Sunday, October 25, 2009



Contrary to popular belief, I do cook meals for my family. Occasionally. I love weekends and vacations when JP does all of the cooking. That frees me up to think sweet. Admittedly, there are days when my family starts hovering around the kitchen looking for signs of something savory, something which may constitute a meal, stomachs growling, and sadly they only find cake. Or macarons. Or pie. Then general grumpiness ensues. Oh, tell me why, gods of the sweet tooth? Why do I feel such a weight on my shoulders to produce a luscious, tempting, savory meal each and every day for my three men? True, they – well, he – never complains about the occasional cheese-bread-banana for dinner if I’ve been overwhelmed with my blogging duties, nor will he willingly turn up his nose at a scrumptious dessert. But dried pasta with jarred sauce doesn’t always cut it. Not 3 days in a row. Simon, admittedly, is happy enough if there are frozen pizzas in the freezer and Clem just huffs and puffs then makes plans with friends to eat out.

But once in a while, something stirs me to action, a brisk walk through the market on a cool Autumn day, the tempting odor wafting out of a restaurant as I rush by, an exquisite dish pictured on someone’s blog or a lazy stroll through one of my favorite cookbooks and my imagination is revved, my taste buds a-tingle, my hand itching to be wrapped tightly around my beautiful kitchen knife, slicing, chopping, mincing. Thoughts of stirring thick sauces in pots simmering merrily on the stove make me shiver with sensuous pleasure, delightful fragrances tickling the nose of JP as he walks through the door after a long slog through the rat race, and I’m off, basket draped over my arm and list held tightly in my hand.

I keep returning to my childhood mealtimes, times filled with either delight or dread, depending on what was placed before us on the table. Mom’s dry-as-shoe-leather liver, the crispy, caramelized onions she whipped up to accompany it and the bottle of ketchup my only saving grace. Cabbage soup that I won’t even begin to describe. Or would it be something wonderful like Surprise Burgers or Tuna-Noodle Casserole, that old Girl Scout-inspired standby? Whatever was brought to the table, good or bad, it was served up like clockwork: 6:00 on the nose every evening, exactly half an hour after dad got home. Mom, like all mom’s everywhere, would lean out the back door and yell for us kids to get to the table. Sue and Andrew on one side of the table facing Michael and I on the other, mom and dad flanking us at either end. Walter Cronkite blaring in the other room so dad could listen all the way through to “And that’s the way it is…” We were all happy eaters, giggling and laughing throughout the meal, trying hard, as hard as kids can, to stay quiet, not a peep, so dad could listen to the news. Games played around the meal: who could eat the most broccoli or spinach and titles would be bestowed: Popeye for the evening or Biggest Tree-Eating Giant. As we got older, “getting Sue angry” would be mine and Michael’s own special game: look like we were simply concentrated on whatever wonder was on our plate yet, through grimaces and secret signs, make our older sister blow her top! And get yelled at by dad!

A family meal.

There would be rejoicing all around whenever we saw dad pull out the pancake griddle or fire up the charcoal grill out in front of the house! Weekends, then and now, cooking was, and is, The Man’s Job: breakfast for dinner or steaks and burgers tossed on the grill when it was dad, moules frites or Potée or Tagine for my well-traveled husband. We were, and are, assured of something wonderful on our plates, a culinary treasure, a voyage to another place.

We are fueled by our childhoods, influenced in ways we may or may not like to admit. Dinnertime is a ritual we repeat across generations, its importance in our daily lives essential to our cultural survival. It holds the family together, gathering around the table after a day running helter-skelter between school or work, lunches grabbed on the run or lunches swallowed over business deals. Dinnertime is a calm haven, a time to get to know each other over and over again, to laugh and to bond.

Sometimes I go simple, striving to create a homey atmosphere, everything and everyone in their rightful, comfortable place. Sometimes I pull out all the stops, spending hours pouring over cookbooks, baking fresh bread or muffins, flour flying, or bringing a little exotic mystery and wonderment to the table. Ever anxious to elicit oohs and ahhs from those able and willing to make their way to my kitchen table, like the best of those 1950’s television housewives, I throw all of my energy into choosing the right recipe and recreating yet another scrumptious meal.

Lately I have been on an Indian streak, and influenced by my Indian food blog friends I have made luscious Eggs and Chick Peas in an Indian-Style Cream Sauce and that incredible Aloo Gosht, Delhi-style Lamb and Potatoes served over Aromatic Saffron Rice and both proved to me how simple it is to make and serve such fragrant, rich, delicious, magical dishes. So, streak I am on. This wonderful, family-style Chicken Curry is a recipe from Meeta’s blog, What’s For Lunch, Honey? She does point out that it is her dad’s recipe. It is indeed easy to make and is mild enough, yet flavorful enough, to please all palates. My only complaint was that there was not enough of the delicious sauce, so next time I prepare this dish, I will double the proportions for everything except the amount of chicken and make twice as much sauce. Thank-you, Meeta, for a wonderful recipe enjoyed by all.

The perfect family meal!

1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces. You can also simply use 8 chicken drumsticks or drumsticks/thighs. I used 2 leg/thigh portions and 2 breast filets.
4-6 medium sized tomatoes – peeled and coarsely chopped.
1 medium onion - finely chopped
4 Tbs vegetable oil
1 ¼” (3 cm) piece ginger – peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves - finely chopped
1-2 green chillies – seeds removed and finely chopped. The fiery hotness depends on your taste.
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp turmeric powder
salt and freshly ground black pepper
100ml water
2 Tbs yogurt – I used thick Greek yogurt
1 lime
a small bunch of coriander leaves – chopped

In a large pan heat the oil and fry the chopped onions on a low to medium heat for 10 minutes. Stirring occasionally, gently brown the onions making sure they do not burn.

Add the chopped ginger, garlic and chili to the pan and continue frying for another minute or so.

Add the cumin, coriander and turmeric powders to the mixture and fry for another 2 minutes, stirring continuously so that the spices do not stick to the pan. Add salt and pepper.

Add the water and the tomatoes. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Place the chicken pieces into the pan and coat with the sauce. Covered, allow the chicken to cook for 30-40 minutes over a low heat, turning the pieces of chicken every so often.

Now stir in the yogurt. Make sure the liquid does not boil after you have added the yogurt to it as it will get clumpy. Add half of the lime juice. Taste and if you like add some more.

Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves and serve with basmati rice or a pilaf.

I precooked the dish up until the addition of the yogurt and lime juice. I removed it from the heat, covered the pot and went with Simon to a cooking class we had signed up for. When we returned, I discovered that JP had finished the dish, gently reheating the chicken in the sauce and stirring in the yogurt and the lime. And he made simple, plain basmati rice to accompany it. Perfect!


Debbie said...

Looks super yummy!I plan to try this one.We love Indian food although we have different views in our house about how spicy we like it.Our fav dishes when we lived in Australia were either butter chicken or mango chicken.Would love to see you find a good recipe that I could tackle since all I seem to find here in the US is tikka masala so help Jamie!
Loved the description of your childhood dinner times...Walter Cronkite was also present at our dinner table. Dad often would come home from the hospital after making rounds and we'd listen to him dictating his surgical notes. We thought that was normal until we had friends come over and as soon as they heard "catgut sutures", they suddenly lost their appetites...oh well, more for us :)
Keep up the good work-I'm sure JP and your sons realize how very lucky they are to have such a gift such as yourself at home and in their kitchen <3

The Cooking Ninja said...

I love chicken curry. That's so many different version of doing it and all are delicious. :) My mom's version Nonya Chicken Curry has a lot more spices.

Now I have to try this version. :) Thanks for sharing.

MeetaK said...

oh fantastic jamie! i can actually smell this from here and it reminds me of my dad. it's true this is more of a drier type of curry rather that a saucy one. glad you liked it!

Deeba @Passionate About Baking said...

Oooooh lved reading the post 7 took me back to our days at kids, squabbling ver dinner, kicking under tables but pretty much eating whatever found itss way to the platter. 'Ours not to question why' was the mantra. The daily drama now is quite the same as yours, as the hub & kids sniffing their way to the kitchen in search of a meal. Yum chicken & well done, my dear Honorary indian. Next time, just puree a few tomatoes & throw them in with the rest of the ingredinets. The sauce shall double...slurp! You are beaing me to my table.Should I try my hand at French cuisine, Jamie? LOL...might not get too many wanting to 'kiss the chef'! xoxo

Jamie said...

@The Cooking Ninja: Thanks for the new recipe! Will check it out!

@Deeba: Ha ha! Do try some French recipes! Or try some of my Maroccan ones! Come on! You can do it!

@Deebie: LOL I think that's too funny!

Jamie said...

@Meeta: We wanted more sauce! I'll double it next time or try Deeba's suggestion. Yum!

Cathy said...

I love all the flavors you've combined in this dish and the fact that it reheats well. Dinner with family is the best part of the day.

La Table De Nana said...

CUte post as always:) The family pic and the retro ones are adorable.
I must say the meal looks great too!!

Barbara Bakes said...

All this time I've been doing things wrong! I never knew husbands are suppose to do the cooking on the weekend. Do you think that after 31 years he'll think this is a good idea?

The curry looks delicious! I can see why you'd want more of that beautiful, colorful sauce!

Jamie said...

@Barbara Bakes: I once took a class with the world's leading expert in experimental psychology. He once told us: "Yes, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!" So, Barbara, get on with it! Next weekend, hand husband apron and a cookbook...

Mary said...

I loved your remembrance of dinners past. It was a simpler time. The chicken looks wonderful and I can imagine how fragrant it must be. That it can be made well ahead of serving is another blessing.

Mowie @ Mowielicious said...

Oh wow Jamie - another great read, brought back so many memories of my childhood too! And I absolutely love chicken curry - yum! xxx

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Nice post and memories!

That curry looks super delicious, as usual! Really flavorful!



bethany (Dirty Kitchen Secrets) said...

i'm loving all these curries. I'm defo gonna make it sometime this week! thnx for sharing your beautiful memories

♥♥♥Ria♥♥♥ said...

Beautiful curry! You sure are going the Indian way! :) Our curry is also similar...highly addictive!

Baking Monster said...

Yum this looks terrific. Good old fashioned family dinners are the way to go. Love the stories of your family dinners!

Anushruti said...

I was on my way to logout and retire after a very tiring day but when I read "new post" from you on twitter I couldnt resist coming to you and reading what you had to say. Your writing has me hooked. You got a staunch vegetarian reading a post on chicken curry! Love to read what you write!

Amy said...

I was cursed (or blessed?) with t he sweet tooth also - courtesy of my father. I'm certain it will eventually be the death of me, but at least I'll go out happy.

Love the Chicken Curry, too!

buffalodick said...

My sister and I would take turns knocking our milk over..:)

asiangrrl said...

Once again, an evocative post and a simply stunning dish. Kudos to you, Jamie.

Chow and Chatter said...

oh what a fun post i bet the family loved this great job, you are becoming a pro at Indian food lol

the ungourmet said...

Your dinner times remind me so much of mine when I was a kid. My dad had to listen to Walter and later Dan Rather. My mom also whipped up the occasional liver and onions and gloppy spinach too. We knew to eat our spinach first before it got cold. There's nothing worse than cold gloppy spinach!

Your curry is very nice! My husband and I are big fans of curry.

Elra said...

What a delicious food Jaime. Curry is always my prefered meal for dinner to be honest with you.

sunita said...

Someone's on an Indian cooking spree,and doing such a great job too! Jamie the food looks delish!

Katy ~ said...

Excellent! Well done and presented. Thank you for all the pictures.

Happy cook said...

You are amking me crave this curry now, you are sure going to be a curry queen soon now.
Forst the Mac Queen title and Now the Curry queen titla :-)

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

The world would be a very dull place without curry. Can't get enough of it!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

That looks delicious! My husband would sadly be happy with jarred sauce and pasta lol I'm not however!

Murasaki Shikibu said...

Looks delicious. I'm more of a 'main course person' and can get very lazy about baking. When I was living in Tokyo I rarely ever baked because there were French cake shops galore and it wasn't difficult to find a nice baguette. Now that I live in Spain where baking sweet things doesn't seem to be a favorite pastime of the people - I have started baking

gastroanthropologist said...

I'd be running to the table if my husband had this on the table. Wishful thinking...he can't cook. Now that I'm working full time he is trying though - we had some pasta with jarred sauce the other night. It was pretty good!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Yum, we are huge fans of chicken curry. Looks delish!

Asha @ FSK said...

me like you cook Indian :))

and lovely story, makes me wish I had siblings..... :) ok, but just for sometime.. I'll be back to normal, soonly.

Sighh.. it makes me nostalgic..For years, I have been using this home-made masala (it gets sent from India, really!) for my chicken curry .. now your curry makes me want my mom's foood!!! If i close my eyes, I can taste it! :))

Btw, next time, try adding fresh grated coconut and a bit of coconut milk to the curry about 15 minutes before its done. You'll get the south Indian version of the curry :)

Tiffiny Felix said...

I saw this on PhotoGrazing--the picture is captivating! I love chicken curry and am always looking for good recipes. I can't wait to try this! Thanks for the recipe, and the wonderful story :)

Fuji Mama said...

YUM! I love your words about dinner and the family--I couldn't have said it better myself!


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