I Miss My Nana….And Her Curry

by Sarah on August 31, 2009

The cute little old lady on the left? That’s my Nana, very possibly the greatest home cook and recipe collector the U.S., or at least in all of Alameda County. I credit her with all my cooking and eating prowess and the genius philosophy of “you have to at least TASTE it”.
*Parental hint* This is how I and both of my children were convinced to eat strange foods and learned to like them.
And yes, the darling little creature in red overalls is me.

Nana used to make some yummy chicken (or shrimp) curry, surely not authentic, but tasty all the same. The fun part was putting all the condiments on top so you could adjust the flavors to suit your own taste.

First we’ll make cumin rice, and I’m using a recipe by Shankari Eswaren’s mother, that she gave me at a cooking class. If you ever get the chance to take a class with her, do so! A great cooking instructor and the food is delicious. She teaches at the Sacramento Co-Op pretty often.
Here’s her blog: Stream of Conciousness

You’ll need Basmati rice, butter, cumin seed, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and water.

Heat a tablespoon of ghee or clarified butter (or just use regular butter, like I did) and when it is hot, add 1 inch of cinnamon stick, a bay leaf and a teaspoon of cumin seed. Saute for 30 seconds.

Add the rice, and saute another 3-4 minutes.

Add the rice to your rice cooker and add 2 cups water. Cook until done.



While the rice is in the cooker, you can get started with the curry.
Here’s the stuff you need, plus a big package of chicken thighs.

Cut your chicken thighs into bite-size chunks and put in a big bowl. Add curry paste, vinegar, ground cumin and ground ginger. Mix thoroughly so all the pieces are coated.

Generously add kosher salt….

and freshly ground black pepper….

Chop 1 enormous onion, or 2 medium onions and a couple of cloves of garlic.

Dice your tomatoes. Set aside. Now I didn’t have enough ripe tomatoes in the garden, so I used what I had and a can of tomatoes.

Heat 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a large saute pan and add your chicken and all of the sauce.

Cook until the chicken is mostly cooked through, about 5-6 minutes.

Then transfer it back to the big bowl.

Add onions and garlic to the dry pan and saute until golden.

Add a chopped apple for some sweetness. If you want, you can throw a handful of raisins or currants in at this point.

Throw in about a half a bag of frozen peas. Saute a few minutes.

Add your tomatoes, fresh, canned or both.

Bring the liquid to a simmer…

And put the chicken and sauce back in.

Mix, and let simmer while you get your condiments together.

What I used tonight was diced avocado, sliced cherry tomatoes, flaked coconut, peanuts and chopped cilantro. I remember there being a TON of little bowls on the table though, and some of the other condiments I remember are chopped banana, raisins, chopped onion and chutney. My Nana made blue-ribbon chutney (Alameda County Fair!), maybe I’ll get around to posting it one of these days.

Plate = rice, curry and whatever condiments your little heart desires.
Comfort food at it’s finest! And really, an easy weeknight dinner and good for leftovers.


Cumin Rice

recipe from Shankari Eswaren

2 Tbsp. Ghee (clarified or regular butter works, too)
2 bay leaf
2 inch cinnamon stick
2 tsp. cumin seed
2 cup Basmati rice
4 cups water

In a saute pan, heat ghee or butter. When it is hot, saute the bay leaf, cinnamon and cumin seed for 30 seconds. Add rice and saute another 3-4 minutes.
Transfer to a rice cooker and add water. Cook until done.

Nana’s Chicken Curry

2/3 cup Indian curry paste, such as Patak’s
1/2 cup white wine or other light vinegar
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, or 5 juicy tomatoes, diced
3 cups chopped onion, 1 large or 2 medium
2 cloves minced garlic
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1/3 chopped cilantro
1 apple, diced
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3-4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I use the large package they sell at most grocery stores)
1 cup frozen peas

1 cup chopped cilantro
1 diced avocado
1/2 cup flaked coconut
3/4 cup chopped peanuts
1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes

Cut chicken into chunks and put in a large bowl. Add curry paste, vinegar, ground ginger and ground cumin and mix together. Generously season with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large saucepan and add chicken with the sauce. Cook until mostly cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer chicken back to big bowl.

Add onion and garlic to dry pan and saute until golden. Add apple and raisin, if desired and saute another few minutes. Add frozen peas, then tomatoes. Bring liquid to a simmer.

Add chicken back to pan and bring back to a simmer. Add cilantro.

At this point, get the condiments ready and fluff the rice.

When chicken is cooked through and sauce has thickened slightly, serve with rice and condiments.

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