Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cashew With Coconut Chicken

That sounds so mild and innocuous, doesn't it? IT'S NOT.

This all started when I wanted to make a special meal or three for Calmer Half. He loves Indian food. A Lot. So I picked up a cookbook called Indian Home Cooking that promised to simplify the ten thousand ingredients and 15 hours per dish into something Americans could cook for their South African husbands. (Sourcing some ingredients is still a challenge. "12 fresh or 16 frozen curry leaves? Arrrgh. Thank goodness I live in a city that has a Patel Brothers Import Grocery near the zoo....")

The first dish was a korma, and it was a great success! Yay!

Then I tried Murgh Kaju, or Coconut Chicken with cashews. My husband was in heaven. My stomach, after about the 8th bite, was trying to bodyslam me against the gates of hell, screaming "Why did you do this to me? WHY?" So my husband happily ate his bowl, my bowl, and heroically refrained from thirds in the name of diet while I fled the field with tums, ginger ale, and eventually giving up low-carb to see if ice cream might help.

If you have a higher spice tolerance than me, and you have a food processor to make it, enjoy!

Murgh Kaju

1 cup roasted cashews for grinding into a powder
1/4 cup roasted cashews for garnish
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (Bob's red mill brand at Kroger's, down in the baking section by their rye flour and gluten-free mixes)
4 dried red chilis (I used 1/2 tablespoon of red pepper flakes, as I was sadly out of chilis for some strange reason, like NOT COOKING THINGS THIS SPICY)
1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 tablespoons coriander seeds (Which roll all over if you bump the spoon. Just saying.)
8 garlic cloves. (or 10. or 12, if they're small.)
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 medium onion, diced

1/3 cup canola oil (or coconut; you're looking for a high smoke point)
1 teaspoon black pepper

2-1/2 pounds chicken breast or thighs, sliced crosswise into sections
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt, "or to taste"

Grind 1 cup of cashews to powder in a food processor. Dump 3/4 of that cup and all the rest of the first chunk o' ingredients into a nice huge saucepan over low heat. (I used a smaller dish than I should have, forgetting this turns into a one-pot meal.)

Toast everything, stirring, until the cashews and coconut have turned light golden. (About 10 minutes on low.) Then, find a bowl big enough, dump everything in it, and grind it all to a paste in your food processor. Wipe out the pan if you didn't get all the bits out, and dump the paste back in with the oil and black pepper. (If your food processor is small, like mine, just keep the heat low while you're processing in batches and dumping it in.)

Cook for about 10 more minutes, stirring frequently, until everything turns deep golden brown. If using a nonstick pan, life is good. If not, keep a cup of water by the stove to splash about a teaspoon at a time and deglaze (scape up the spices what stick.)

After it's all deep golden brown, add the remaining cashews and cook, stirring, 5 more minutes. Add the chicken, trying to nestle the slices down to the bottom of the pan with all this spice paste running around, and cook until the chicken is opaque (5 more minutes).

Add the water, salt, and bring it back to a boil. Then simmer 15-20 minutes until the chicken is tender. If you slices the chicken into medallion-sized slices, keep it to the 15-minute end of that. If you cut giganto Sam's Chicken Breasts of Doom into 3 pieces, maybe 25 minutes. A lid helps here, because it spatters!

Garnish with that last 1/4 cup of cashews, and serve. I suggest over rice with peas or spinach as a side, but that's because that's how my husband blissfully fixed it.

But beware, he described it as "A lovely curry! About medium, to my taste; it didn't have me perspiring buckets."

...Yeah, I'll just leave ALL the leftovers for him.


  1. Oooh! Thanks, I'm bookmarking this one. Looks lovely. If I make it, I'll take pictures :D

  2. This one sounds good. Thank you.

  3. OK, where exactly do you find curry leaves and do they have another name? I've tried and had 0 luck (the Asian grocers here are all Thai/Lao).


  4. They're also called "sweet neem leaves" - to distinguish from bitter neem of neem oil production, I guess. According to google, they also get called kariveppilai, karivepaaku or kari patta.

    We have a patel brothers grocery here in town, and several other indian markets. You can also order them off Amazon, believe it or not, but the reviews seem split on whether they arrive fresh or turned-brown-during-shipping. Probably a no-go in Texas summer heat.

  5. Are you sure it wasn't Murgh Kaiju?

  6. Thanks! Adding it to the list!

  7. OK, thanks. Sweet Neem Leaves it is.

    I tend to make more north Indian curries, because it's kinda like the three bears here. I love hot (Thai or south Indian medium), Mom needs at least medium, and Dad prefers mild.