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Chicken Tikka Masala

I’ve started working on ideas for an Indian Cooking Box and I have a neighbor from Northern India who is an excellent cook. She was able to explain (over Facebook messenger nonetheless!) how to make the perfect chicken tikka masala and it’s too good not to share.

There are a couple secrets to this dish. First, you can add a small amount of red food coloring to the marinade to give your chicken that pink color you see in restaurants. Second, adding cashews to the sauce and then blending it smooth adds a level of nutty, creaminess that will have you licking your plate clean.

I served this with my Indian rice recipe and it made enough for 8-10 servings (yay, leftovers!)

I used chicken thighs in this recipe because I find them more juicy and tender than breasts, but go ahead and use whichever you prefer.

First, you need to marinate the chicken for about four hours. You mix up whole milk yogurt, paprika, chili powder, flour, oil, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper and a couple drops of red food dye (optional).

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Once marinated, line a baking tray with foil and place your wire cooling rack on top. Put the marinated chicken on the rack and broil until blackened areas start to appear (the chicken will not be completely cooked through). This process cooks the marinade into the chicken.

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In a large saucepan, melt ghee (or any oil) and cook an onion and hot green pepper until browned. Add a large can of peeled tomatoes (I crush them first with my hands), cashews, red pepper flakes, garam masala, fenugreek powder (optional), and salt.

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Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for 5 minutes to allow the ingredients to heat up.

Pour sauce into a blender and blend until smooth.

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Add the blended sauce back into the saucepan. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and add into the sauce. Simmer until chicken cooked through.


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Turn the heat down to low, add in some butter and cream. Mix and taste. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve with chopped cilantro and Indian style rice.

Chicken Tikka Masala
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs chicken (skinless, boneless) thighs or breasts
  • 1/2 cup whole milk yogurt (not greek)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 inch ginger grated
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1-2 drops red food dye optional
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
Sauce
  • 2 tbsp ghee or butter
  • 1 onion sliced thin
  • 1 hot green pepper chopped
  • 1 28 oz can peeled tomatoes, crush with hands
  • 1/2 cup unsalted, roasted cashews
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek powder optional
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • chopped cilantro for garnish
Instructions
  1. Combine the ingredients yogurt through to black pepper to create a marinade. Add in the chicken and allow to marinate for 4 hours in the fridge.

  2. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Place a wire cooling rack on top. Place your chicken on the rack in a single layer (or use a broiling pan). Broil until blackened areas appear on the chicken. (About 10 minutes). The chicken will not be cooked through.

  3. In a large saucepan, melt the ghee or butter on medium heat. 

  4. Add the onion and pepper and cook until browned.

  5. Add the peeled tomatoes, cashews, red pepper flakes, garam masala, fenugreek powder, and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

  6. Pour sauce into a blender and blend until smooth.

  7. Pour the sauce back into the saucepan. Chop the chicken into bite sized pieces and add into the saucepan.

  8. Simmer until chicken in cooked through

  9. Reduce heat to low and add butter and cream. Adjust seasonings as desired.

  10. Garnish with cilantro and serve with Indian rice.

Indian Rice
Ingredients
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tsp whole green cardamom
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
Instructions
  1. Rinse the rice three times to remove the excess starch.

  2. In a medium saucepan, boil the water with the cardamom and cumin seeds.

  3. Add the rinsed rice and stir. Return to a boil.

  4. Reduce heat to low and cover for 20 minutes.

  5. Remove the cardamom pods from the top of the rice.

  6. Fluff with fork and serve.

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Goan Chicken Cafreal

Where exactly is Goa? It’s a Portuguese colony located on the western coast of Indian. Spices and flavors are intense in Goan cuisine and here is one of the more popular Goan dishes, chicken cafreal. Made with chili peppers, ginger, garlic, lemons, cilantro, and more, this dishes flavors will explode in your mouth.

First, in a blender or food processor put your minced ginger, garlic, chili peppers, black pepper, cloves, cilantro, onions, cashew nuts, cumin, sugar and garam masala powder. Blend until a paste is formed.

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Put the chicken pieces in a large dish and rub the turmeric, salt and lemon into the chicken. Then pour the green paste over the chicken and allow to marinate, in the fridge, for 2-3 hours. (I used chicken pieces, but traditionally cubed chicken is used).

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In a large skillet, melt some butter and fry the chicken until cooked through. You may have to do this in batches if your pan isn’t big enough.IMG_4962.jpg

Place all chicken back into skillet once cooked and cover with remaining marinade. Simmer covered for 15-20 minutes. Add the sliced green pepper and red onion to the top of the dish. Cover and simmer for another 5-6 minutes to soften the vegetables.

Serve with a side of lime. Enjoy!

Goan Chicken Cafreal
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs chicken
  • 2 inches ginger minced
  • 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 green chillies chopped
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 yellow onions chopped
  • 10 cashew nuts
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp garam masla powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1 green pepper sliced
  • 1 red onion sliced
  • butter for frying
Instructions
  1. In a blender or food processor combine the ginger, garlic, green chilies, pepper, cloves, cilantro, yellow onions, cashew nuts, cumin, garam masala and sugar. Blend into a paste.

  2. In a large dish, coat the chicken with the turmeric, lemon juice and salt. Cover with green paste and marinate for 2-3 hours.

  3. Melt butter in a large frying pan. Fry the chicken until cooked through. You may need to do this in batches.

  4. Add all chicken back into the pan. Add remaining marinade and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes. Add water if needed.

  5. Placed sliced pepper and onion on top. Cover and simmer for an additional 5-6 minutes, or until vegetables soften.

  6. Serve with limes.

 

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Layered Chicken Taco Salad with a side of Mexican love

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Mexico…it has a special place in my heart. This is where I met my husband. A series of calamitous events had landed me depressed and dejected in Cabo san Lucas. It all started when I was laid off from my government job following the stock market crash of 2008. I made the very responsible decision to spend my new found freedom on vacation in Mexico. I booked a charter trip with my friend to Puerto Vallarta. Shortly before our trip started, a tropical storm formed just off shore of our resort. Perfect…at least the storm matched my mood. My friend and I arrived at the airport at 4am on a cold Sunday morning to catch our flight to Mexico. The Vancouver International Airport is HUGE, but even for that early hour the terminal seemed eerily quiet. We followed the signs to our check in counter, but no one was there. In fact, there was NO ONE in the entire airport! After wandering around aimlessly, we saw a lone soul manning an information kiosk. She told us our flight had left the day before. UGH. I double checked my tickets and they definitely said Sunday. I felt like the universe was conspiring against me and my ill advised vacation. We left the airport feeling frustrated and confused. I was resigned to drinking tea in bed for a week, but my friend was a lawyer and insisted we should just book a new vacation. She was sure that we wouldn’t have to pay for it. So….we booked a slightly NICER vacation resort….and we moved the destination to Cabo to avoid the tropical storm. Once we finally arrived, a group of American guys followed us around all week. The quiet one who mostly read a book while nursing a calf injury looked me up on social media when he got home. A couple years later we were married. Oh, and VISA paid for our entire trip to Cabo since the initial trip was booked through their travel rewards program. Maybe the universe was conspiring…just not against me.

I loved the food at our Mexican resort. My friend and I left 10lbs heavier, and we were only there a week! I LOVE Mexican food. That being said, I should probably move on to this light and delicious salad (which won’t result in a massive weight gain!). It’s perfect for a summer lunch or dinner and the dressing is what makes it so yummy. The layers of crunchy chips, juicy chicken and crisp peppers soak up the flavors of the dressing. Use a glass bowl if you have one to show off the layers.

In the morning, bake or BBQ some chicken to shred for the salad. Also prepare the dressing ahead of time so that the flavors can blend together over time in the fridge.

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My next post will describe how to make the perfect MARGARITA, which would pair nicely with this salad. Visit my facebook page and click on the “follow” button so you don’t miss it!

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LAYERED CHICKEN TACO SALAD
Ingredients
  • 3 cups romaine lettuce chopped
  • 3 cup spinach
  • 3 large roma tomatoes chopped
  • 1 can whole kernel sweet corn
  • 1 can black beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 red pepper chopped
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 4 green onions chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups colby/monterey jack cheese shredded
  • 3/4 cup salsa
  • 1 1/2 cups tortilla chips broken into medium sized pieces
  • 2 avocado sliced
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro chopped
Dressing
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp onion finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Instructions
Dressing:
  1. Mix all ingredients in a large jar that seals. Shake well to blend. Place in fridge for at least three hours prior to use. Shake again before serving

Salad:
  1. In a large glass bowl, place romaine lettuce and spinach on the bottom.

  2. Next layer tomatoes, then corn, black beans, red pepper, shredded chicken, green onions, and cheese

  3. Mix 3/4 cup of the dressing with 3/4 cup of salsa. Stir to mix

  4. Drizzle dressing/salsa mixture over the cheese

  5. Top with tortilla chips

  6. Garnish with avocado, cilantro and a little left over corn and red pepper for color

 

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Summer Pesto Chicken…and the exploding dinner party

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Confession time… I used to cook very little. I lived alone until my early thirties and cooking for one is BORING. My knowledge of cooking was so scant that when my friends and I would have potluck Thanksgiving dinners, I would be asked to bring the cranberry sauce. One year, feeling somewhat inadequate, I made the cranberry sauce from scratch just to prove to everyone that I wasn’t a complete cooking moron.

When I moved in with my husband, I was suddenly cooking for four. While that was a steep enough learning curve, my husband also loved to throw dinner parties. When he would tell me he’d invited friends over for dinner, I would feel the anxiety rising up over me like a fast moving tide. What?! Cook for 8? What on earth could I possibly serve? Every time we had a dinner party, I was a mess. Then one day, our dinner party exploded.

My husband had asked me to throw a dinner party for six. I was stressing about what to cook and looking up recipes online when I received a facebook message from an acquaintance. She wrote that my husband had invited her family for dinner next week and that they would love to come, they just didn’t know where we lived. Confused, I went upstairs to ask my husband about it. I hadn’t known he had invited more people. When I told him about the RSVP and he turned pale and quietly mumbled, “Umm… I have something to tell you”. My heart dropped into my stomach and a tight knot formed in my throat. I waited nervously for him to continue, but instead he pulled up an excel spreadsheet on his computer. An EXCEL SPREADSHEET? He added four names to the spreadsheet and I quickly realized that it was a guest list.  For 60 people. 60 PEOPLE! My friendly and VERY social husband had apparently invited everyone he had talked to for the past week. Even people we didn’t really know. Panic ensued. I nearly fainted. My husband apologized at least six times. The dinner party had exploded into a massive feast.

That day I learned the value of an easy, (yet visually stunning AND delicious), go to recipe, for large dinner parties. So I’m going to share mine. While “technically” an Italian dish, I’m a little unsure of it’s authenticity. However, it’s ability to be easily adjusted for any number of guests made me want to post it here for all of you.

I call it SUMMER PESTO CHICKEN and often pair it with green beans and roasted potatoes. If I’m serving over 10 people, I add in a pasta dish, salad and bread. (Stay tuned for those recipes!)

I’ve written the recipe to serve 6 people, but you can serve it to as little as four or make an entire tray to serve 20.

First, place your chicken into a baking dish large enough to accommodate them.

Cover the chicken generously with pesto sauce.

Cover with spinach.

Drain and gently squeeze the water from the artichoke hearts (this will prevent your dish from becoming soggy). Spread evenly over spinach. Then add the tomatoes.

Finally, sprinkle dish with mozzarella. I like to grind fresh black pepper on top too.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until chicken cooked through.

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That’s it! You’re done. Now you can relax and enjoy your party.

Stay tuned for my next post on Persian cooking. Make sure you don’t miss it by following this blog. Subscribe either below (if on mobile device) or on the right (if on a desktop)

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SUMMER PESTO CHICKEN
Ingredients
  • 6 chicken breasts
  • 8 oz (small jar) pesto
  • 8 cups fresh spinach
  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts
  • 2-3 cups roma tomatoes cut into eigths
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  2. Place chicken breasts into a baking dish large enough to accommodate them

  3. Cover chicken generously with pesto sauce

  4. Cover with fresh spinach

  5. Drain and gently squeeze water from artichoke hearts. Spread evenly over spinach

  6. Chop roma tomatoes into 8ths. Spread evenly over dish

  7. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese over the top

  8. Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through