I always imagined that Indian cooking was about as accessible as its country of origin, involving the culinary equivalent of a 15-hour plane-ride in the back row of coach class. Then, I visited India for the first time last month. The food itself was a revelation: much less greasy and varied than the local takeout place that makes me so ill that my poor husband has to order it behind my back when I am out for the evening. Then, there was the cooking. It was actually…doable! For an impatient American! A highlight of a trip that was among the highlights of my life was a cooking demonstration by a chef at one of the most fabulous hotels I have ever visited, the Aman New Delhi. This chef demonstrated Indian home style cooking–comfort food, really. Bread. Lentils. Hearty, delicious chicken and fish:
It contains recipes from Taj hotels all over the world. I was ploughing my way through the Indian recipes with mixed success when I discovered Madhur Jaffrey’s “Quick and Easy Indian Cooking.” Jaffrey’s recipes make Indian cooking as easy as my Delhi chef/demonstrator made it look: Consider this the Cliff’s Notes of Indian cuisine. Each recipe takes about 30 minutes to prepare. Most ingredients are available at the local Safeway. Last night, at the last minute, kind of on a whim, I whipped out her book and made a lazy woman’s version of the silken chicken. (I used pre-ground cumin powder instead of roasting then grinding the seeds myself, replaced the home-made garam masala with a store-bought mix and substituted garlic-ginger past in a jare for the fresh garlic and ginger.) Not only was it quick and easy, it was delicious.
(Very slightly adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s “Quick and Easy Indian Cooking”)
For marinating chicken:
About 1 and 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 table spoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (I’d use Greek yogurt next time to make this dish healthier)
1/2 teaspoon of garam masala
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika (I used spciy Hungarian)
1 clove peeled, crushed garlic and 1/2 teaspoon peeled, finely grated ginger (I used 2 teaspoons garlic-ginger paste from a store-bought jar.)
For sprinkling over chicken:
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
pinch garam masala
pinch cumin powder
pinch cayenne pepper
teaspoon dried mint flakes
generous squeezes fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to its highest temperature and place rack in top third of oven.
Cut slits into chicken and prick with knife so marinade can penetrate. Marinate for 5 minutes in lemon juice and salt rub. Combine the remaining marinade ingredients and mix well. Pour over chicken and marinade for 15 more minutes. Place chicken in shallow pan (lined with foil for easy cleanup) and sprinkle with all remaining ingredients. Bake for 15 minutes.