Chicken Nilgiri

This is partially invented. I use Jamie Oliver’s curry pastes when I want homemade Indian food. They’re very simple and easy to customize (after you’ve made them a couple of times and gotten a feel for them). So I used them as a template to prepare a copycat recipe from my favorite restaurant. I’ve never seen this dish in other Indian places (maybe it was invented by the restaurant itself!), so it was a bit of a crapshoot, but we really enjoyed the results.

This involves spices that aren’t necessarily pantry staples. If you make your own curry pastes, though, you will use these at a pretty good clip. Look at an Asian market for some of the odder ones.

Toasting Spices
1 t fenugreek, whole
1 t fennel, whole
1 t cumin, whole
1 t black peppercorns, whole
1 t coriander, whole

Other Paste Ingredients
2 cloves garlic
fresh ginger, peeled thumb-sized piece
2 fresh green Thai chilies
1 T turmeric
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t salt
1 T coconut milk
2 T groundnut oil (I use peanut)
equal amounts fresh cilantro and mint (about 3/4 c loosely packed of each should do)

Toast the whole spices in a skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant and slightly browned (watch the fenugreek, it’s usually yellow). Remove from heat and set aside to cool. When cooled, put them through a spice grinder or a strong food processor. Combine toasted spices and all the other ingredients in a food processor and blend to a smooth paste (you can drizzle in a little more oil if mixture seizes). If you’re not using the paste right away, put it in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to one week.

Curry Sauce
1-2 T ghee or vegetable oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1/4 t asafoetida or hing powder
2/3 lb boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite size pieces
1 recipe Nilgiri paste
2 c plain yogurt
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
pinch sugar

In a Dutch oven, heat ghee or oil over medium high. Add onion and hing and cook, stirring frequently until onion is starting to turn transparent. Add chicken and cook, stirring frequently for 3-5 minutes, then add paste. Stir to distribute paste and cook for 1-2 minutes. Pour in yogurt and chickpeas and stir well, then lower heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes. If any bitter flavors occur, add pinch of sugar. Serve hot with rice or naan.

2 thoughts on “Chicken Nilgiri”

  1. Sarah

    About Hing: Hing (also called Asafoetida) is weird smelling, but absolutely necessary to making Indian food taste good. And once it hits hot oil, that offputting smell turns into something wonderful – it provides a structure to (my) homemade curries that allows the spices to blend and taste like a cohesive whole, instead of just a jumble of spices.

  2. Jen

    I will have to try this. Last weekend we made our first attempt at Indian food with chicken tikka masala and homemade naan bread on the grill. I have to work on the naan a bit (wasn’t as bubbly as I would have liked). And I’m never really sure where to get Indian spices in my area.

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