Recipe #24 “The Mother’s day mm-mm good Keralan chicken stew” because, it’s Mother’s Day Somewhere…

Introduction:

What is it with the discrepancies between the celebration of Mother’s Days? I grew up celebrating Mother’s day in March, whilst my cousins across the pond celebrated it in May! Why do we just have one day to tell our Mothers they’re awesome and do nice things for them? Why don’t we just invent our own Mother’s Day(s) like the non-conformists of days gone by… but maybe not so far back as 1662 where the term applied to Christianity… *smug historical reference face*

The Real Introduction:

This recipe is a re-creation of quite possibly one of the most magical moments I remember spending with my family.

I first had this stew whilst travelling around India at age four… it was served in a double walled hand-beaten copper and steel vessel, a very common sight in the South of India. The purveyor of this fine stew was called Karavelli, near the Ashoka Hotel in Bangalore, and you entered it by walking through a small grassy garden, complete with round stepping stones… I felt like I was in an Enid Blyton storybook!

I remember being amazed by what this stew pronounced “ish-two”, was served with… a giant, crispy, bowl-shaped pancake/bread structure. With a spongy looking hill forming its base…  sort of like this:

Image source : deliriousdelhiphotos.wordpress.com

Sidenote: If it’s one thing Indian cooking has that no other culture’s cuisine has, it is: THEATRICAL BREAD! Read: Blimp- sized Bhaturas, giant South Indian Dosas, Puris, Tandoori Rotis and Naans the size of table mats, not to forget crispy Parathas stuffed with so many different fillings you can’t try them all in one sitting!

Back to my story…..

Reaching/stretching upwards from my cloth-backed, steel chair, I snapped a piece of crispy bread and dipped it shamelessly into the main stew bowl- I certainly didn’t have time to serve myself in a small bowl and eat like a well mannered child…although that training was enforced later. It was a delicate chicken stew with a coconut base. The bread was light and stayed crunchy after dipping it.  I liked it. I liked it A LOT! I later learned this bread was made from a batter of rice flour and “Toddy” a.k.a Palm Wine, a local alcoholic drink derived from tapping coconut palms. Ladles of batter were swirled and fried in bowl-shaped cast iron pans, and left to cook on a low flame for maximum crispy-ness! Fascinating stuff!

Fast forward twenty odd years I made this on a rather cold evening in the first week of April as a belated Mother’s Day treat … because it’s superbly comforting and that’s what Mothers are too!

The Recipe: (serves 2-3)

Ingredients:

- 6-8 small, good quality chicken thighs (preferably with the bone in).. Seeing as I was in England when I made this, I used M&S’s Skinless Oakham chicken thighs. **I used six because I was only serving two people**

- 1 tsp mustard seeds

- 2″ stick cinnamon

- 3 green cardamom pods

- 1 bay leaf

- 6 cloves

- 15-20 fresh curry leaves

- 1 medium sized red onion, chopped

- 1 medium green chilli slit down the middle

- 2 tsp each of minced ginger and garlic

- 2 cups coconut milk ( I used 1 cup of coconut milk powder and mixed it into a paste with 1 cup warm water from the kettle)

-1/2 tsp red chilli flakes

- 1 tsp crushed black peppercorns

- salt to taste

- stew vegetables! E.g Carrots, french beans, diced potatoes as per availability or your preference…

 

Method:

NB.

To make sure the chicken was extra flavoursome, I marinated the chicken for 30 minutes and baked it at around 200 degrees celsius for 25 minutes.

For the marinade I used:

- 1 lemon, juiced and skin thrown into the bag.

- 5-7 cloves of garlic, sliced roughly

- 1 tbsp honey

- salt and pepper

- 2 tbsp olive oil

Step 1) Marinate and set the chicken to bake in a foil lined baking tray. The juices will come in handy in the later phases of stew creation! I actually make a little tray out of the foil so the juices don’t evaporate off. Something  like this:

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Prep vegetables, onions, spices etc. so you’re ready to go for the next phases… like a culinary ninja!

Step 2) Whilst the chicken is baking, heat some oil in a frying pan. Add mustard seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf, cloves, curry leaves and fry until you begin to smell the spices. Next add onions, ginger and garlic mince and fry until soft.

Step 3) Add in your choice of “stew vegetables,” stir well add salt, black pepper, slit green chilli, and red chilli flakes. Pour on the coconut milk and bring to a boil, reduce the heat right down. Cover and cook for a further 10 minutes.

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Step 4) In these ten minutes, remove the chicken from the oven. It should be cooked if your timing was right!! Rest for 5 minutes and slice up the meat on a chopping board, add this into the gently boiling gravy.

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Step 5) Pour the pan juices into the stew and mix well. Taste and re-season with salt and chilli if need be.  Serve hot… and with a smile :)

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Because I didn’t have the right pan, I decided to serve it with some crispy dosas using a ready-made wet mixture… usually available at Asian food stores but it also works really nicely with rice!! All you do with these is grease a flat pancake pan and ladle on the batter. You then spiral the base of the ladle outwards. It’s kind of like making pancakes but tricky because the mixture coagulates very fast!!

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As you can see, my dosas need a bit of practice… but it’s the thought (and taste) that counts!

One comforting meal and one happy Mother…

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