Flavourful chicken treat

LEARNING how to cook in my mother’s kitchen is always an invaluable experience, mainly because I learn how to improvise to make simple, traditional food better.

When it comes to Indian recipes with chicken, we are spoilt for choice because of the numerous styles at our disposal.

With chicken being a cheap and versatile meat, it can take on so many flavours.

While recipes for curries more often carry the same list of ingredients, this recipe for chicken samar, a moderately spicy tomato-based dish, is a take on the ayam masak merah where its base is more often dried chilli sambal and tomato sauce.

After much inquisition, I was told “samar” is a colloquial

cooking term among the Indian Muslim community for this red hued gravy with accented emphasis on the ginger and garlic paste, chilli powder, kurma powder (or garam masala) and the cashew nut paste, all for added texture and flavour.

This dish is savoury and flavourful with just enough spiciness to enjoy with hot, plain rice or to enhance tomato rice.

If you like it to be more spicy, simply add one teaspoon of chilli powder.

In most Indian recipes for similar meat dishes, the back-bone is the fragrant ginger garlic paste.

The cashew nut paste gives the gravy extra body and thickness. Kashmiri chilli powder is used in addition to the usual chilli powder because the former lends deeper spicy heat to the dish.

Chicken samar1/2 chicken (about 1kg) washed and cut into small pieces

MARINADE1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon ginger and garlic

paste (1 inch fresh ginger and four cloves garlic pureed).

1 tablespoon chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 1/2 tablespoons Kashmiri chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon kas kas powder

1 tablespoon kurma powder (can be replaced with garam masala)

1/2 teaspoon fennel powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cashew nut paste (soak 40gm cashew nuts in 2 tablespoons water for 1/2 hour and puree until smooth).

INGREDIENTS2 tablespoons oil

2 pandan leaves, tied into a knot

3 bay leaf

1 stalk lemongrass, bruised to release fragrance

1 cinnamon stick

8 cloves

6 cardamom

2 star anise

3 dried chillies

3 cm ginger

1 medium onion, sliced

2 sprigs coriander leaves, chopped

6 sprigs mint leaves, chopped

1 cup water

1 cup canned tomato soup

1 tablespoon tomato paste

salt to tasteMETHOD:1) In a big bowl, coat chicken with marinade ingredients and set aside for 30 minutes.

2) Heat oil on medium heat in

a pot. Add pandan leaf, bay leaf, lemongrass, spices, dried chillies and ginger and sautee until fragrant.

3) Add in chopped onions and mix until evenly cooked and onions are translucent.

4) Add chopped mint and

coriander leaves and toss until everything combines. Leave for five minutes.

5) Add marinated chicken. Stir until well combined and leave on medium heat under lid until chicken is half cooked and sizzling for about 10 minutes.

6) Add tomato soup and paste and mix well until chicken is evenly coated. Simmer on low heat until chicken is cooked. Serve with hot rice.

Note: An indication that the chicken is fully cooked is when the bone sticks out of the flesh. For those who prefer more gravy, you can add some hot water to the desired consistency.

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