Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Korma Chicken with Zucchini - that's the spice of life

I have been quite taken with Indian food for the last few years and have visited numerous restaurants tasting kormas, vindaloos, buttered chicken, rogan josh and other spicy delights. So of course I had to try it at home. I quickly found that finding recipes that give directions on making many of these dishes simply call for "curry" or recommend purchasing a pre-made sauce from an Indian specialty shop or market.

So I tried a few. Some were wonderful. Others were dreadful. Two that I enjoyed the most were Patak's and Himalaya Gourmet, a Canadian distributor... a little hard to find but well worth it. But I really wanted to learn to make my own from scratch.

Then, a few weeks ago I bought one of Jamie Oliver's many cook books, "Jamie's Food Revolution". This man is one of my very favourite chefs and he really knows how to make cooking interesting. Many of his Indian recipes offer both a prepackaged alternative (oddly enough Patak's) and his own recipe. So of course I tried his version... and it was the very best I've tasted to date.

The interesting thing about "Jamie's Food Revolution" is that the whole purpose of the book is for people to read it, learn at least one recipe from each chapter and then pass it on to two or more friends or family. I love this idea and it was the source of my inspiration to start this blog. So, using Jamie's korma recipe I have created a dish that I call Korma Chicken with Zucchini. You will not traditionally find zucchini in Indian cooking but I was looking for ways to include more vegetables into my diet and thoroughly loved the results. Here's how it goes:

• 1½ cups diced chicken
• ½ onion or leek
• 1 medium zucchini
• 1 cup yogurt
• ½ cup korma paste (approx. ½ of recipe below)

Jamie Oliver's korma paste (makes approx. 1 cup)
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1 thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger
• ½ tsp cayenne pepper
• 1 tsp garam masala
• ½ tsp sea salt
• 2 tbsp peanut oil*
• 1 tbsp tomato paste
• 2 fresh green chilies, chopped fine
• 3 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
• 2 tbsp almond flour (ground almonds)
• 2 tsp cumin seed (I use ground cumin)
• 2 tsp coriander seed (I use ground coriander)
• small bunch of fresh cilantro

* If you are planning on serving this to others you should check to see if there are any peanut allergies. I've substituted other oils such as extra virgin olive oil and canola oil with good results.

• Food processor or blender
• Mortar and pestal
• Large non-stick frying pan
• Wooden spoon or heat-resistant spoon/spatula

Let's make the korma paste first. Peel and chop the garlic and ginger. If you are using cumin and coriander seeds first roast them in a frying pan on medium heat until golden... they will smell delicious when ready. Then grind the seeds with a mortar and pestal. You can also toast the ground spice versions briefly, it certainly seems to enhance both the smell and taste.

Slice the peppers down the middle and remove the seeds. The green chilies in this recipe are not jalapeƱos so be sure to purchase the thin skinned, pointed end chilies rather than the thick skinned, rounded jalapeƱos. Once you've removed the stem and seeds finely chop the chilies. I'd recommend washing your hands immediately after handling the chilies.

A word of caution when working with Indian spices, chilies and curries. Wash your hands often! Avoid touching your mouth, ears, eyes, nose or other areas that have delicate skin.
These ingredients can cause sever skin irritation which can be quite uncomfortable. But a quick hand wash or two during preparation and a thorough washing (get under the nails)
after food preparation should keep your skin happy.

Combine all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.

If you don't have a food processor try a blender (chop the garlic and ginger as finely as you can). If you don't have a blender you can always grind the ingredients manually with your mortar and pestal (I think this actually gives the best results). If you don't have a mortar and pestal it's time to purchase at least one of these. Buy whichever you feel will give you the most service or buy them all, you'll need them eventually.

I will recommend that when purchasing a mortar and pestal you should be sure to get one with a large enough opening that it will handle whatever you want to put in it. Also choose a size and pestal weight that feels comfortable. Play with it in the store for 5 or 10 minutes, you'll soon know if it's too small, too large or too heavy for you.

Cover the korma paste and set it aside in the refrigerator. I personally find that the korma tastes better if prepared a day or two before hand but it can certainly be used the same day.

Chop up the onion or leek into small pieces. I like the taste and texture of leek so that is what I tend to use. If you are using a leek be sure, after chopping, to wash it thoroughly in a fine sieve to remove the dirt... I've never found a leek that didn't have some dirt trapped in it.

I find the easiest way to chop up the leek is to divide it into 4-5" lengths, cut into quarters lengthwise and then chop.

Regardless of whether you used onion or leek put the frying pan on medium high and add a little olive oil. Add the onion or leek. Fry until the onion/leek wilts and becomes slightly transparent. Meanwhile slice the zucchini into quarters and chop into slices about twice as thick as a penny. Add them to the onions. If you choose to peel the zucchini that is perfectly okay but I prefer to leave the skin on.

Continue to fry the onion/zucchini mix for a couple of minutes.

While this is cooking cut your chicken into small cubes about the size of a caramel square (about ½ - ¾" square). I usually use boneless skinless chicken breasts but most any part of the chicken will do (vegetarians... feel free to substitute a firm tofu for the chicken, it works great - I would recommend frying the tofu pieces in a separate pan before hand to brown them a little).

Once the chicken is cut up take your wooden spoon and open a space in the center of the onion/zucchini mix, exposing the bottom of the pan, and add the chicken. Add a little salt and pepper and fry until the outside of the chicken is white and opaque looking.

Then add ½ cup korma paste and stir all the ingredients in the pan until combined thoroughly. If you have used store bought paste in the past you may find that the dish does not look as red when using the home-made version. Don't worry about it, most store bought pastes (korma, rogan josh, vindalo, etc.) have added colouring. Yum... colouring.

Continue to fry for 2 or 3 mintues, then add the yogurt and stir. Continue to cook for about 7-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve with cous-cous or rice.

As I mentioned before zucchini is not a typical ingredient of Indian food but I'm a big believer is trying new things and mixing it up in the kitchen. In fact I have tried this same dish but substituted sour cream for the yougurt. You won't get the same results but I rather liked the results I got. So experiment, experiment, experiment. But be sure and try it out on yourself first... after all experiments don't always turn out exactly as expected.


  1. via BB

    Hey little brother

    Wow. Now you've given me a dilema. I hate computers. But I love recipes. (And I wuv you.)

    Now I have to go buy some chicken & whatnot.




  2. this one looks good too! i'll have to give it a shot...