Monday, January 4, 2010

Chicken Curry with yogurt and plans for the year

We have started the New Year off with frigid temperatures requiring a brave heart and heavy clothing to step out. As you all know I like very much to complain about the weather but I'd let that one go, being the first few days of the new year and all.

Among all the bickering and bad news emanating out of DC, some good news for the environment and by extension for the people who live there. Washington DC's Plastic Bag Tax Takes Effect This Week.

It has nothing to do with this post but I wanted to share that anyway and hopefully all 50 states will follow suit.

And the agenda for the year ahead, I am hoping to discuss, write about and hopefully learn about the sources of the foods that we consume.

International treaties and multinational companies have done a lot to do away with crop diversity. Where there were hundreds of varieties of a single crop now there are only a handful of bio-engineered seed varieties. This lack of diversity should be very scary, because a single disease or calamity could wipe out whole sources of food. Imagine a world where you are surrounded by people who look the same, speak the same language, eat the same food and behave the same way. That is by far what is happening in the corn, wheat and soy worlds. There are all the same.

As consumers and in particular as food bloggers we are ahead of the curve in matters of food and environment but there is a lot to learn. I am humbled and a bit actually a lot scared at how much ignorance there is about industrial food production and harm that it has been causing. One only need look, as there is information all around. This will be my primary interest this year.

The chicken recipe to be presented today and the chicken especially has a story. For years I have been buying chicken in chain grocery stores, where the chicken looks and feels like weeks if not months have passed before it hit the shelves. I read/heard somewhere that a few chicken processing plants in California ship the chicken (I forget if they were alive or not) to China to be packaged to save on costs. A sane person should have stopped eating chicken then and there right? But the insanity continued primarily because I'd rather cook at home than visit a fast food chain when the craving hits. The biggest take away is when possible be aware of where the produce comes from.

I have purchased chicken from the Lancaster Dutch Market a much loved local store run by Amish folks from Lancaster County, PA every now and then and know that they taste far superior to the supermarket variety. They are open only 3 days a week and a bit of planning is required so I sort of went back to the supermarket till I woke up startled one day and after a friend brought up the same subject. The chicken are grown free range with no antibiotic and hormones and moreover they are brought in fresh. Now we only eat chicken bought at the market and have learned to go without otherwise.

We had DH's cousin visiting when I made this chicken curry and he could not stop appreciating about how good the chicken tasted. I will share the secret folks, it had nothing to do with the spices, masala, cooking technique and all to do with the fresh good quality chicken.

I bet this story can be repeated for any fruit or vegetables. How it is grown matters a great deal.

Chicken Curry with Yogurt
1. 2 lbs chicken cut into chunks, washed with turmeric powder and set aside
2. 1/2 onion chopped
3. 6 green chilies slit
4. 2 inch piece of ginger grated
5. 8 garlic cloves chopped fine
6. 1 tomato chopped fine
7. 3 tbsp yogurt whisked
8. 2 tsp turmeric powder
9. 2 tsp dried curry leaf powder
10. seasonings whole spices: cinnamon, cloves, star anise, fennel seeds,cumin seeds, curry leaves

For the paste
1. 1/4 cup onion chopped
2. 1 tbsp coriander seeds
3. 1 tsp pepper corns
4. 1 tsp cumin seeds
5. 3 red chilies

In a bit of oil saute the onions followed by the other ingredients. Cool and blend with the minimum amount of water.

1. In a kadai heat 2 tsp of oil and add the whole spices and when they start to turn color and a nice smell comes add the onions and green chilies and saute till the onions become brown.
2. Now add the garlic and ginger and saute for minute followed by chicken and turmeric powder, saute for 4-5 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes and salt, saute for a minute, cover with a lid and let the chicken cook for another 6-8 minutes.
4. Add the paste and let it cook on medium low heat till the curry comes together about 8 minutes.
Alternately - 1-4 can all be dumped together in a pressure cooker and cooked for 2 whistles.
5.Put the flame on low, add the whipped yogurt and let simmer for a few more minutes.
The yogurt gives the curry a nice creamy texture and taste.

Serve with rice or chapatis.


  1. It feels nice that people have really started to make amends and save the environment. Toronto has already banned plastic bags and they are now being sold at 5 cents each. I am nowadays seeing a lot of local masses turning to tote bags and reusable bags for grocery shopping.
    I wish something like this begins to take effect even back home in India, very soon!
    By the way, chicken curry looks awesome!

  2. I like your agenda for the new year even more than the chicken curry -- considering how much I love your recipes, that's saying alot! :)

    Kudos to you, ISG -- for showcasing concerns such as this. I have been thinking about my own consumer habits of late -- thanks for the nudge to do something about it.

  3. We don't have a law here yet, but some shops have said that we have to bring our bags or pay 5-10 cents per bag.

    Outsourcing has many ways :)

    I always wondered what people do for meat products, coz veggies can be grown without chemicals but how about products like fish which consume wastes dumped in the sea. Even for chicken they say cage free and stuff like that but Is there something called organic fish??? :)

  4. YUM!!! Sounds fab! I will make in the next few weeks and post results on my new blog (good or bad...based on my cooking skils, not your recipe)...I'll let you know when the post gets there!

    Cross your fingers that I can pull it off!

  5. You are absolutely right on the freshness factor. Atleast here we were able to get vegetables as fresh as it could and I avoid getting them from super markets where the veggies were refrigerated to prevent aging. And one New Year resolution is to become a vegetarian. I was for some 12 years before child birth and now again returning to my world of veggies :) The cury looks delicious though ;)

  6. I guess it matters to all places and things on how one grows. Even vegetables taste so wonderful if it's from your garden right..hope everybody start thinking abt it..chicken gravy looks good..another variety for me to try

  7. Chicken goes to China to be packaged?????????? That's the craziest thing I've heard in a while. I don't bother with coconut at all but if I need to, I buy coconut milk in small packs. Imagine my surprise when I learnt that it comes from Thailand and not from Kerala! Guess I'll be hearing next that mango juice here is made in Mexico!

  8. Here when I have the whance i buy from a farmer chickens and that is the best chicken. I am lucky that i don't have to pay that much as they are friends with my in laws.
    But they don't have it oftne.
    Love the chicken curry looks so yumm.
    Happy Newyear.

  9. I'm eager to hear about everything you share with us this year about ways to keep ourselves informed and make small changes.

    With the bags, I have completely gotten into the habit of taking my own canvas/cloth bags with me. I even reuse those thin produce bags several times (I knitted a sleeve to hold them together).

  10. Thanks for that write up...... It gets us to wear our thinking caps & what???? THINK!!!! not just think, but learn too... Yummy Chicken Prep....


  11. Ruchika a great point. I have heard pretty scary things about how fish is grown in China. Time to find out more. Organic fish - No I guess.

    Ms. M-C, Welcome! Keeping my fingers crossed yes.

    Nirmala, going Veg thought has been running through my mind a lot these days too. Good Luck.

    Valli, absolutely right. Nothing like homegrown vegetables. They might not be 100% organic but far less chemicals get poured on them for sure.

    Sra, when I was visiting home this summer, my uncle was talking about how a coconut grove is not a guaranteed income anymore because foreign varieties (Thai and SriLankan) which had a much bigger fruit were being dumped in the market leading to erosion of prices for the local varieties. The reason being they yield more oil :( Mangoes from Mexico sold in India - not such a outlandish thought actually.

    HC, those are the absolute best from a farm - straight from the source.

    Nupur, you should start selling those nifty things - would be hot cakes when the bag tax take effect everywhere. Will try to do my best on that :)

    AshKuku - absolutely, small steps.

  12. The free range chicken must be tasting great like the "desi chicken" in India. The supermarket chickens really don't taste great except the cornish.

    I agree with you about the need to know about food sources etc. But there needs to be a balance. There are millions of people in the world who are not able to get even a single full meal. How is it possible to meet the rising food demands ?

    Industrial food production can be scary but then again organic and local farming does not always come cheap.

    The veggies and fruits that are so called fresh in Indian markets are as much laden with pesticide as anywhere else. So though local and fresh it is not necessarily the best. How do you decide which to choose and which to shun ?

  13. It is funny you mentioned how the chicken from a supermarket tastes different from that of a free range chicken. On the few occasions that I cook chicken I prefer to buy it at a Pakistan store where I can see them packaging it behind the meat counter and the taste is so much better.
    On a similar note, we were telling our American neighbors about how we can buy fresh chicken or goat meat in India and they were horrified at the idea. For them the clean, sterilized, hormone pumped chicken was a better alternative.
    As to plastic bags, I try to use as little as possible. I too have a lot of canvas bags I take to grocery stores.
    If it just a couple of items I have to purchase and I don't have my canvas bag, I have been known to walk out of Target and Albertson's with the items in my hands. :)
    I think they banned plastic bags in Mumbai a couple of years ago when they realized that they clogged up drains and caused mass flooding.
    Before I turn this comment into a soapbox, I will compliment your yummy chicken curry and sign off.

  14. Delicious curry. I have been buying the organic ones, not sure but a little consolation.

  15. Sandeepa, point taken. I am not in any way suggesting Organic products are better, in fact it will be never be an option as long as it is only a fad. I would rather buy unorganic(?) if it is fresh and grown by a smaller farmer. The chicken from the Dutch market was organic, grown by an Amish farmer and cost the same price as conventional chicken. Bigger is not always better.

    What I am talking about here is what companies like Monsanto are doing, making it harder and harder for farmers to keep away from using their bio-engineered seeds. They have thugs who enforce patent infringement. I bet you are aware of what NAFTA did to corn farmers in Mexico because of the lower quality, cheaper, subsidized corn being dumped into their country. Their livelihood gone they are illegal day laborers in California.

    Perhaps it is time for us to wake up and see what industrial food production, cereals, chicken or beef whatever they may has done to people.

    Oh sure about the pesticide laden veggies, again large scale farming for profit :(

    Besides all these I am more concerned about the diversity of crops which would in the long run hurt food production in a big way.

  16. Hi..My first comment to you.Have been a silent reader of many of your posts and I love each one of them.Looking forward to hear more posts from you about food sources here in US.
    I live in Montgomery County,PA and have visited lancaster many many times.Will surely check out the Amish store next time I am there.If you are in the Downingtown area I would suggest the Kimberton Whole foods.I shop all my free range-pastured chicken,eggs,cream for butter/pastured butter ,Milk form them.

  17. Love your agenda for the new year! It is so strange, just today morning I was thinking about the same food topics like killing diversity, not eating local and in-general the industrialization of food that is going on around us. Since you look interested in this topic, if I may suggest, take a look at the documentary Food Inc. by Michael Pollan if you get a chance. It was an eye opener for me on these same topics.. just a treasure lot of information and a lot of food for thought!

    Chicken curry looks delicious :)

  18. Cilantro, IMO, I am not expert but by practice, organic chicken is better than the conventional/industrial chicken. Fresh and small farm raised is slowly getting more popular. Look around, you might find one.

    Shilpa, thanks for the comment and for being a regular reader. Will do surely. I live in Montgomery County, MD :)

  19. I completely agree with you ISG. When I go to the co-op to give classes, I buy chicken there and there is a world of difference in taste.

  20. Happy New Year Indhu. I sure could use this awesome looking/sounding chicken curry now. We all got under the weather after a grand vacation.

    I started getting chicken from Sprouts (Farmers market/whole good)> They sell organic, and has a lot of variety like ground, chicken sausages, spicy sausages which the super markets don't carry.. all at very reasonable price.

  21. Indo

    Don't get me wrong. I am all for Organic products. When it comes to dairy, poultry, eggs I definitely feel organic is better, not for taste but because I am afraid of all the hormones etc. that go in regular products.

    Even veggies I think organic is better if we can afford it.

    The "Local" food is something I am very confused about. What is "Local" ? If I am buying grapes from California as opposed to that from Chile is that local ? If we compare "food miles" via transport cost etc. maybe the Chilean grapes have a lesser carbon footprint. (

    Also in this global world where people are exposed to cuisine from all over the world how can we go "Local" without restricting our menu ? How can we eat a diverse, healthy diet if we eat only "Local" ?

    People in India these days buy and cook veggies like broccoli and avocado which I had never even heard of before coming to US. Imagine the distance that veggie must have traveled to the consumer in India.

    I am sorry but I think "Going Local" is more of a fashion in the Western World these days just like buying red cabbage from Reliance Fresh is a fad in India.

    Local is definitely fresher and tastier and sustaining local farming is a very good initiative but how logical and realistic is it in today's world.

    Sorry for the HUUUGE comment

  22. Hi Indo, thanks for the welcome girl. Yeah, life was tough and not cooking much at all. Just posted some old dishes I had baked few months ago. Wish I could say I am motivated but not at all.
    Anyway, it's bloody cold here too, below freezing and expecting snow this Friday!!!!
    Chicken curry, I could have any time. Trisha is here, will be gone this Sunday, so I might try this for her. She will be back again in March.
    Can't say I am back to normal 100% but I will try, absolutely no MOJO!!!
    Have a wonderful 2010.

  23. Another good piece from you Indo. even I also made this a resolution to make my bit to save the Earth. here most of the super markets are charging for the carry bags and they are offering bio-degradable plastics. from last year I have started growing some vegetables and this year also my veggie patch makes me proud. have grown Mint also (following your way).
    Chicken looks great. Hubby would love to polish that with some tawa roti.

  24. Chicken sounds appetizing!! Happy New Year!

  25. I so agree Indo. I hated the chicken I got at the grocery stores, I tried the "organic" ones at Whole Foods, they didn't taste any better and I was staying away from them. But I finally found something I liked in the local co-op and found out it was free-range. Taste and nutritionally, no doubt, it's far superior to the CAFO chickens. I was getting mine all last summer and fall from an Amish farmer but sadly, he doesn't start selling until summer again. I've been able to find free-range ones at Trader Joe's but they don't even come close taste wise.

    To answer Bong Mom's questions, I too was under the same impression but when they are available I prefer local over organic, because for one they are picked at the peak of their freshnees when they are more nutritious and two, I can talk to the growers to find out how they've grown them.

    I look forward to reading your posts Indo. I love how you always discuss topical issues and food and its sources are something we all need to know and care about.


  26. Btw, Food Inc. is a must see for anyone who cares about the food they eat. I highly recommend it.


  27. Ive tried something like this only recently...and i must say its only today that i read ur blog in detail..outstanding....inspiring...
    stands out!

  28. This is a great theme for your blog. Those who think that the chicken production in India is more 'natural' than the US - think again.

    Big factory farms like Venky's hatchery etc have taken up all the worst western practices: antibiotics given to chickens (thus humans eating them develop antibiotic resistant illnesses), hormones, cruel practices (debeaking birds, caging them, grinding up male chicks, etc.)

    Going veg is definitely the right thing to do (though tempted by yummy recipes like this one). Maybe go veg 3 to 4 days a week, and on the other days, eat non-veg at most for one meal. That way you can improve your environmental impact, and still enjoy some traditional yummies.

    Bongmom: avocadoes are commonly grown in cooler areas of South India (e.g. Bangalore etc.). They are not something completely outlandish or exotic.

  29. Good post, ISG! (yeah, still catching up on my friends' blogposts!) I think all states and countries too, should follow suit with taxing/charging for plastic bags. In India, we always used to carry cloth bags for grocery/veggie shopping but now, am saddened to see stores using thick plastic bags for everything. What I am thrilled about are the fresh veggies available at your doorstep (at least in Mysore, not sure about BLR) every morning. It is produce that has been plucked a few hours, if not few minutes, earlier.

    Finding the source of food and the kind of farming used is not always possible but being concerned consumers who are at least trying to be more aware of such things is a great start.


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