My partner this time is Swati of Chatkhor. She's from Bangalore, India and so naturally, all of her recipes are for Indian food. She is a vegetarian, but she's started to venture into cooking chicken for her non-veg hubby. I'd say that's love right there. I enjoyed reading her posts. I can tell she's a fun person, who enjoys cooking so much. And her personality is obviously reflected in her cooking too. Swati, it's a pleasure to be partnered with you.
Now, what to cook? Obviously, we are not vegetarians, but I do cook vegetarian dishes once in a while. There are a number of recipes that I want to try from the blog, but unfortunately, a lot of the the spices the recipe call for are something that I doubt I'd be able to get here in Miami, as I don't know of any Indian specialty store around here. I also don't know what to substitute them with...
So in the end, I decided to do the recipe that Swati herself suggested - dum ka murgh zafrani, or chicken slowly cooked in yoghurt (check out the recipe here)... Doesn't the Indian title alone intrigue you?
Looking at the recipe, I knew right away that it would be a very rich dish. What with all that butter, yoghurt, milk and cream required... whew! So I had to tweak the recipe, just to control the fat content just a little bit. First of all, I used a skinless, boneless chicken breast. We usually don't eat the chicken skin anyway so there's no point in having it in this dish. Also, instead of using 1 cup of clarified butter as called for, I decided to only use 2 tbsps of butter, mainly for flavor, and a couple tbsps of olive oil. For the milk, I opted to use 2% instead of the full cream milk. Also, the yoghurt I used was non-fat. I had to do all these because Mr. J is watching his cholesterol level, so this is important if I were to feed him this dish. And for the fresh cream, I substituted it with heavy whipping cream using only half of what's required. And I have to admit.. I cheated a little bit too. I chose to use canned, peeled and crushed tomato instead of pureeing one from scratch. Not only did I saved a fraction of time, but I've also got lesser dishes to wash this way. I thought that was smart of me, wasn't it? :o)
I don't think the changes I made affected the flavor of this dish at all. In my humble opinion, it's really all the spices that make this dish. The sauce still came out thick and creamy due to the addition of the almond paste and the pureed tomato. At first, I was kind of iffy about the almond paste. I thought almond paste is only for desserts. I never knew that it could be added on to savory dishes as well, but now I know better.. haha! The paste added a slight almond taste to the dish, but not overpowering. And it made this dish a bit sweeter as well, which is a nice balance to all the different spices going on in this food.
As it is only Mr. J and I at home, I decided to cut the recipe down into half. But even with half a recipe, it still made a lot, especially the sauce! But you know what, this food tastes better the next day, so I am not complaining.
Cooking this dish transported me back in time when I was hanging out with pals from New Delhi (India) and Katmandu (Nepal). Almost 10 yrs. ago, I was in a scholarship program in Germany, which was sponsored by the German government. I got close to my colleagues from India (there were 2 of them) and Nepal. The smell of this dish as it cooked made me remember those good ol' times when my friends would cook dinner, or at other times, when we would have Indian theme nights. We would go out to eat at Indian restaurants (in Germany), and watch Indian movies afterwards. Oh, I miss those fun times with them. I still communicate with these friends up to now, actually.
Anyways, before I get carried away too much..... This dish is similar to curry, except that there is no curry in it. It had all the spices that one would expect in an Indian dish. The chicken was creamy and dreamy and I served it with plain boiled jasmin rice garnished with cilantro... Yum! My husband, who thought it was spicy, was surprised because the dish is milder than he had expected and slightly sweet. He actually liked it...Life is good.... Thanks, Swati, for a great recipe!