M. Andrew Gordon

Chicken Curry with Naan

In Main Dish on November 4, 2009 at 9:29 am

I am easily tempted by the sight of good, obscure produce.  It is not the candy bar in the checkout aisle that beckons me, but rather an exotic herb or unusual fruit that makes me mindlessly throw it into the shopping basket.  Then I get home and try to figure out what to do with it.  Enter: curry leaves.

Long story short is that curry leaves are a characteristic ingredient in many Indian and southeast Asian cuisines.  But it has nothing to do with curry powder, which is an amalgamation of a number of spices.  Curry leaves have a pleasant, citrus-like aroma and slightly sharper flavor.  They look sort of like bay leaves and are treated very similarly, except they are edible (of course bay leaves are edible too, otherwise we they would never have achieved the widespread use they enjoy but those leaves stay very rigid and could prove to be uncomfortable if eaten).

I will get some pictures of curry leaves up soon; the lack of pictures in this post is my fault as I did not get any good shots of this dish.  My photography skills still need work.

Curry Leaves

So there I was, staring at a nice batch of curry leaves and wondering what to do.  I had read a recipe for potatoes cooked with curry leaves; I could simmer leaves in oil and use that flavored oil to impart a flavor in something else.  There are many choices out there.  But what caught my imagination was a sweet potato-coconut curry with chicken; the citrus flavors seemed an ideal compliment to the rest.  An unusual addition here is poblano pepper.  A more traditional chile would be a bird’s eye or thai chile pepper.  But I already had some poblanos on hand and since I don’t actually know traditional Indian cooking at all, why not adapt a little bit?

The end result was a thick curry with some pleasant sweetness from the sweet potato and the coconut, a little heat from the poblano, and the rich flavors of curry.

While I will gladly try my hand at creating most dished blindly, baking is not something I am so comfortable with.  The naan recipe was adapted from a recipe I found in a cookbook I’ve had for a long time, The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Spices.  The end result was not the feathery, light naan I am used to getting at Indian restaurants.  On the plus side, the bread came out a little bit drier (i.e., less oily) than the restaurant version.  The recipe called for yogurt which I didn’t have, so that could be a factor.  I also don’t have a Tandoori oven to cook the naan in, so that may also be a factor.  And finally, I may have over-worked the dough.  I am interested in trying this again – as there is nothing like fresh bread – and will let you know how it turns out.

Chicken Curry

  • 1 poblano pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Medium white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled, diced
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 8 leaves curry leaf
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon asafetida
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 chicken, roasted and meat pulled off
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  1. Over grill, broiler, or gas stovetop, cook poblano until skin is blackened and charred.  Place in bowl and cover with plastic.  Let cool.  Rub charred skin off of pepper (do not rinse under sink as this washes flavorful oils away) and cut flesh away from stem.  Remove seeds.
  2. In deep pan or skillet, heat oil.  Add onions and garlic and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, until soft.  Add sweet potato and cook for another 3 minutes.  Add stock and ginger and cook for 10 minutes.
  3. In small saucepan, add coconut milk, curry leaves, fennel seeds, turmeric, cumin, chile powder, paprika and asafetida.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Pull out curry leaves and add to sweet potato-onion mixures.  Place coconut mixture in food processor or blender, add poblano, and puree.
  4. Pour puree into coconut mixture, add cinnamon and chicken.  Cook for 15 minutes over medium-low heat.  Remove cinnamon, add lime juice, and adjust salt and pepper.

Naan Bread

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 packet fast-rising yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  1. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, yeast, sugar, and cumin in large bowl and whisk to mix ingredients evenly.  Make a well in the center.
  2. Combine milk and water in saucepan and simmer over low heat until warmed but not hot.  Stir milk into flour mixture, then add the oil and egg.  Mix to form a ball of dough.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth.  Place in a clean, lightly oiled bowl and roll the dough to coat with oil.  Cover and let set aside until doubled in bulk.
  4. Place heavy cookie sheet(s) in oven and preheat to 500°F. Punch down the dough and divide into six pieces.  Roll or push out the dough to about a six-inch round.  Continue with remaining dough and place on hot cookie sheets.  Bake for 3 to 4 minutes, until puffed and starting to brown.  Alternately, you can bake for about 3 minutes and then broil the tops of the naan to brown.
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