Sunday, April 06, 2008

An Excellent Korma, Not Patak's

Patak's is a bit of an institution in Indian Cuisine. Ever since I can remember, my mother usually had one or two bottles of Patak's in the house – usually one was an Indian pickle (if you haven't ever had one, imagine a savoury, spicy relish made from mangoes, limes or carrots), and the other was a cooking sauce.

Since cooking Indian on my own, I've relied on Patak's for the same: a bottle of pickle, a bottle of cooking sauce. Their Vindaloo paste is phenomenal, and I swear by it, despite having made vindaloo from scratch on a number of occasions. So, I was pleased to see that Patak's offers a korma paste, as chicken korma is one of my favourite dishes.

Here's the thing though: Patak's chicken korma sauce isn't very good. In fact, it's poor. The sumptuous, rich flavours that inhabit a chicken korma are missing. I've tried using more paste than the directions call for, less paste, varied the simmering times, and so on. Nope. No good. The half used bottle in the photo above is almost certain to stay that way until we clean out the fridge.

In steps Madhur Jaffrey, the definitive Indian cook. She's another institution – I remember getting her huge, red cookbook out of the cupboard for my mother at least three times a week.

Madhur Jaffrey knows her korma. And it's beautifully quick, simple and delicious. I've cooked hers a number of times and made some changes.

Madhur Jaffrey's Chicken Korma, with Edits

2 cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 bay leaves
A small cinnamon stick
3 cardamom pods
1 clove
0.25 tsp black cumin seeds (or regular cumin seeds)
A small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1.5 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
200 ml (usually half a can) of tinned, diced plum tomatoes
4-5 chicken thighs skinned and cut into nice chunks
0.25 - 1 tsp chilli powder
A pinch of salt
1-2 tbsp single cream
250 ml water

Put the ginger, garlic and 3 tbsp water in a blender. Blend until you have a smooth paste. If you don't have a blender (we don't, despite L constantly pointing them out to me), just chop/press the garlic as finely as possible and grate the ginger with the smallest grater tooth possible.

Get the oil nice and hot in a wide frying pan. Once hot, put in the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom pods, cloves and cumin seeds (if you don't have the cumin seeds, don't worry about it. I never seem to have any, and it still turns out). Stir once or twice and put in the onions.

Stir and fry for until the onions turn brownish. Don't mess this part up. Be patient. I think my mother once told me that properly cooked onions are what make Indian food so delicious.

Once your onions smell delicious, without any trace of harshness, add the paste from the blender, and the ground coriander and ground cumin and fry for a minute. Then throw in the tomatoes and fry for another minute. Stir like mad if anything is sticking.

Toss in the chicken, chilli powder, salt and the water. Bring to a boil (this should be very easy, considering your pan was nice and hot when you added the spices at the start, right?). Cover, turn the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes, stirring once in a while.

Finally, add the cream bit by bit and cook on high heat for another 7-8 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Stir gently as you do this.

Serves 4 without leftovers. Serves 2 with enough for generous seconds. Enjoy.

No comments: