I’ve always loved Indian cuisine.
Chicken tikka masala, tandori grill, anything with spinach saag……ummm, yum! just to think about it.
However, it’s only recently that I’ve taken a leap into the territory of making Indian food at home.
Part of the reason I finally conquered my fear is that Nate and I are frustrated with the inconsistent quality of take-out food in my neighborhood – sometimes it tastes great if we are lucky to have a good chef behind the scenes, other times it’s just a waste of money.
Beyond health reasons, it’s also a desire I have to learn a new language – exotic spices, new colors, flavors and techniques – I feel like an entry level student picking up Rosetta Stone the first time learning a new world of Indian cooking.
Sure, I could use coconut cream and milk to make a decent Indian curry but I wanted something more.
Will I be able to achieve a good pot of curry without using a can of cream to mask the flavor ?
What exactly goes into that mysterious pot so I can turn it from good to excellent?
I want to crack the code. Badly.
After hours of research online, I put together a recipe below that calls for no milk or cream and uses no store-bought instant paste.
Yes. We are going to be honest this time.
The ingredient items might look a bit daunting at first but don’t get intimidated, my friends. We are going deep this time to decipher what goes into our big pot of curry stew.
You might be surprised that you already have quite a few of the ingredients sitting in your spice pantry !
If you try my recipe, please send me a picture or tag me on Instagram @Iheartumami.ny or use the hashtag #umamipaleo for a chance to be featured on our Instagram feed !
- 1 lb. skinless chicken breasts cut into small to medium pieces
- 4 slices of ginger
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 2 tbsp red chilli powder
- ½ tbsp turmeric powder
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp Coconut oil
- 3 tbsp water
- 1 teaspoon black or white sesame seeds, crushed and pounded
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed and pounded
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds or ground coriander, crushed and pounded
- 5 peppercorns, crushed and pounded
- 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
- 1 inch stick cinnamon
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- About 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 medium onion chopped fine
- ¾ cup diced tomato
- 1 tbsp coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
- Add the chicken marinade combo - ginger, garlic, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, olive oil and salt - into a food processor and process until the ingredients turn into a paste.
- Pour the marinade over chicken and marinate for at least 30-40 mins (best overnight).
- For the spice paste, place sesame, cumin, coriander seeds and peppercorns in a pestle and mortar, pound and crush the seeds. (alt. use a food processor).
- Heat a saute pan w/ coconut oil over medium-high heat until it’s smoking. Turn the heat down. Add the crushed and pounded seeds (sesame, cumin, coriander, black pepper) + the rest of spice paste combo - red pepper flakes, garlic, turmeric powder, and cinnamon stick - and toast all the ingredients until they release their aroma, about 15 seconds, stirring constantly so they don't burn. Set aside to cool.
- Once cool, blend with 3 tablespoons of water in a food processor till it forms a smooth paste. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a medium size saucepan until it’s smoking. Turn the heat down. Add onion, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, garlic, and salt. Stir fry until fragrant.
- Add chopped tomato + the spice paste (made from steps 3-5) until fragrant.
- Add the marinated chicken pieces, stir until they are coated in the spice mix. Close the lid and stir once after 5-6 minutes.
- Turn the heat to medium. Cook for an additional about 15 minutes, until chicken is tender and cooked through.
- Taste and season with more salt if needed.
- Open lid, stir and serve hot with cauliflower rice or zucchini noodles or sweet potato!
- Tip: the chicken will taste even better the next day and can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days !