any store-bought Thai curry paste will be equally good with asparagus, but you can give it a go.

This paste will keep in the fridge for about a week. You can also freeze it (though David Thompson is totally against it, I find it still more than acceptable when defrosted).

Instead of green asparagus you can also use the violet (purple) one, but I don’t advise the white one. I haven’t tested it in any fiery dish and since it’s very different, the result might be disappointing.

I’ve added some mushrooms to this dish simply because I had some fresh leftover mushrooms from another dish, but they aren’t necessary (add more asparagus instead).

Preparation: about 1 hour

Ingredients (serves two):

Curry paste:

7 medium hot red dried chillies, soaked in warm water until they soften (usually 20-30 minutes)

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh turmeric, chopped

4 small Asian shallots or 2 medium European shallots, chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped galangal

1 tablespoon lemongrass stalks (the lower half part only, outer tough “leaves” removed), very finely chopped

2 teaspoons coriander root, chopped

15 white peppercorns

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

3 sheaths mace or 1 teaspoon ground mace

Remaining ingredients:

2 small chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

100 g button mushrooms, sliced

250g green or violet asparagus (the tougher low part removed), cut into bite-sized pieces

200 ml coconut milk

fish sauce

(palm sugar)

Prepare the paste: on a clean frying pan roast the whole seeds and then grind them in a spice grinder, mortar or a coffee grinder. Mix the chopped fresh ingredients in a food processor (a small baby food processor is best here), adding some water if needed. (You can also grind them in a mortar, then no water is needed). Combine the fresh and the dried paste ingredients and mix them well again.

Pour some coconut milk into a pan add about 1/3 of the curry paste (keep the remaining paste in a well closed jar in the fridge for about a week or freeze it).

Heat the paste, stirring, until it starts smelling really strong.

Add the remaining coconut milk, the chicken and the mushrooms and simmer at low heat for about 5 minutes. (Add some water or more coconut milk if you find the curry too thick).

Add the thicker asparagus parts and simmer about 5 more minutes.

Finally add the thinnest asparagus parts and simmer for about 3 more minutes.

Season with fish sauce and, if it’s a bit bitter, with sugar.

Serve. (The author advises deep-fried shallots but I thought they wouldn’t suit this light spring version).

 

Aromatic curry paste:

Spring Okonomiyaki (Japanese Savoury Pancake) with Wild Garlic

Okonomiyaki is one of the most frequent Japanese dishes in my house. From the beginning I took its name literally (it means roughly “grill what you want”) and never stopped improving, adapting to my changing palate and, of course, seasons. As a big garlic fan, I made crushed garlic the obligatory ingredient of every single batter. Last weekend I decided to add chopped wild garlic leaves instead and this seasonal twist made me discover one of the best versions (actually I wonder if it wasn’t even the best okonomiyaki in my life…). It’s definitely one of the best wild garlic dishes in my collection.

If you have never heard of okonomiyaki, it’s a kind of savoury pancake (sometimes called “Japanese pizza”), but the batter contains only a small amount of flour and lots of white cabbage. The magical side of every okonomiyaki is a generous choice of toppings added once it’s fried, and these usually include a special okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, katsuobushi (dried and shaved bonito), green onions, pickled ginger, ao nori (seaweed “flakes”)… The basic cabbage batter can also be played with and enriched with sliced pork, beef, raw calamar or dried shrimp and it is often topped with thinly sliced pork belly, fried when the pancake is flipped. There are two main variations of okonomiyaki: Kansai/Osaka-style (the one I “practice” and describe above), and a very filling Hiroshima style, which contains also cooked noodles and which I find too heavy. 

As I have mentioned, I have experimented a lot with both the batter and the toppings. Most modifications are surprisingly successful and I can only hope the pancakes I make can still be called okonomiyaki….

If you don’t have wild garlic/ramsons (click here to learn more about it), you might like one of these versions:

Okonomiyaki with Chorizo

with Chorizo

Okonomiyaki with Bok Choy and Chicken

with Bok Choy and Chicken

Okonomiyaki with Chicken

with Chicken

Okonomiyaki with Eringi Mushrooms and Bacon

with Eringi Mushrooms and Bacon

...with Red Cabbage and Garlic

with Red Cabbage and Garlic

Okonomiyaki with Green Onions

TIPS:

Okonomiyaki batter mixture: it can be bought in Japanese grocery shops or prepared from the scratch. Personally I am happy to prepare it from scratch since it takes two minutes and I’m sure it tastes better. I have seen different batter recipes; mine is composed of an egg, some flour, some dashi (Japanese stock), salt, pepper, baking powder and, last but not least, grated mountain yam (or yamaimo in Japanese), a slimy cousin of the potato (I find it in organic shops and I know Asian and Chinese grocery shops sell it).  It is not necessary, but in my opinion it largely improves the texture, making it lighter and fluffier. Yamaimo freezes very well (I freeze it peeled in individual portions and then grate when half thawed). When I don’t have yam, I skip it and when I don’t have dashi, I simply replace it, trying to keep the same pancake-like texture. The result is still delicious, albeit slightly different.

Okonomiyaki is always served with okonomiyaki sauce. I once bought it and it was much too sweet, so I was more than happy to learn from Hiroyuki how to make my own sauce, mixing ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce in desired proportions. (Nowadays I go even further, replacing sometimes this sauce with my homemade Indian style tomato chutney)

Okonomioyaki mixture can be prepared in advance and fried/grilled the following day. As an addict, I often make a double batch and have it two days in a row.

Okonomiyaki toppings: these usually include okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise and katsuobushi (flakes of dried bonito). Ao nori (powdered seaweed) is also very frequent, but I have noticed many Westerners dislike its “fishy” aroma. Personally I prefer to skip it and sprinkle with green onion or chives. Among my obligatory toppings are also taberu rayu (chilli oil with sediments) and very often tobanjan (Chinese chilli paste, which I buy in… Japanese shops and in Japan!). You can add of course whatever topping you like!

Preparation: 40 minutes

Ingredients (serves 2):

Batter:

5 slightly heaped tablespoons flour

30 ml (about 1 oz) dashi (Japanese stock, home-made or instant) or a mixture of milk+dashi or good quality chicken stock or simply water (though the latter yields the least flavourful pancake)

1 egg

3 cm/about 1,2 in grated mountain yam (yamaimo) (can be omitted, but then less flour should be added)

salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

10  bok choy leaves and stalks (or more if the bok choy is small), chopped ; if your bok choy has more leaves than stalks, use only half of the leaves, otherwise the pancake will be too soft (at least for me)

1 big handful of chopped wild garlic leaves

1 chicken breast

1 tablespoon oil

Toppings:

dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi)

okonomiyaki sauce (or a mixture of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce) ; I have used here my Indian-style tomato chutney

mayonnaise

chopped chives or spring onions

2 tablespoons oil

(ao nori, or powdered seaweed)

(chili paste, oil or sauce, such as Taberu Rayu)

(pickled ginger)

(6 thin slices of smoked bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces)

Cut up the chicken breast into small cubes (1 cm x 1 cm). Season with salt and pepper, stir-fry until golden brown and put aside.

In a big bowl combine the batter ingredients. Adjust the consistency adding more liquids or more flour (the mixture should be very thick, not liquid and the batter should only bind the ingredients together and not dominate them).

Heat one tablespoon oil in a frying pan or on a smooth grill (called teppanyaki grill or la plancha).

Put half of the okonomiyaki mixture in a more or less round-shaped heap (you can adjust it on the pan).

Flatten delicately the pancake, but not too much. Otherwise it might fall into pieces when you turn it over. (My okonomiyaki is max. 1,5 cm/about 1/2 inch high).

If you use smoked bacon, place the pieces on top, cover the pan and let it fry at medium heat for 5 – 10 minutes until you see the upper part of batter set. If you use an old-fashioned pan (steel or iron), you might have to turn down the heat to the lowest because it might burn.

Flip the pancake over, cover once more and fry for another 5 minutes until the bacon is slightly browned.

Flip over onto a plate and add your favourite toppings.

Repeat the same with the remaining batter mixture.

Thick Andhra Chicken Curry with Green Asparagus

Some people say asparagus is extremely delicate, should be barely seasoned and treated with caution when it comes to spices. Don’t believe them! In this fiery, bold-flavoured curry the asparagus reigns over the remaining ingredients and neither the chilli, nor the other Indian spices have lessened its distinct flavours I’m so fond of. Everything worked so perfectly together, I’m sure it will not be my last Indian experiment with this delicious vegetable.

This dish is a thickened variation of the Chicken with Curry Leaves from Andhra Pradesh (Kodi Gasi), based on a recipe from The Essential Andhra Cookbook: with Hyderabadi and Telengana Specialities by Bilkees I. Latif. As usually I have modified the recipe and the ingredients’ amounts (e.g. making the “sauce” thicker and slimming it down), so make sure you check the original recipe and this fascinating collection of regional dishes.

If you look for other asparagus dishes, you might like some of these:

Asparagus with Chicken and Miso

Asparagus with Chicken and Miso

Asparagus Maki Sushi

Asparagus Maki Sushi

Bread Tartlet with Egg and Asparagus

Bread Tartlet with Egg and Asparagus

Asparagus Teriyaki Pork Rolls

Asparagus Teriyaki Pork Rolls

Chawan Mushi (Egg Custard) with Asparagus

Chawan Mushi (Egg Custard) with Asparagus

Asparagus Tempura

Asparagus Tempura

Filo Rolls with Asparagus, Chorizo and Parmesan

Filo Rolls with Asparagus, Chorizo and Parmesan

Tama Konnyaku with Asparagus

Tama Konnyaku with Asparagus

Rice, Asparagus and Fried Egg

Rice, Asparagus and Fried Egg

Asparagus with Cashew Nuts and Chicken

Asparagus with Cashew Nuts and Chicken

asp_springrollsp

Spring Rolls with Asparagus and Chicken

Asparagus and Bacon Rolls

TIPS:

If you realise you like this curry a lot, I advise preparing a big batch of masala and either keeping it in the fridge (it will keep for five days) or even freezing it in small portions. Then you stir fry onions and curry leaves (if you have them), take a protein source (meat, seafood or paneer, and why not tofu?) or/and a vegetable to the masala, add some water and the quick delicious meal is ready in no time at all!

I always slim down coconut milk-based curries and I did this one too, so if you want to make it creamier, add coconut milk instead of the 100 ml water in the cooking process.

You can obviously adjust the heat level to your preferences and use half mild peppers and half hot peppers, or even use only mild peppers.

You can skip the curry leaves, but do try them if you can get them (I wrote a bit about them here). They will make this dish unforgettable. If you worry about buying a big bag of curry leaves (they are usually sold in big packages), divide them into small portions, wrap tightly in plastic film (or, if you have the vacuum packing machine, vacuum pack them) and freeze. Do not dry them. Dried curry leaves have lost almost all of their aroma, so it’s better to skip them than use dried. Fresh curry leaves can be bought by internet (look for them on Amazon or Ebay).

You can serve this dish topped with fried onion/shallot and curry leaves (the original chicken dish calls for those).

Obviously, you can make this dish vegetarian, skipping the chicken breast.

Preparation: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves four):

2 medium chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

approx. 300g of green asparagus spurs, lower tough parts removed

2 tablespoons coconut fat (or any oil of your choice)

3 big European shallots, finely sliced

15 curry leaves (fresh or frozen)

salt, water

Masala:

150 ml coconut milk

4 long fresh red chilli peppers (choose the variety according to your heat resistance), sliced

1 1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon crushed garlic (about 3 medium garlic cloves)

4 black peppercorns

2 teaspoons turmeric powder

4 shallots, sliced

1 teaspoon salt

First prepare the masala. Roast the whole spices in a pan (make sure they don’t burn and take the pan off the heat as soon as they start to yield a strong but pleasant smell).

Grind the spices in a coffee grinder, spice grinder or in a mortar.

Mix well with the remaining ingredients in a food processor until you obtain a thick sauce.

Cut up the asparagus spears into bite-sized pieces. Divide into two groups: thick pieces and thin pieces. You will add the latter at the end of the cooking process.

Heat the oil in a shallow pan and stir-fry approx. 2/3 of the shallots with half of the curry leaves.

When the shallots start becoming soft, add the chicken pieces, salt them and stir-fry until slightly browned.

Add the masala, the thicker pieces of asparagus spears, about 100 ml water and let the dish simmer until the chicken is cooked.

Five minutes before the end add the thinner parts of asparagus. Thus, the asparagus will remind crunchy.

(You can serve this curry with fried shallots and curry leaves on top.)

 

 

 

 

Chicken with Gochujang Sauce, Korean Rice Cakes (Tteok) and Celery

This wonderful one-pot meal is a perfect example of how my Asian food experiments evolve throughout months or years: first, they typically become spicier, more garlicky (if it suits them); then they get adjusted to my lazy nature, becoming easier and eliminating side-dishes, requiring even less dish washing… This one started with the Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken, to which I added gochujang and lots of garlic, then one day I threw in some celery (avoiding the necessity of a side dish) and, finally, I ha the idea to complete it with the cylindrical tteok rice cakes creating a delicious easy one-pot meal.

Tteok (떡) is a Korean word weirdly translated as “rice cake”. Contrary to what most Asian cuisine neophytes think (“rice cakes” exist in some other cuisines too), rice cakes are savoury and I would rather compare them to gnocchi. Of the two most famous kinds – coin-shaped flat ones and cylindrical ones – I prefer the latter, much chewier and thicker, and actually find them highly addictive. The flat ones are cooked in a mild typical New Year soup (tteoguk), while the cylindrical ones are most often simmered in a sweet & fiery sticky sauce (tteokboki). Cylindrical tteok can be found in two sizes and my favourite are the smaller ones (probably because I eat less of them…) and you see them at the above photograph. Whether big or small, I find my favourite tteok extremely versatile: I stir-fry them and add to different soups and sauces, not only Korean (they work perfectly with the remains of Indian or Thai curry…).  If you find them refrigerated, they freeze very well (I usually freeze individual portions) and if you buy them frozen, don’ thaw them; once at home, quickly divide them at home into portions and have fun experimenting!

If you don’t have rice cakes, you might want to try Shoyu Chicken in Gochujang (with or without celery):

Shoyu Chicken with Gochujang

TIPS: This dish is easily reheated or defrosted, but if you are sure you’ll want to keep it for later use, it’s better to cook it without rice cakes which are less chewy when reheated and without celery, which becomes too soft (for me). Remove the sauce’s and chicken’s amount for later use and add the celery and rice cakes only to the same-day portion.

If you don’t like having bones in your bowl or plate, remove them before serving, but don’t use boned chicken legs. Bones add lots of wonderful flavours.

If you like soft chicken skin, leave it. I always use skinned chicken legs when simmering because I hate soft skin (I love it crisp from the oven though!).

Preparation: about 2 hours

Ingredients (serves 2):

2 small chicken legs (cut into two pieces), without skin or two big thighs

100 ml (about 3 fl oz) low-sodium Japanese soy sauce (or 70 ml of “normal” soy sauce)

300 ml (about 10 fl oz) water

60 ml (about 2 fl oz) agave syrup or honey

2 tablespoons rice vinegar (or any other vinegar)

2 heaped tablespoons gochujang (Korean chilli paste)

4 big garlic cloves chopped or sliced

toasted white sesame seeds, chopped green onions

2-4 celery stalks, cut into bite-sized pieces (“threads” removed)

250-300 g rice cakes (fresh or defrosted)

(1-2 tablespoons sesame oil)

Bring all the sauce ingredients to a boil (apart from the four last ones : sesame seeds, rice cakes celery and oil).

Lower the heat, put the chicken into the sauce, cover (add more water if needed) and let it simmer for at least one hour until the meat falls apart from the bones (if the chicken has actually walked, i.e. free range or organic) it might take two hours.

Add the rice cakes and let them simmer until they become thicker (it takes usually about 15 minutes).  Add the celery and let it simmer until the celery is soft enough. I like it crunchy, so I add it ten minutes before the end, but you can add together with rice cakes (it will cook 20 minutes and will be soft).

Finish cooking it uncovered until the sauce thickens.

Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, green onions and with sesame oil.

 

Chicken with Curry Leaves from Andhra Pradesh (Kodi Gasi)

When I ordered The Essential Andhra Cookbook: with Hyderabadi and Telengana Specialities by Bilkees I. Latif I didn’t know much about this part of India (I even had to check on the map…) apart from the extensive use of my beloved curry leaves by its inhabitants. Now, having tested only one recipe from Ms Latif’s humble looking book, I know I have found a precious addition to my cooking library. This chicken dish might seem similar to any another Indian curry, but it is really unique. Like many Indian dishes I know, it’s packed with spices and laced with creamy coconut flavours, but it has a unique, clean touch and a tantalising new aroma I got quickly addicted to.

If you have never tasted curry leaves, they are small, highly aromatic and grow on Murraya koenigii trees. They are particularly popular in southern parts of India and, contrary to bay leaves, they are cooked fresh and are actually eaten. They are usually fried at the beginning together with onions and sometimes also used as a topping (in the above dish they appear in both).  Thanks to their wonderful unique aroma, they change the flavours of the final dish and make it very special. After dozens of meals in Indian restaurants in several European countries I had never had the occasion to taste them (no comment, but you can imagine my angry face) until I started to cook from Rick Stein’s India. I fell in love as soon as I took the first bunch of leaves from the shop: their pungent smell was so amazing, so complex, I couldn’t stop myself from sniffing my shopping bag throughout the whole trip back home….

Since curry leaves are now very difficult to get in fresh form in Switzerland, whenever I have an opportunity to buy them, I vacuum pack small portions and freeze them because dried form loses much of its aroma (not to mention the texture which makes leaves too thick to eat). (If you don’t have a vacuum packing machine, before freezing, wrap the leaves in plastic film as tightly as you can). If you want to taste fresh curry leaves and don’t find them in your local Indian shop, you can easily order them on internet (they are not only grown in Asia, but also in the US!). Write to me if you need precise information about internet sources I’ve found. In short, do whatever you can to get fresh leaves. At worst you can use dried ones, but they are not even half as good…

I don’t have access to good quality fresh coconut or frozen fresh coconut, so, as I often do, I have used here coconut milk instead (my experiments with dried coconut in curries have always been a failure, so I stopped trying). I have cut down on frying oil and had to modify also the cooking process and adapt it to a lower amount of fat. Apart from that, I have slightly tweaked ingredients’ amounts, used chicken breast instead of whole chicken, shallots instead of onions, and so on… so check The Essential Andhra Cookbook for the original recipe.

TIPS:  If you like this curry as much as I do, I advise preparing a big batch of masala and either keeping it in the fridge (it will keep for five days) or even freezing it in small portions. Then you stir fry onions and curry leaves, take a protein source (meat, seafood or paneer, and why not tofu?) or a vegetable to the masala, add some water and the quick delicious meal is ready in no time at all!

Preparation: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves four):

3 medium chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 tablespoons coconut fat (or any oil of your choice)

5 big European shallots, finely sliced

15 curry leaves (fresh or frozen)

salt, water

Masala:

150 ml coconut milk

4 long fresh red chilli peppers (choose the variety according to your heat resistance), sliced

1 1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon crushed garlic (about 3 medium garlic cloves)

4 black peppercorns

2 teaspoons turmeric powder

4 shallots, sliced

1 teaspoon salt

First prepare the masala. Roast the whole spices in a pan (make sure they don’t burn and take the pan off the heat as soon as they start to yield a strong but pleasant smell).

Grind the spices in a coffee grinder, spice grinder or in a mortar.

Mix well with the remaining ingredients in a food processor until you obtain a thick sauce.

Heat the oil in a shallow pan and stir-fry approx. 2/3 of the shallots with half of the curry leaves.

When the shallots start becoming soft, add the chicken pieces, salt them and stir-fry until slightly browned.

Add the masala, about 200 ml water and let the dish simmer until the chicken is cooked.

In the meantime, heat 1 teaspoon coconut oil in a small pan.

Stir-fry the remaining shallots and curry leaves until the onions are slightly browned.

Serve this curry with fried shallots and curry leaves on top. It’s excellent with naan.