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Something Special from India

Island Epicure

People from India are noted for their high intelligence, for which they credit turmeric. It’s the spice that gives Indian dishes their  yellow color. The intricate blend of other spices gives Indian cooking it’s mysterious and delicious flavor.  Most gourmet cooks believe that, if a dish contains coconut in any form, it’s from southern India. Not so: Malai Murgh, or Chicken in Coconut Sauce, comes from northern India.  The word murgh means chicken.   

In the recipe below, you are not expected to eat the cloves and the cinnamon stick, but “if you swallow a clove, no harm will come to you,” says my Indian cookbook.

The original recipe contains cardamom. Not being fond of that spice, I leave it out. Suit yourself, and don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you.  The intricate blend of flavors produces a splendid dish that requires only a bowl of cooked rice, long grain preferred, plain or honeyed yoghurt, and a small dish of sliced and salted cucumber to complete the meal.

Chicken in Coconut Sauce
         Makes 4 generous servings

2 pounds boneless chicken meat, cut in bite size pieces
3 to 4 Tablespoon coconut oil
1 cup chopped onions
4 to 5 Tablespoons finely chopped ginger root,peeling on
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 green cardamom pods, optional
12 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick 3 inches long
¼ cup almond meal
1 ½ cups coconut milk
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons snipped cilantro leaves

Heat the oil in  oil in a very large, heavy-bottomed pan. Over medium-high heat, stir-cook the onion, ginger, and garlic until onions, though still pale, are limp. Add the cloves and cinnamon and continue cooking for about 5 more minutes.  
Add the almond meal, stir-cooking about 2 minutes. Add the chicken in a single layer. Reduce heat to medium. Let cook about 1 minute.  Turn the chicken pieces. Let cook until the meat turns white.

Add the coconut milk, turmeric, red pepper flakes, and salt.  Stir-cook until the sauce has boiled down and thickened. If it has not thickened enough, you can either stir in more almond meal or let the sauce boil down until it has thickened.
If the sauce gets too thick or the oil comes to the surface, either add more coconut milk if you have it, or stir inn a little water.  Transfer to a serving dish. Enjoy!