The year I turned 15, my Mom decided it was time I learnt the basics of cooking. If nothing else, she figured I could at least make myself breakfast without having to yell for her when I’m hungry. Starting with the classic rule to making the perfect hard boiled egg – where the yolk is firm, yet still melts at the touch of your tongue, I gradually moved on to more complicated things, like making perfect plain boiled rice – not mushy, not hard, but just right.
During the years since, I’ve played around with many of Mom’s classic favourites. Food she would only let us indulge in on special occasions, or when she was feeling slightly more generous. Every time I experimented with one of her classics, trying my best to add my own touch to it, I would keep note of the alterations I made. The next time we spoke, I would tell her of my experiments, only to get more tips on what else could have been altered and in what way. I would then go back into my kitchen and play around some more until I had it perfect to my taste. It would taste nothing like hers, but it wouldn’t be bad either. If I like it enough, I make it a part of my own collection – a stash of my tried and tested favourites that I always turn to when I want to please those I intend to feed.
Over the years, many of these recipes have featured over and over again at my dinner parties. Some, for the same group of people who always request it when they come over. With time, I’ve shared many of these with close friends, who succeeded in bribing me enough to persuade me to part with my secrets. Likewise, they never fail to let me know when they try it out, and especially when they’ve experimented and made changes to it, only to come up with something better suited to their tastes. As the recipes move around, being part of many alterations and tests, one thing always remains the same. It’s the circle we share, a cult of kinds, membered by those who love nothing more than a plate of good food and won’t stop till they get it. And so, the sisterhood grows.
COCONUT CHICKEN CURRY
Prep time: 10 min | Cooking time: 30 min | Serves: 2 as a main, 4 as a side
1-2 dried red chillies
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp light cooking oil
1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
5-6 curry leaves
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 cup coconut milk
2 large boneless chicken breasts, diced into 1-inch cubes
salt, to taste
water, as needed
Toast dried red chilies, cumin seeds and coriander seeds till fragrant. Grind in a food processor to fine powder and set aside.
Heat oil and saute garlic and curry leaves till fragrant. Add onions and fry for a few minutes till tender and pink.
Add in ground spices and turmeric, and fry for a few seconds before adding coconut milk. Allow it to come to a boil, and then add chicken pieces.
Season with salt and cook covered for 10-12 minutes till chicken is done, adding water if necessary.