Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Sali Murghi (Chicken and Apricot Curry with Matchstick Potatoes)

Happy New Year!

I have no good excuses for not posting. I was lazy at the end of November, in the US for most of December, and then ate nothing but BBQ and leftover Christmas ham during the holiday break. Yesterday saw the seventh-hottest day ever recorded in Perth, so all I could face was the usual Thai beef salad, thrown together from whatever salad vegetables I had, plus half a bag of fresh beansprouts and a big bunch of mint, for extra cooling effect. Nice to use a post-BBQ extra T-bone steak as well; never have I had such deliciously chilled and soft beef.

Anyway! Last year, just before I left for the States, a surprise present arrived from a friend in the UK: Rick Stein's India, a really fantastic compilation of Indian recipes from all over the subcontinent. On Sunday I decided to try out one of the more challenging looking recipes, sali murghi, or chicken and apricot curry with potato straws. The ingredients list is moderately long, but of course the spices are essential. We found that they combined beautifully with the apricots and other vegetables to form a thick and sweet-sour sauce that complemented the chicken and potatoes perfectly. From a single chicken, there was easily enough for six people, or for us, two dinners and two lunches. (We had the second dinner with perfect pilaf rice and quick-friend coconut vegetables.)

For the matchstick potatoes (sali):

  • 250g of Chat (or other chipping/new) potatoes, julienned and soaked in cold water for at least 15 minutes
  • a deep fryer or heavy-based pan full of vegetable oil for deep frying
  • salt

For the curry:

  • vegetable oil
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 6 cloves
  • 3 green cardamom pods, lightly bruised with a rolling pin
  • 2 dried chillies
  • 4cm piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 100g tomatoes (about 1 large, or 2 small), finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • a thumb of ginger, finely grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1.5 tsp ground cumin
  • 1.5 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 chicken, jointed into 8 pieces (get the butcher to do it!)
  • 2 tsp jaggery, palm sugar, or brown sugar
  • 150g dred apricots
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • handful of fresh coriander, leaves torn off

Bruise the whole spices in a mortar and pestle and fry in a large casserole / Le Creuset for a minute until fragrant. Add the onion, turn the heat down, and fry for 10 min until softened and golden. Stir in the tomatoes, salt, ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander and turmeric, and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and turn in the spce mixture, then add the sugar, apricots and vinegar.

(At this point, Stein suggests adding enough water to cover; if you do this, you will likely need to remove the cooked chicken and then vigorously boil down/reduce the sauce for ~10 minutes at the end, unless perhaps you remove the lid, but then the chicken may cook unevenly. I suggest instead adding 200ml of water, covering, and turning over the chicken pieces a few times until they are cooked, and leaving the lid off for the last 15 minutes of cook time.)

Bring to the boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is reduced. Meanwhile, drain the potatoes, dry in a colander, and deep-fry at 180C for 2-3 minutes per batch until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper and season with salt, then use to top to the finished curry, along with the coriander leaves.

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