Cardamom-Scented Chicken Curry and Lentil Dhal

25 August 2012

Post image for Cardamom-Scented Chicken Curry and Lentil Dhal

The weather has been blisteringly hot in Zurich lately, which should be a welcome change given the torrential rain which we’ve had in the preceeding months. But after a few days of soaking up the sun and several impromptu lakeside evening picnics, the lack of air-conditioning has become quite evident and I find myself quietly (and guiltily) yearning for the cooler weather to return. This is especially since I have discovered that our kitchen happens to be the warmest room in our apartment, a place which I have suddenly been trying to spend as little time as possible so that I can be elsewhere to catch the breeze. It has been quite an unusual predicament for me, trying to plan meals which require minimal time spent in the kitchen when it is often a place I escape to.

But the last few days finally saw the rainfall and thunderstorms return, as well as my appetite. And in an effort to demonstrate to my husband (well, mostly myself!) that I remember how to cook a proper meal, I set about preparing a curry feast.

In an effort to try something new, I went flicking through Anjum Anand’s Indian Food Made Easy for some inspiration. It is also a book which I had pledged in my New Year’s resolution to cook from in 2012, but much like the previous occasions when I had taken a moment to look at the recipes, inspiration was a bit lacking. So I turned to her more recent book, I Love Curry, from which I have had a bit more success. I settled upon the Cardamom-Scented Chicken Curry as it looked to be fairly easy to put together, and also because I had the tastebuds going for a tomato-based curry.

I have had a few experiences where Anand’s recipes have turned out to be quite bland, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that this curry had a nice savoury hit, despite the fact that I had used boneless chicken breast fillets in the dish. The original recipe calls for chicken on the bone which would give the dish much more flavour but, as it so happened, the supermarket I went to only had chicken breast fillets and whole chickens on offer. I opted for the former because I was feeling a bit too lazy to joint a chicken. But a touch of seasoning, particularly a teaspoon or so of sugar, and the curry tasted quite lovely.

It is quite a simple and subtle curry when you look at the list of ingredients, and coupled with the non-fussy preparation, I think this would be a perfect curry to make during the week when you are pressed for time. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes to hand, I think you could certainly use a tin of tomatoes instead. It also goes without saying that you could add more tomatoes if you want a more tomatey curry – I ended up adding another large tomato which I saw at the last minute, bursting with ripeness in the vegetable bowl.

The original recipe also calls for three green chillies to be added to the curry. Although hubby has a certain tolerance for spice, if I were to cook for my palate, most dishes would be inedible to him. So I try to omit the chillies when I can and add them at the table, or simply reduce the number of chillies so that there is a gentle heat.

If you have a mortar and pestle, I would suggest grinding the cardamom pods until you have just under a teaspoon of fragrant dust. Otherwise, if you don’t mind picking out the bits of cardamom later, I tend to just crush them and add them whole to the curry. An alternative would be to simply use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ready ground cardamom.

To go alongside the Cardamom-Scented Chicken Curry, I also made a fragrant and fresh-tasting dhal (recipe below) and served everything with some warm naan bread. A delicious curry feast for during the week!

Cardamom-Scented Chicken Curry
Recipe adapted from I Love Curry by Anjum Anand
Serves 4

Lentil Dhal
Recipe adapted from Simply Bill by Bill Granger
Serves 4

There are many recipes for dhal out there and this is one which I turn to frequently. I find it to be a very simple recipe using ingredients which I usually have in the fridge and pantry, plus it takes mere moments to prepare and cook. When making a curry, I find it is nice to serve a dhal on the side for some variety, and this recipe can be easily put together while the main dish is simmering away. Or, if you are totally exhausted after a long day at work, this dhal is filling as a main dish in itself. Just make sure you have some roti parathas or naan bread squirrelled away in the freezer for such instant suppers.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red onion, finely diced
2.5 cm (1 inch) ginger, coarsely grated
3 garlic cloves, coarsely grated
1 green chilli, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
250 g (1 cup) red lentils
750 ml (3 cups) boiling water
1 tablespoon lime juice (or more to taste)
fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and gently sauté the onion, ginger, chilli, salt and ground cumin for about 10 minutes until the onions have softened.

Add the lentils, together with the boiling water, and simmer over low-medium heat for about 20 minutes until the lentils have softened and broken down. Stir the mixture occasionally to make sure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If the mixture looks too thick, add a bit more water.

Once the lentils have dissolved, stir through the lime juice and taste for seasoning. Sprinkle with fresh coriander before serving.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Debjani 26 August 2012 at 12:59 am

A little bit of toasted unsweetened coconut added as a topper for the dhal takes it to a new level, so does a whole chili when used during boiling the lentils and discarded after dhal is cooked. :)

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eat, little bird 26 August 2012 at 11:36 am

I often add chilli to my dhal at the table, opting not to cook with it in case my husband or others find it too spicy. But the addition of coconut sounds really lovely!

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Debjani 26 August 2012 at 12:20 pm

If you don’t cut the chili it will give the flavor but not the spice which is excellent. Tske it out before it is cooked too much And ready to burst. That’s how food it is often cooked back home to reduce heat in dishes that kids will eat. I often use this technique for my husband and save the chili for my own plate.

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eat, little bird 26 August 2012 at 12:50 pm

Oh that’s a good tip! Thank you! Anjum Anand often calls for chillies to be pierced, but left whole, before adding to the curry. I hadn’t thought about just adding the chillies whole but intact – I will try this next time! If it works for your kids, it should work for my husband :-)

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Eileen 26 August 2012 at 1:45 am

That curry chicken sounds wonderful–cardamom is such a nice touch! This is making me hungry for a spicy dinner. :)

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eat, little bird 26 August 2012 at 11:38 am

I love cardamom in curries but I know some who are not very keen on this spice. I just love the fragrance it brings to dishes. This particular curry is quite subtle, but if you like a bit of heat, a few chillies would do the trick :-)

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Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen 26 August 2012 at 3:03 am

This is one of the sorts of dishes that makes me long for cooler weather, sweaters and leggings! I can’t wait to try this one.. probably when it cools down in a few short weeks:D

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eat, little bird 26 August 2012 at 11:39 am

I know what you mean! I’ve been craving a curry for some time now but it has just been too warm lately for this sort of food. I hope the cooler weather will arrive for you soon!

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anita menon 26 August 2012 at 8:41 am

I am not a big fan of Anjum Anand’s recipes. Her food is usually bland and lacks flavour too. Doesn’t suit the Indian palate at all, frankly. Kurma Das’s recipe book is one book you should have if you enjoy cooking authentic Indian food at home.
Lovely looking curry and great shots! Love how you are bringing different sorts of cuisines on your blog.

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eat, little bird 26 August 2012 at 11:44 am

I haven’t heard of Kurma Das but I will be sure to look up his books. Some of Anjum’s recipes have been quite nice, but it has required a bit of fiddling on my part. If I were to follow her recipes word-for-word, I think I would be really disappointed with the outcome. Even this particular dish required a bit of seasoning at the end. I am wondering if her recipes are mostly written for a western palate? The recipes I have tried have certainly been very toned down compared to the curries you can order in any Indian restaurant. I am a fan of many regional cuisines and Indian food ranks very highly on my list!

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Anita Menon 1 September 2012 at 3:34 pm

You guessed right about Anjum Anand’s books being written for the western palate. But do look up Kurma Das!

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Rushi 26 August 2012 at 9:30 am

Hi Thanh, I love the look of the cardamon chicken curry, I will make it for dinner tonight. I’ve tried a few of Anjum’s recipes and the ones I’ve tried so far have been alright, I love her green coconut fish curry. I usually play around with the spices… :) As for the lentil dhal it reminds of a dish my mom makes and I make a version of it too, only thing is sometimes I let the lentils cook in water and then add coconut milk or I substitute coconut milk in place of the water. Sometimes I add a teaspoon or so of mustard seeds with the onions to give it that extra flavour.

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eat, little bird 26 August 2012 at 11:47 am

Hi Rushi!
This is quite a subtle curry, but lovely nonetheless :-) I only have a few Indian cookbooks and, as many people speak highly of Anjum Anand, I have been trying out her recipes here and there. So far, some have been good, some not so. I have also tried a few recipes by Madhur Jaffrey and they have been quite good.

I have thought about adding mustard seeds to this dhal, and even cumin seeds for a stronger taste. I might give that a try next time. Otherwise, I just love how fresh-tasting this particular dhal is, especially with the lime juice and coriander :-)

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thelittleloaf 26 August 2012 at 10:44 am

I love your little copper pot! And the curry sounds delicious too :-)

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eat, little bird 26 August 2012 at 11:53 am

Thank you! This little copper pot was a gift from a lovely foodie friend one year in an international Secret Santa. The copper pot is actually a measuring cup and the whole set takes place of pride in my kitchen :-)

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TheSpicySaffron 26 August 2012 at 3:54 pm

Chicken curry & dhal …oomph…Curries for the soul!! Naan breads are looking yummy too! Lovely pictures, Thanh. perfection depiction of food from an Indian Kitchen…loving it!! Anjum Anaand is very popular in UK and you are right her recipes are mostly aimed for western palate.

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eat, little bird 27 August 2012 at 9:04 am

Thank you! I have to admit that I had only heard of Anjum Anand through some UK foodie friends. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if her recipes are aimed for a western palate because it also means that some of the ingredients are easier to find and the cooking process has been simplified. But I think some of her recipes lack flavour and I am certain that, whether you are Indian, English or from somewhere else, you still want a flavoursome curry, however mild.

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Anna 27 August 2012 at 6:42 am

Cardamom is one of my favourite spices! I can’t wait to try this curry – probably over the weekend. Our weather is in that slightly warm (for us) stage and I’ve been thinking recently a curry would be just right.

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eat, little bird 27 August 2012 at 9:11 am

Hi Anna!
I think it has been the same weather lately in Brisbane as in Zurich! But somehow, the heat feels different back in Australia … probably because of the air-con inside ;-)

I also love using whole cardamom pods but recipes seem to call for so little of it. I bought a jar of them sometime ago and wonder when I will ever finish it! I think it has passed its “use-by-date” but it still seems pretty potent to me!

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Anna 27 August 2012 at 12:24 pm

I always use my nose instead of dates for “use-by”. I actually bought a recipe book because it had a recipe for white chocolate and cardamom truffles. They are amazing. And they have the option for whole cardamom pods, crushed in mortar and pestle (is it bad to buy a recipe book for just one recipe, and truffles at that?!). My first experience with the spice was a Women’s Weekly recipe for oven-roasted cardamom quinces with gingered cream. The spices worked beautifully (whole, again), but they didn’t warn me about how tough quinces are! xo

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eat, little bird 27 August 2012 at 10:38 pm

Those truffles sound amazing! And no, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to buy a book for just one recipe … it’s better than buying a cookbook and never cooking from it ;-) I must admit that I have never cooked with quinces, something I must rectify soon!

I agree that your nose is often better than the actual expiry date in telling you if something is off, especially for things like milk and yoghurt. For spices, I think they just lose their potency after a while. Can’t say I have ever chucked out a jar of spice because it was a year or more old, though it does give me an idea as to how often I use that particular spice and whether I should re-stock it.

P.S. I love the Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks. When I first moved out of home, I went to the newsagent and bought a few AWW books, those little ones which cost about $2.95 back then. And later I graduated to the A4 size books and still cook from them today :-)

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Hannah 28 August 2012 at 9:50 pm

Thanh, this looks fabulous and I’m going to try it this weekend I think. I have her I Love Curry book but haven’t made this particular recipe yet. Everything I’ve cooked from the this book I’ve loved so far although admittedly I have upped a lot of the spices and I do tend to tone down the chilli factor with children to feed. I made the Chicken Korma the other week, along with the chick pea curry, pilaf rice and nan bread for a family feast and it went down a storm.

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eat, little bird 30 August 2012 at 10:36 pm

Hi Hannah!
Wow, you did have a feast! I was thinking of making the Chicken Korma the other day, and if you say it was good, then that’s another reason for me to try it. I have found her recipes using chillies to be quite on the spicy side and tend to halve the chillies if using. The Chilli Chicken Balti from I Love Curry is perhaps my favourite recipe from that book. It’s quite a fiery curry but I love it :-)

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Hannah 31 August 2012 at 3:39 pm

I love hot and spicey curries but the children don’t and even Sébastien is a bit of wuss he’s normally reaching for the water when I can barely taste it! Will have to try a spicy one when I’m on my own sometime. I also do the carrot salad a lot from the book, it’s so easy and tasty. My sister in law kindly brought me lots of the spices over from the UK too so can try out most recipes now. I do love a good curry!

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eat, little bird 31 August 2012 at 4:04 pm

I remember that wonderful haul you recently received. Lucky you!! Just looked up the recipe for the Quick Carrot Salad and it sounds really refreshing, not to mention quick and easy to put together. I will have to remember this recipe the next time I put together an Indian feast. Also, a lot of the side dishes like the Southern Lemon and Cashew Nut Rice and Cumin-Crusted Sautéed Potatoes sound really delicious. I think Indian will be on the menu again very soon :-)

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Anna @The Littlest Anchovy 3 September 2012 at 1:45 pm

I really must cook more Indian food. I love cardamom in most things and I agree that this feast is perfect for a mid week dinner.

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eat, little bird 16 September 2012 at 11:57 am

I say that all the time too! Indian food would have to be among my favourite cuisines. I think I cook it most often in the colder months so I’m looking to some more curries soon :-)

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sunidhi 15 September 2012 at 7:03 pm

Hi, This looks very yummy and mouth watering. definitely i will try and let u know. you have described it really good anyone can follow it . thanks for a wonderful recipe.

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eat, little bird 16 September 2012 at 11:58 am

Thank you for your lovely comment! I hope you will enjoy this curry.

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Ashima 17 September 2012 at 3:21 pm

Enjoying browsing through your blog! Lovely recipes and presentation.. By the way if you like spice and your hubby doesn’t you can try some tempering (we call it tadka in Hindi) for the Dhal. My husband loves garlic in dhal but I am not quite a fan of garlic so I add it to his dhal on the table.

For the tempering: heat a little oil in a pan, add paprika and garlic cubes, once you get the fragrance of garlic pour it over the cooked dhal.. I love the simmering sound of hot tempering over dhal and the paprika gives it a nice colour too :)

-ashima

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eat, little bird 17 September 2012 at 3:41 pm

Hi Ashima! Thanks for popping by my blog :-) And thanks for your tip on the tempering … I’ll try to remember this the next time I make dhal. The extra garlic sounds lovely!

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