Curries are a world of wonder because they hold so many diverse flavours. Over the past few months where I have really committed to my blog, I learned something new about myself; my love of Curries. I always thought of myself as a lover of food in general and nothing in specific because for me the only thing that matters when it comes to food is exploring flavours. I have realized that I really love my curries. I love my Naan bread and my curries. Coming from an East Asian background, in particular, Pakistan, it boggled my mind as to how many varied versions exist in just one cuisine and I haven’t even begun exploring the Indian curries yet. I find it fascinating how when you start going around the world, each time zone, spanning over different regions, carry individual staple food speciality e.g. East Asia is abundant in curry recipes, the most famous being Korma, Tikka Masala, Jalfarezi Curry, Tandoor and Butter Chicken, Middle east loves it’s Kubz (Arabian Bread) and Rice, Mediterranean cuisine loves it’s herbs, olives, roasted vegetables, couscous etc., Europe loves it’s Pasta and towards the West, well they just love their fried food and pizza and these are only some of the savoury. The world of desserts and everything sweet is a whole other world, not to mention, the world of spice; that I tell you is nothing less of a dictionary. It’s an infinite library of knowledge. It has evolved with time and has practically become food science making it no longer solely the reason of existence but also excellence.
Coming to the recipe, the curry is extremely simple with very few ingredients and lesser effort. Now, before I jolt down the recipe, let me tell you, there is a huge difference in Black Pepper Powder and Crushed Black Pepper. The former is spicier as compared to the latter. The black pepper powder has a very sharpness in spiciness whereas the crushed pepper offers a mild spice. So, for example, if you were to add 1 tsp of black pepper powder, that would provide 50% more spice as compared to the same amount of crushed black pepper and when all is said and done, I say, the freshly grounded crushed black pepper has an extremely joyful flavour whereas, I personally think, black pepper powder though always available at a stretch of a hand besides the salt, cheapens the flavours to the dishes it is added. In East Asia, in particular, Pakistan, the food culture relies heavily on black pepper powder instead of freshly crushed black pepper, and people have become so accustomed to it’s concentration in recipes that it’s preferred over the other. Nontheless, I don’t mean, that it’s bad, ofcourse not, being a favourite spice in many dishes it acts as a gorgeous catalyst to enhance flavour but there are certain recipes where if you were to use black pepper powder, it destroys the flavours, specifically, this recipe; Crushed Black Pepper Curry.
In Asia this dish is renowned as Pepper Chicken and I have friends who make this with black pepper powder, which does not taste bad but it doesn’t taste great as well. When I first made this, I was asked how is it so flavourful with such balanced sharpness of pepper spice, the answer was, crushed black pepper. It’s softer on your palate. You might think, why I am rambling about this, the reason being, that’s the only spice used in the dish and since the flavours solely depend on it, it’s important to let you know, No! you can’t substitute the crushed black pepper with powder if you desire.
So, as the name says it all, the dish sings crushed black pepper. The fenugreek leaves add a little depth to the curry whereas the lemon juice lightens the mood of the spice in the gravy. Being me, I always eat yogurt with my food on the side because, one; for as long as I remember I have been doing that with a lot of Asian dishes I have ever had, second; if the curry is spicier than I usually like, the yogurt cuts the heat perfectly and three; yogurt is my absolute favourite dairy. So, if you think you are not a fan of spice, cut down the spice a tad as to your liking. However, having said that, the spice in the dish is just perfect, enough to give your palate a delightful sense of flavour and not burn your tongue or thought.
So, if you have never made an Indian curry or are bored out of wits of having the same few curries over and over again, open your mind and make something you never have because “When I venture out to eat, I like to go places with food that I don’t know how to make. So, my favourites are Japanese and Indian. Indian food has so much layering of flavour, and the dishes go together so harmoniously” (Gwyneth Paltrow).
1. Chicken on the bone — 1kg
2. Crushed Black pepper — 6 tsp
3. All-spice powder — ½ tsp
4. Ginger paste — 2 tsp
5. Garlic paste — 2 tsp
6. Lemon juice — 2 tbsp
7. Tomatoes chopped — 1 cup
8. Yogurt — 1 cup
9. Dried Fenugreek leaves — 2 tsp
10. Onions chopped — 2
11. Coriander leaves chopped — 1 cup
12. Salt — 1 tsp
13. Oil — 6 tbsp
14. Water — 1 cup
1. Marinate the chicken
a. In a bowl, mix together, yogurt, half of the ginger and garlic paste, lemon juice, fenugreek leaves, crushed black pepper and salt and mix.
b. Add the chicken pieces and mix to coat and leave to marinate for 30 minutes.
2. Prepare the curry
a. Heat oil in the cooking pot and add the chopped onions. Fry the onions until light golden brown.
b. Add the remaining ginger and garlic paste and sauté for 1 minute.
c. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until the oil separates from the gravy.
d. Add the marinated chicken at this stage stir to cook on high heat for 3-4 minutes.
e. Add water and cover.
f. Cook until the chicken is completely cooked and the gravy has thickened somewhat.
g. Add the garam masala and mix.
h. Sprinkle the coriander leaves and let steam on low heat for a further 5 minutes.
i. Serve with Naan or Rice.