I am a shameless cookbook hoarder. This in itself would not be a problem except that I seldom use cookbooks. I tend to be more of an intuitive cook and will occasionally do a Google search or look to my favourite blogs for recipes. But those lovely, expensive, glossy cookbooks? Sadly neglected.
My cookbooks are even strategically positioned close to the kitchen for convenience. From your basic $5 pasta bible bought at the discount table in a shopping centre to spectacular hardbacks written by celebrity chefs with photography that is almost as delicious as the recipes themselves. From Madhur Jaffery to Masterchef, it’s all there on that shelf, in pristine condition and waiting to be used.
Oh yes, there are the days when the mood takes me that I flip through a few of them looking for inspiration. Eventually I may even find a recipe that I want to (sort of) follow, and if I’m feeling really diligent, the dish might even make its’ way onto the stove or the oven and then onto a plate. But mostly I just like to have these books.
Recently, I broke my self-imposed cookbook buying ban by purchasing one that I had been
stalking coveting for quite some time. Tasting India by Aussie Chef Christine Manfield is truly a work of art and full of totally cook-able recipes. Manfield manages to take the reader with her on a journey around India, celebrating its mind-boggling diversity, its hospitable people and most importantly, its incredible cuisine. The smears of masala that have already appeared on some of the pages attest to the fact that this is one cookbook that I will be using again and again, and for more than just its decorative value.
The Black Pepper Chicken Fry is a dish that I have already made several times. Each time, husband complains that I haven’t made enough and the next time I make a little more, only to find that even that isn’t enough! The long simmer allows the chicken to be oh so tender and nicely coated with the pepper-based masala. You first get a little hit of pepper, followed by the lovely chicken that falls apart obligingly in your mouth.
A conversation we had the other day went a little something like this:
Me: I think I’ll put the Black Pepper Chicken Fry recipe up next.
Husband: Yes but I think you need to photograph it again.
Me: Really? Why?
Husband: You just should.
Me: But you haven’t even seen the other photos yet!
Me: Do you just want me to make it again?
Husband: Pause……..yes please.
Black Pepper Chicken Fry
Feeds about 4, takes about 60-80 mins to make
Adapted from Tasting India, Christine Manfield, p.250.
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tbsp black peppercorns
3-4 dried red chilies
The insides of 2 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
8-10 curry leaves
4 medium cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated
1 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, finely grated
1 large white onion, finely diced
2 ripe tomatoes, finely diced
1 kg chicken thigh fillets cut into 1 inch pieces
Place the spice mix ingredients in a small pan over a low heat. Roast until they are browning slightly and fragrant. Powder using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan over medium heat. Add cumin and mustard seeds and stir until popping. Add the spice mix and stir for a minute or so. Throw in the curry leaves and cover to protect yourself from the hot oil flying everywhere. Add the ginger and garlic and stir for about 2 mins. Add the onion and cook until softened, then add the tomato and cook for a further 5-7 mins. Season with the salt and stir.
Add the chicken pieces and stir until they are coated with the other ingredients. Cook for about 5 mins until the chicken starts to colour. Add 1 1/2 cups water, cover and simmer on low-medium heat for 30-40 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir every 5 mins or so. About halfway through the process, taste and add more salt if necessary.
Serve with your favourite Indian bread or steamed rice.
Yes, it does seem like a lot of water…..but it works….trust me on this one.