(Bloomberg) -- Vineet Bhatia is one of the world’s most influential and respected Indian chefs, with restaurants in cities from Geneva to Mumbai as well as Kama by Vineet within Harrods department store in London.
One of the first two Indian chefs to win a Michelin star, in 2001, he is known for authentic yet refined traditional cuisine as well as for more innovative dishes, such as chocolate samosas.
For Bloomberg, he has supplied a simple recipe of South Indian chicken, braised in onion-coconut masala with curry leaves.
“Growing up in a North Indian household, with my Punjabi mother ruling the kitchen, cooking chicken with coconut was an alien thought, an unlikely event,” he says. “So when I tasted this for the first time in my South Indian classmate’s house for a Sunday brunch along with appams (rice pancakes), my mind ( and my taste buds) were completely blown.
“I simply cannot forget that experience and revelation. I guess that is why I have a special fondness for using South Indian flavors in my cooking, juxtaposing them with the robust flavors of the north.”
(There is a YouTube video of Vineet preparing a similar dish here.)
I am used to seeing Indian recipes with multiple ingredients and lengthy cooking times, so I was pleasantly surprised by how straightforward this looked. And it didn’t disappoint. There were layers of flavor and it tasted significantly better than the curry ready-meals that are so prevalent in U.K. supermarkets. The recipe serves four.
60 grams (2.1 ounces) vegetable oil
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 red onion, medium sized, finely chopped
12 curry leaves
2 tablespoons ginger and garlic paste
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 tablespoon cumin powder
2 tomatoes, medium sized, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 chicken breasts, boneless & skinless, cut into 1 inch (2.5 centimeter) cubes
200 milliliters (6.8 fluid ounces) coconut milk, thick
Salt to taste
½ tablespoon lemon juice
Heat the oil in a thick, deep-bottomed pan, then add the mustard seeds and as soon as it crackles add the chopped red onion and curry leaves.
Sauté the onions until golden brown.
Mix together the red chili powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder and ginger garlic paste along with enough cold water to soak the mixture. (A couple of tablespoons worked for me.) Add this to the onion mixture and cook for a minute.
Now add chopped tomatoes and sauté, muddling them till it is a smooth paste; add the tomato paste. Cook while stirring constantly for another 2 minutes.
Add the chicken and continue cooking for about 4 minutes until the meat is half cooked; add the coconut milk and salt.
Bring the sauce to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked. (Vineet says this may be 7-8 minutes, though I gave it 5.)
Lastly, add the lemon juice and check the seasoning.
Serve hot with steamed rice or paratha.
Richard Vines is Chief Food Critic at Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines and Instagram @richard.vines.
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