C for Chicken

A chicken soup with an exotic origin, born at the intersection of two entirely different cultures. Though its popularity has somewhat diminished in recent years, you can still find it on enough menus. I’m talking about the Mulligatawny soup, a creamy chicken soup, with lentils and vegetables that can be spiced up as little or as much as you want. 

Chicken is the most popular meat in our country, supposedly fit for heroes and winners… as in Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!  🙂 But I find it so mundane, so quotidian, (dare I use the word ‘boring’?) that there is nothing interesting to write about it. Instead I want to write about a chicken soup with an exotic origin, born at the intersection of two entirely different cultures. Though its popularity has somewhat diminished in recent years, you can still find it on enough menus. I’m talking about the Mulligatawny soup, a creamy chicken soup, with lentils and vegetables that can be spiced up as little or as much as you want. 

The story begins in the days of the empire in India, specifically in the Madras cantonment in south India. Apparently tired of the daily offerings of the local cooks in the military mess hall, the British officers ask them to prepare a soup. In the local cuisine the only thing approximating to a soup was a fiery concoction of chillies and tamarind boiled together with some spices, called ‘mulaga thanni’, which literally means pepper water. 

Of course, the cooks knew that it was not an option to serve this to the officers. So they set about to modify the recipe to suit the taste of the British. 

Red lentils, vegetables and cream added to tone it down. And chicken… maybe because everyone loves chicken. Still too hot. Okay, add some sweet ripe mango. The result was the ultimate fusion dish which was presented to the officers to great acclaim. 

Quote from ‘Curry, A Tale of Cooks & Conquerors’ (excellently written by Lizzie Collingham)…

“Mulligatawny soup was one of the earliest dishes to emerge from the new hybrid cuisine that the British developed in India, combining British concepts of how food should be presented (as soups or stews, etc.) and Indian recipes.”

From Madras (today’s Chennai) mulligatawny spread to other British settlements in India and the rest of the east. Quickly it became one of the most popular Anglo-Indian dishes. 

There is one more twist to this story. Inevitably talk of this excellent dish and the recipe got back to England. Unfortunately there were no mangoes to be had! What to do? Easy… replace the mangoes with apples! 

Richard Terry, the chef at the Oriental Club in London added not only apples but ham and turnips in the recipe in his book ‘Indian Cookery’ published in 1861. Here is a copy of that recipe; hilarious! 

Mulligatawny Soup


  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 8 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 large apple, preferably Granny Smith, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 cup masoor dal (split red lentils)
  • 6 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
  • Juice of 1 lime (about 1½ tablespoons)


  • Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. 
  • Add the mustard seeds to the oil and fry till they pop. I would recommend using a splatter as the mustard seeds will likely to jump around.
  • When the mustard stops popping, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. 
  • Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant and softened.
  • Add turmeric, curry powder, cayenne and cumin seeds and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute.
  • Add the carrot, celery and apple and continue cooking until just starting to soften, about 2 minutes. 
  • Stir in the tomato paste, then the flour and stir to coat all the ingredients uniformly.
  • Add the chicken, masoor dal and chicken broth. Season lightly with salt. Bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pot. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer.
  • Cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes, then uncover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes more, until the chicken and carrots are tender, the soup is creamy, and the flavors have blended.
  • Stir in the coconut milk and squeeze in the lime juice. Serve in bowls with cooked rice on the side.


The origin story of the ever popular IPA (India Pale Ale) is equally interesting. The Brits, sweating and sweltering in the tropics, wanted nothing more than to get around a chilled beer at the end of the day. Alas, by the time the shipped beer got to India it was invariably spoilt. Up comes a new formula for beer, highly hopped up to prevent spoliation during the long shipping, and voila, we have the IPA!

Y is for Yassa au Poulet

Yassa au poulet has its origin in the southern Casamance region of Senegal. It is one of the traditional dishes of Senegal and is popular across West Africa. These days yassa’s fame has spread across the world and you will find it in many restaurants in all major cities.

If French onion soup and lemon chicken had a delicious baby… that would be yassa au poulet! The oniony, lemony, spicy sauce that the chicken is braised is so fragrant you will feel hungry right away. You can see some French influence, especially when you look at the caramelized onions. Not a surprise, as Senegal was under French rule from 1659 until 1960.

What is noteworthy about yassa is that it uses a limited number of ingredients. Onions – lots and lots of onions, lemons or limes, and mustard… these are the basics, the essentials. The rest is additions to enhance the flavor, that might vary based on the particular location it is cooked in. 

The chicken is always bone-in, skin-on, with chicken thighs, legs, drumsticks being the general rule. You can also cut up a whole chicken and make a yassa out of it. The method of cooking the chicken is flexible: on the grill, on a grill pan or in a heavy skillet. Chicken is marinated for hours, and some recipes call for cooking it in the same marinade. I have opted for a simple marinade which is discarded later.

Though yassa au poulet (yassa chicken) is the most popular, yassa lamb and yassa poisson (yassa fish) and also common, especially in southern Senegal.

Yassa is often served with fonio, a kind of millet with a nutty flavor and similar to quinoa in appearance and texture. Is it poised to be the next great food find? Read about it here… Fonio: the grain that would defeat quinoa as king among foodies.

You can serve yassa with cooked white rice, couscous or fonio and sliced green olives.

Y is for Yassa au Poulet

Difficulty:BeginnerServings:5 servings



  1. Combine the chopped scallions, thyme, vinegar, 1 tablespoon of oil, and half the lemon juice in a bowl. Add the chicken to the bowl and stir to coat. Cover the bowl and marinate in the fridge for 2 hours minimum and up to 24 hours.
  2. When time to cook, remove the chicken from the marinade and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a cast iron or any other heavy skillet. Place the chicken pieces in the hot oil, skin side down. Brown the chicken on both sides, turning over as required, about 7 to 8 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and set aside.
  4. Add 2 more tablespoons of oil to the pan. When the oil is hot, place the cut onions in the pan in one layer. Season with salt. Let the onions cook without stirring for 3 to 4 minutes. Continue cooking, turning them over with a spatula occasionally. If the onions start to stick to the bottom, you may have to add a bit more oil to the pan.
  5. When the onion is well browned and caramelized, add the cut green pepper, the habanero pepper, chopped ginger and garlic, bay leaves, and mustard. Stir and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. When the green pepper has wilted, add the remaining lemon juice to the pan and check the seasoning.
  7. Add the chicken pieces to the pan, dredging them under the onions. Add a cup of water to the pan, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover and cook. Check once in a while to make sure there is enough liquid in the pan. If not, add a bit of water.
  8. Continue cooking till the chicken is fully cooked, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  9. Serve with cooked rice, couscous or fonio.
Keywords:Chicken with Caramelized Onion, Oniony Lemony Spicy chicken, Senegalese Chicken, West African

X is for Xacuti

We all know that Indian curries use spices, maybe more than any other cuisine. Still, Xacuti (pronounced sha-kuthi) has more varieties of spices in it than any other curry I have encountered. This dish originates from Goa, situated on the west coast of India. It has some Portuguese connections, I am told, but with the inclusion of so many spices, I don’t know how that could be. Maybe the Portuguese chakuti underwent drastic changes when transplanted to the fertile soils of Goa, or it is just the name that got applied to a dish already existing. Whatever… the xacuti is one of the most delicious curries from the Indian subcontinent.

The spices that make Xacuti so flavorful, are mostly native to Goa. The dish can be made with fish or other seafood, chicken, veal, lamb or even hardy vegetables. I have chosen chicken (boneless, skinless) for this version.

Goan cuisine itself is well known for its unique flavors. Influenced by 451 years of Portuguese rule but rooted firmly in its native Konkani traditions, it is an expression of the best of both worlds. The hot chili peppers from South America and vinegar, introduced by the Portuguese to Goa have combined so well with the native coconuts and kokum along with the plentitude of fish locally available to produce one of the richest branches of Indian food.

The spices are dry roasted and powdered, and then added to the roasted coconut to be ground together. While dry roasting ingredients, it is a good idea to add larger sized ingredients first. In this case, add the red chilies first, give it a minute and then add the piece of nutmeg and black pepper and so on, ending with poppy seeds.

Xacuti is usually served with cooked rice or any flat bread like rotis and naans. Also great with a chunk of crusty bread.

X is for Xacuti

Difficulty:IntermediateServings:6 servings


    For the spice powder

  • For the xacuti


  1. Heat a pan on medium heat. Dry roast the ingredients for the spice powder till they are fragrant, just about a minute or so. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the coconut and sauté till lightly browned. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  3. When the spices have cooled, grind them into a fine powder in a spice mill, or using a mortar and pestle.
  4. Grind the roasted coconut to a paste in a blender, adding water as required. Sieve the ground mixture, using a cheese cloth placed over a strainer to extract all the coconut milk. You can add a little bit of water to the mix, if required, to extract the liquid fully.
  5. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoon of oil in a largish pan. Add onions and sauté till transparent and the edges start to brown.
  6. Add the extracted coconut milk and mix well.
  7. Add the spice powder and turmeric powder and mix well. Season with salt. Allow to cook till it comes to a full boil.
  8. Add the chicken pieces and mix. Reduce the heat to low and cover and cook, till the chicken is done. You can add more water to cook the chicken, if the sauce is drying up.
  9. When the chicken is done, add the tamarind pulp and cook on simmer for 2 minutes.
  10. Check for seasoning and remove from the heat.
  11. Give it a squeeze of lemon and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves and thin juliennes of ginger. Serve with cooked rice or flat breads of any kind.
Keywords:Chcicken xacuti, Goan Portuguese

P is for Paprikash 

Paprikash is a delicious stew-like dish from Hungary, with a centuries old history. The main flavoring ingredient of the dish is paprika, from which the dish’s name also originates. It is believed that it was created by the farmers of southern Hungary, the area famous for excellent quality paprika. The Hungarian National Cookbook published in 1830 contains a recipe for chicken paprikash.

The name of the dish has its origin in the Hungarian word ‘paprikás’ meaning pepper. Many types of vegetables and fruits were taken back to Europe from the Americas by the explorers during the 16th century, tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers among them. Hungary became the center of red pepper cultivation thanks to suitable soil and weather conditions. And paprika – dried and powdered red pepper – was born.

The dish paprikash can be made with any meat – lamb, pork or veal – or even a mix of vegetables. However, originally the dish was made with chicken, that too, the tougher parts of chicken. Chicken is the meat most commonly used for paprikash today as well.

I have used chicken drumsticks for this recipe.

You can buy paprika in sweet, hot, and smoked varieties in the US but Hungary has seven official gradations for classifying paprika. Any of the versions will work for this recipe.

The original version of the dish cooked in Hungary does not contain tomatoes, but many versions include them. Even when tomatoes are added, it is a small quantity. I have followed the NY Times version here, of course with variations. 

Paprika starts to lose its flavor after a few months. So it is better to store the paprika in the refrigerator. 

Traditionally, paprikash used to be served with dumplings, but egg noodles have become the norm these days. You can also serve it with crusty bread. And I personally love it served over a bed of mashed potatoes. 

P is for Paprikash 

Difficulty:IntermediateServings:6 servings



  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degree F.
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the cooking oil in an oven proof largish pan (cast iron is best).
  4. Lay the chicken pieces in a single layer in the pan. Brown for 5 minutes on each side, turning the pieces half way through. When browned all over, remove to a plate.
  5. Add the onion and pepper pieces to the pan. Stir well and scrape up any brown bits that might have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook stirring regularly, till the onions are wilted and transparent, about 6 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, stirring.
  7. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter.
  8. Add the paprika and flour to the pan, off the heat. Mix together thoroughly and return the pan to low heat.
  9. Continue cooking for 2 or 3 minutes, taking care that the paprika is not burning.
  10. Add the wine, if using, to the pan. Deglaze and let the liquid evaporate.
  11. Add the chicken stock and the tomato. Stir well to combine.
  12. Place the chicken pieces in the pan, trying not to overlap. Spoon the sauce over the chicken pieces.
  13. Place the pan in the pre-heated oven. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, till the chicken is fully cooked.
  14. When done, remove from the oven and check seasoning. Mix in the sour cream. Or you can serve a dollop of the sour cream on top of each serving.
  15. Serve hot with buttered egg noodles or crusty bread. Or any other accompaniment of your choice.
Keywords:Chicken Paprikash, Hungarian, Paprika, Paprikash

N is for Nasi Goreng Ayam 

Nasi Goreng Ayam literally means chicken fried rice and is a national dish of Indonesia. It is popular not only in Indonesia but also in neighboring countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Migration of population has carried it over to countries all over as well.

Nasi goreng ayam has originated from the Chinese fried rice, and started out as a way to use up left over cooked rice. Today there are many versions of this dish as can be expected of a dish with many ingredients.

Like every fried rice recipe anywhere in the world, the basic concept revolves around three main ingredients: cooked rice, vegetables and meat. Mixed together and spiced up. It is where the spicing up part is considered that the recipes differ most. 

What makes nasi goreng ayam unique is the addition of kecap manis, a sweet soy sauce, and fried shallots. Also that it is served with fried eggs – scrambled into the rice in some versions and served separately in some versions.

Don’t be scared away by the long list of ingredients for this recipe; it is all much easier than it looks. The ingredients are not difficult to gather and you just throw them in the pan one after the other. And tada… the fried rice is ready!

Nasi goreng ayam is usually served with shrimp crackers, in addition to the fried egg. Pickled or fresh salad vegetables can also be a good side.

N is for Nasi Goreng Ayam 

Difficulty:BeginnerServings:4 servings



  1. Marinate the chicken pieces with 1 tsp soy sauce and 1 tsp oyster sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat two tbsp of oil in a pan on medium heat. Add half the thinly sliced shallots to the oil. Fry on medium heat, stirring constantly. When crisply fried, remove to a plate and set aside.
  3. Heat 1 and 1/2 tbsp oil in a largish wok (or frying pan) on high. Add the marinated chicken pieces to the pan and fry, stirring regularly, till the chicken is cooked and the outside is crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.
  4. Add 1 and 1/2 tbsp of the remaining oil to the pan. Add the remaining shallots and ginger to the pan. Fry till the shallots turn soft and transparent. Add the garlic and fry for a minute.
  5. Add the green beans, snap peas, and the white parts of the scallions to the pan. Add the turmeric powder and fry till the vegetables are cooked yet crisp, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add the cooked rice and fried chicken to the pan and mix well.
  7. Add the sliced green parts of the scallions, kecap manis, soy sauce and oyster sauce to the pan. Mix gently taking care not to mash the rice. Check for seasoning.
  8. Sprinkle the fried shallots on top.
  9. When ready to serve, use 1 tbsp of remaining oil to fry an egg sunny side up, for each serving. Serve hot with the fried egg and any other accompaniments like shrimp crackers or pickled vegetable.
  10. To make kecap manis, mix together equal quantities of soy sauce and palm sugar (or brown sugar) in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and cook on low till it reaches the consistency of a thick sauce. You can increase the amount of sugar if you would like a sweeter sauce.
Keywords:chicken and vegetables, Indonesia, Nasi goreng ayam

K is for Kuku Paka 

Kuku paka is a chicken and coconut curry, from the coastal East Africa, the region extending from the Northern point of Kenya to the southern point of Tanzania. Kuku means ‘chicken’ in the Swahili language spoken in the area. The dish is also sometimes called ‘kuku na nazi’ (chicken and coconut).

A perfect blend of heady spices and creamy coconut milk, absorbed by chunky pieces of chicken, kuku paka shows African, Arabic, and Indian influences. 

Kuku paka is quite adaptable in that the chicken can be cooked in different ways – charcoal grilled, steamed or braised. Similarly, the sauce can be spicy or mild as per your preference. And as can be imagined, there are quite a few variations of the dish. For this recipe, I’ve used skinless, boneless chicken thighs.

Shrimp or firm fleshed fish can also be substituted for chicken in this dish.

Kuku paka represents rich and well rounded flavors. The dish is usually served with cooked rice, rotis or other flat breads.

K is for Kuku Paka 

Difficulty:IntermediateServings:6 servings



  1. In a food processor or blender, grind together tomatoes, onions, ginger, garlic, chiles, cumin and coriander into a coarse paste.
  2. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Apply half of the paste to the chicken and set aside in the fridge to marinate for 1 to 4 hours.
  3. When ready to cook, heat a large pan, (preferably a grill pan) on high heat. Add 2 tablespoon of cooking oil till very hot. Place the chicken pieces in the pan, without overlapping and cook for three minutes.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and turn over the chicken pieces. Continue to cook for another three to four minutes.
  5. Remove the chicken pieces to a plate and set aside.
  6. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and add the remaining ground paste. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook the paste on medium heat, stirring to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan and burn.
  7. When the paste becomes thick and is almost dry, add the coconut milk to the pan. Mix well, loosening up any bits on the bottom of the pan.
  8. Place the chicken pieces in the pan. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and continue to cook on simmer till the sauce has thickened, and the chicken is cooked through, maybe for another 20 to 25 minutes.
  9. When the sauce starts to stick to the chicken pieces, add the lemon juice to the pan and mix well.
  10. Check the seasoning and turn off the heat. Arrange the chicken pieces on a platter and serve with rice or flat breads.
Keywords:Coconut, Curry, East Africa, Kuku paka, Chicken

Baked Pasta Surprise

Do you like pasta? Do you like baked stuff? Do you like surprises? Yay! Then this is for you!


And the best thing is, you can select your own surprise, sort of customizing the dish to your personal preferences. Who wants to follow some standard recipe, where you have to strictly follow what is written down, right? I’m all about flexibility in cooking, and I expect my readers would be too.


Conceptually, the dish is very simple. You prepare a set of ramekins…


You choose a pasta – you can pick your shape, as long as it is not too big. My choice was a simple spaghetti. Drench the cooked pasta in a creamy béchamel sauce.


Now comes the surprise… a filling, something that contrasts with the creaminess of the béchamel sauce. Something spicy or tomatoey will do very well. Chopped turkey cooked in a thickened tomato sauce with onion, ginger and garlic is what I used here. You can even do a vegetarian filling.


Put down a layer of the pasta in the ramekins, a layer of your chosen filling, and another layer of pasta to wrap up.


If you want, you can enhance the flavours with the addition of cheese at different layers. I added some pecorino at the bottom of the ramekin and a bit of shaved cheddar over the filling.


For best results, you need to bake this in a water bath, with the water level coming up to half the height of the ramekins.


Make sure to wipe down the rims of the ramekins so that you don’t get burnt crusts along the top.


When done, just inverse the ramekins onto a plate and dig in!


Though this dish is a bit time consuming, it is well worth the effort. And all you need is a plain green salad to go with it.




Baked Pasta Surprise
Recipe type: Main meal
  • 8 oz spaghetti
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 tsp flour
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • ½ tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ lb chopped lean turkey
  • 1 large onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino cheese
  • ¼ cup yellow cheddar cheese, shaved into thin slices
  1. Chop the onion into small, thin slices.
  2. Slice the ginger and garlic thinly.
  3. In a largish pan, heat 2 tablespoon oil.
  4. Add the onions and fry.
  5. When the onions are half done, add the ginger and garlic and continue frying.
  6. When the onions start to caramelise, that is they begin to brown, add the cumin and chilli powders.
  7. After a quick stir, promptly add the chopped turkey and stir to mix.
  8. Add enough salt and cover and cook, adding a little water if required.
  9. When all the water has evaporated and the meat mix is dry, remove from the heat.
  10. In a large pot of salted water, boil the pasta till it is just tender.
  11. Drain and rinse under cold water and keep aside.
  12. To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a large pan,
  13. Add the flour and mix together, stirring continuously.
  14. Continue cooking for two minutes.
  15. Add the milk in one stream, stirring continuously.
  16. Mix thoroughly and reduce the heat.
  17. Add the nutmeg powder and the oregano to the sauce, along with enough salt.
  18. Bring to a slow boil, continuously stirring, and remove from heat.
  19. Add the boiled pasta to the sauce and mix well.
  20. Take 4 oz ramekins and brush their insides with butter.
  21. Sprinkle them liberally with breadcrumbs and shake off any excess.
  22. Pre-heat the oven to 420 degree farenheit.
  23. To assemble, sprinkle half a spoon of pecorino cheese in each ramekin.
  24. Fill one third of each ramekin with the pasta mix.
  25. Add the meat filling till two thirds of each ramekin.
  26. Add a few thin slices of cheddar cheese.
  27. Finally add enough pasta as the third layer till it is a little below the rim.
  28. Place the ramekins in a baking pan and fill the pan with water till the water level comes up to half the height of the ramekins.
  29. Place the pan in the pre-heated oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  30. Check for doneness by inserting a skewer into the center of a ramekin. If the skewer comes clean, the dish is ready.
  31. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  32. Carefully invert each ramekin onto a plate, and serve hot with a green salad on the side.


Quick & Easy Chicken Curry

Chicken curry is a dish that lends itself to innumerable variations. Indeed, when you consider the fact that ‘curry’ as such is a generic term used to refer to a spiced dish with gravy, the variations can be so many. No wonder, there are as many recipes for chicken curry, as there are cooks making them!

Some of these dishes like the Mughlai versions can be quite complicated with a long list of ingredients, while some are quite simple with just a few things thrown together. Regions have their specialities just like families have their favourites. However, when a friend from my zumba class spoke about looking for an easy to make chicken curry recipe, I did not have to think at all… I knew right away the perfect one. The most straight forward, easy to make chicken curry! So Corina, this is for you!
One good thing about this curry is that, as you become an expert in it, you can experiment with it. Instead of adding water, you can try some coconut milk… or you can vary the spice mix to focus on specific flavours. This is the recipe that all kids from our family take with them when they go to unis with the hope that they will get an opportunity try it out on their friends… this is the recipe that is followed when unexpected guests turn up at the door and something good has to be whipped up right away.
The process is very simple to follow… you chop up the basic curry combo – onion, ginger, and garlic. These form the essentials of most curries. Optionally, you can include green chilles in this group. I had some very mild ones in my refrigerator; so I added them.
Then comes the vegetable part. If you like potatoes, definitely add them; they will turn out to be tastier than the chicken! And tomatoes to add to the flavour of the gravy. As you advance in the curry craft, you can add other vegetables like green peas or lima beans as well.
The next part is the spice mix. Coriander, chilli, turmeric and black pepper powders form the base. And I use the eastern eight spice mix, which I make at home, for the curry flavour.
And finally, the chicken. There is no definite preference for the pieces. Chicken thighs or breasts will work well. The whole chicken cut up into pieces can also be used.
Then it is a matter of sauté and cook. And your curry is ready! Perfect to be served with rice/pulav and a quick salad.



Quick & Easy Chicken Curry
Recipe type: Main meal
  • 2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 3 medium onions
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 inch piece ginger
  • 1 green chilli, optional
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • 2 tsp eastern eight spice powder
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil
  • Coriander leaves
  • Salt to taste
  1. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces.
  2. Slice the onion into thin wedges.
  3. Cut the ginger into juliennes.
  4. Thinly slice the garlic cloves.
  5. Cut the potatoes into cubes.
  6. Cut each tomato into eight pieces.
  7. Mince a few spring of coriander leaves.
  8. Measure out all the spice powders and keep ready.
  9. In a large frying pan, heat the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions, ginger, garlic and green chillies, if using.
  10. Sauté till the onions start browning around the edges.
  11. Add the potato pieces and keep stirring.
  12. After 5 minutes, add the powders and stir well.
  13. Right away, add the chicken and tomatoes and stir together for two minutes.
  14. Add enough water to cook the chicken.
  15. Cover and cook till the chicken is done.
  16. Check for consistency, adding more water if required.
  17. Take off the heat and sprinkle the minced coriander on top.
  18. Garnish with a spring of coriander and serve immediately with rice/pulav.



The Day of the Grill

July 4th… if you grill one day in the year, this will be that day! It has become so much a part of the tradition. The weather, the food, the whole atmosphere calls for it. And that is exactly what we did for our dinner on July 4th.


The menu was quite simple. To start with, the basic of basics, grilled chicken. A simple marinade of sour cream and tandoori spice mix. Marinated in the fridge for two hours and straight to the grill. As simple as that.


The next item was a bit more complex. Spicy kababs! Cilantro and mint leaves, garlic and onion, and jalapenos, to add that requisite heat.


Mince all of them finely and add to the chopped meat. However, there is a secret ingredient that gels it all together and makes the meat hold together… baking soda! But you have to be very careful not to overdo it. Just ½ tsp will do for two pounds of chopped meat. Knead the soda well into the meat along with the minced spices. Form into kabab shapes, with or without a skewer, and lay on the grill. Not too much work, but awesome results.


What is a summer grill without a potato salad! But this potato salad has something special about it… it is made with grilled potatoes! Boil the potatoes till they are just about done, and then lay them on the grill.


They should get a nice char and good grill marks.


Mince some red onion. In a bowl, mix together mayonnaise, minced onions, and a spoon of madras curry powder, available in any Indian grocery.


Cut the grilled potatoes into bite size pieces and add to the mayo mix. Mix thoroughly and delicious potato salad is ready!


Something green… no dinner is complete without something green. Tender cucumbers cut into small pieces and dressed with sesame oil and mirin (available in Asian groceries) was the perfect accompaniment to the spicy meats.


Grilled sweet corn and rolls rounded up the food part. A fresh crisp white wine with a hint of fruit made it all come together excellently.


And dessert… we decided against a heavy baked item instead opting for a light fruit salad with ice cream. Especially as this was a dinner being enjoyed outside. Boy, did it look pretty!


Mangoes and strawberries cut into pieces, with a splash of lemon juice… and a sprinkling of brown sugar. Do not stir; just keep it in the refrigerator till time to serve. To serve, mix together gently and top with vanilla ice cream in individual dishes.

If you would like detailed instructions for making the items in this meal, including a shopping list for ingredients, do write to ria (at) pepperroute (dot) com.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!



Moulded Green Chicken Salad

Has it ever happened to you that you decide you need to make some changes to your life style and buy stuff to support that decision? And a while later, end up with stuff you wonder what to do with? That is exactly what happened to me with the cans of chicken breast. I decided that I needed to eat more protein and a big pack of them. Soon, very soon I would have to admit, I got fed up with that plan. After all, how much chicken salad or stir fried chicken can you eat? I needed something new to try for that last one can of chicken, before it even got anywhere near the sell-by date.


That is when idea struck. I had always liked the look of the moulded salads. Moulded as in ‘prepared in a mould’… not attacked by that green-black stuff that grows on the walls of abandoned houses. What better time to attempt that looking-good-don’t-know-how-it-tastes dish with a can of chicken that I don’t care much about! So two stones, one bird… two birds, one stone… whatever… here I was making a cool moulded chicken salad on a hot summer day.


Of all the pictures I had seen of moulded chicken salads, the ones I like best were green ones. Don’t know why. Maybe because the words ‘green’ and ‘chicken’ are irrevocably associated in my mind. When we were kids, one of our neighbours used to keep chickens. And my little bro used to spot one of the chickens and call it green chicken! At that point, I had no idea that the kid is colour blind! Fortunately, he is in a field of work where there is not much danger of confusing red with green; as a CEO, all the green he cares about doesn’t come in red at all! 🙂


And a pale green very well represents the idea of cool too. Problem right there… I’m totally against using artificial colours for food. What ingredient will give me a pretty green? Spinach, what else! So I blended a few spinach leaves with water and sieved the liquid through a muslin cloth. Tada… instant natural green colouring!


With that problem solved, it was easy to zero in on the rest of the ingredients. Of course, celery… what is a chicken salad without celery? And scallions for that extra shade of green… pickled jalapenos to add a bit of spice. A few artichoke hearts, from a jar, for a hint of tanginess. And as I didn’t want to go too strong on the chicken, a few boiled eggs to add body. A bit of mayo to give it creaminess and gelatine to keep it all together. It’s all done!


Once you have finalized the ingredient list, it’s quite simple… Just prepare the base by mixing the gelatine with the juice and mayo. And add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly, but gently.


Pour the mix into a mould and keep in the refrigerator, covered with cling wrap, at least for three hours. And there you go… slice and serve with toasted baguette slices. A perfect Sunday lunch!


I have to say… this dish turned as a total surprise! It had that cool look and a taste to match. Very refreshing and extremely tasty!





Moulded Green Chicken Salad
Recipe type: Salad
  • 12 oz canned chicken breast
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 celery ribs
  • 1 bunch (at least 4 in a bunch) scallions
  • 4 artichoke hearts, pickled in oil
  • 1 tbsp pickled jalapenos
  • ½ cup fresh spinach leaves
  • ¾ cup olive oil mayonnaise
  • 3 ¼ oz envelopes unflavoured gelatine
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Boil the eggs till firm, around three minutes. Peel and chop them into bite size pieces and keep aside.
  2. Chop the celery ribs into small pieces.
  3. Thinly slice the artichoke hearts.
  4. Mince the jalapenos roughly.
  5. Blend the spinach leaves with one cups of water. When thoroughly ground, sieve the liquid through a fine meshed sieve overlaid with a muslin cloth. Add enough water to make up to two cups of green juice.
  6. Sprinkle the gelatine over the green juice. Let stay unstirred for five minutes.
  7. Beat the gelatine into the green juice till well mixed and no grains of gelatine remain.
  8. Add the mayonnaise to the green juice and mix well.
  9. Add the remaining ingredients one by one, to the green mix and stir gently after each addition.
  10. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper as required.
  11. Mix well and pour into a five cup mould.
  12. Cover the mould with cling wrap.
  13. Place in the refrigerator for at least three hours.
  14. When it time to serve, unmould the salad by placing the mould in warm water up to to the brim.
  15. Place a plate on top of the mould and turn upside down. The salad will slide onto the plate.
  16. Serve with toasted baguette slices. Perfect for lunch on a hot summer day!