Tasting fare of India, Nepal, other regions



Mangoes & Curry Leaves

Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent

Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India

By Lachu Moorjani

Gibbs Smith / 2005 / $34.95

Well-organized and illustrated, this book breaks down recipes into simple steps. Author Lachu Moorjani makes dishes that I never would have attempted, such as Gulab Jamun (deep-fried milk-powder balls in rose-scented syrup), look almost easy to prepare.

Moorjani, owner of a restaurant named Ajanta in Berkeley, Calif., also aids novice Indian-food cooks by providing a shopping list for each dish. It includes staples, Indian spices, supermarket items and specialty-shopping items.


Aromatic Slow-Cooked Chicken

Serves 5 to 6

about 2 pounds bone-in chicken breasts and legs or one 2 1/2 - to 3-pound chicken

about 3 cups water

1/4 cup vegetable oil or ghee

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

about 1 cup grated onion

1 tablespoon garlic, minced or mashed to a paste

1 tablespoon ginger, minced or mashed to a paste

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 green cayenne chiles, minced

2 tablespoons plain (full or reduced-fat) yogurt

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

about 1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves and stems (divided use)

If using chicken pieces, wash them well; remove the skin and discard. With a cleaver, chop breasts into 3 or 4 pieces. Separate the thighs and drumsticks (if still attached), and if the drumsticks are large, chop each one in half. If using a whole chicken, cut into 10 to 12 pieces. Remove the skin, check the cut surfaces and remove any bone fragments. Rinse all the chicken pieces well.

Place the chicken in a wide, heavy pot and add the water. Bring to a vigorous boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the chicken is just cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove the chicken pieces and set aside. Pour out the broth and measure it; add a little water if necessary to bring it to 2 cups. Set aside. Rinse and dry the pot, then heat the oil or ghee in it over medium heat. Toss in the cumin seeds and pepper, and when the oil splutters a little, after about 30 seconds, immediately add the onion, garlic and ginger and stir.

Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is well softened and translucent, then toss in the ground coriander, salt and minced chiles.

Stir well and cook for several minutes to blend the flavors. Stir in the yogurt, a spoonful at a time, until well blended. Pour in the reserved broth and add the chicken pieces.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for several minutes. (The dish can be prepared ahead to this point. If the wait will be longer than 2 hours, let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate, covered. About 10 minutes before serving, place back over medium heat and bring to a simmer. If the sauce has jelled in the cold, stir as it heats until it is liquid again.)

Add the vinegar and sugar and stir in. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly and cook at a strong simmer for several minutes. Toss in most of the chopped coriander and simmer for another minute or so. Serve hot, with the remaining coriander strewn on top for garnish. Serve with plain rice to soak up the sauce.

From "Mangoes & Curry Leaves"

Per serving (based on 6 servings): 428 calories, 48 grams protein, 22 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 7 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 142 milligrams cholesterol, 729 milligrams sodium

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