Prior to a couple of years ago, I had never really ventured into the Indian food arena. Our previous pastor traveled to India and came back with stories about food and eating with your hands. The recipes didn't seem to appeal to me. The most I had ventured out was traditional Thai and, later, fusion Thai and was intrigued by the counter-balance of flavor: the sweet vs. sour, spicy vs. cool, texture differences in the same dish. Then, after our current pastor suggested Indian food for a staff meal, I was on a quest to try out these recipes. I made a dish for our family, but the boys did not like the spicy and complex taste. There were so many new and exciting recipes to try: butter chicken, chicken korma, curry a million different ways!
I volunteered to make a dish once a month for InterVarsity's International Student Fellowship, a group of international college students that meets every Friday night. The guidelines for making the meal suggested that spicy dishes that could be served over rice were popular. Cool! Automatic guinea pigs for my cooking! After trying several recipes from my favorite cooking site, allrecipes.com, I moved to uncharted territory. I quizzed my Indian friends and bounced ideas off them. They gave me suggestions and instructions. After a few tries, the best dishes that turned out were the ones that balanced the texture, the spiciness, and the flavors. Here is the recipe I made yesterday for the World Welcome Party:
Crockpot Coconut Chicken Curry
4-5 lbs chicken
2 onions, coarsely chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
whole bulb (head) of garlic, finely chopped
2 cans (28 oz each) crushed or diced tomatoes
1 lb carrots, chopped or sliced
1 lb red potatoes, cubed
2 cans coconut milk
Bag of frozen peas
Fry Gosht spices (or use garam masala, turmeric, curry, chili powder, etc.)
Salt to taste
In large crockpot, place chicken, onions, ginger, garlic, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and spices. Cook on low for 8 hours. Stir in coconut milk. If sauce is too thin, uncover and switch to high (I had to transfer to a stockpot to cook it down). When consistency is good, add the frozen peas (do not add sooner or peas will be mush). Serve over rice. You can also make this on the stove top.
A few notes: in this recipe, it worked good to coarsely chop the onion and finely chop the ginger and garlic. Minced garlic would be okay, but the "balance" of chopped ginger and garlic worked better. You could also puree the onion and canned tomatoes in a blender. I've done this when I serve to my boys, but otherwise the larger size onion pieces add a nice "bite." My Indian friends told me about this Fry Gosht spice mix you can get in the store; add more or less to taste (I thought it was a mild-to-medium spiciness, but that is highly subjective.) I have also successfully thickened a dish like this with instant potato flakes; add 1/2 cup at a time until desired consistency. You can make a different dish by omitting the coconut milk and adding 1/2 cup of butter instead.