Fall into Cooking Featured Recipe: Chicken Dhansak from Anjum Anand’s Anjum's New Indian
Autumn has always been one of my favorite times of the year. I love the weather turning cool, the leaves burnishing and the idea of getting back to comfort food of a lighter persuasion than wintry fare. The colors of the fall give rise to its vibrant seasonal ingredients which I love to use, one of my favorites of which is the bulbous butternut squash. It is smoother and silkier than pumpkin and works really well in Indian food. This chicken curry is a hearty, one-pot meal which is savory, slightly sweet, slightly tangy, very nutritious and highly satisfying, which makes it one of India’s (and England’s) best loved dishes. Serve with rice or naan bread. --Anjum Anand
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds, ground
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/4 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp pure red chile powder, or to taste
6 large cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
6 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced
Salt, to taste
2 medium tomatoes, puréed
2 lb chicken pieces, skinned
1 cup red lentils, rinsed well and soaked in water while you prepare and cook
3 1/4 cups water
4 small eggplants, halved lengthways (optional)
1 lb butternut squash, peeled and flesh cut into large chunks (optional)
1 tsp tamarind paste, or to taste
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp brown sugar or jaggery (optional)
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
Using a spice grinder or good pestle and mortar, make a fine powder of the whole spices. In a blender, make a fine paste of the ginger and garlic, the powdered spices, and a small splash of water until smooth.
Heat the oil in a nonstick saucepan and fry the sliced onion until well browned, around 8 minutes. Add the spice paste and salt and cook until all the moisture in the pan has evaporated, then fry the paste for another 2 to 3 minutes over low heat, stirring continuously. Add the tomatoes and a good splash of water, cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium–high heat or until the sauce is cooked and the oil starts to bubble at the sides.
Add the chicken and brown for a few minutes. Drain the lentils from their soaking water and add to the pan with 3 1/4 cups water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Add the eggplant, cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, then add the squash, if using. Cover again and cook until the chicken and vegetables are tender, another 10 minutes or so. Give the pan an occasional stir to make sure the lentils are not settling at the bottom.
Add the tamarind paste to taste, the garam masala and sugar. Check the seasoning and, using the back of the spoon, crush some of the lentils to thicken the gravy. Add a splash of warm water if it is too thick. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve.
More Recipe Excerpts from Anjum's New Indian
Consuming nearly as much Indian food as they do the traditional dishes of their sceptered isle, Britons have made the fragrances of tropical spices central to their cuisine. One of Britain�s most celebrated television chefs, Anand makes cooking Indian food at home much less daunting by simplifying its processes and showing how easy it can be to prepare and serve exotic ingredients. Anand enthusiastically surveys the cooking from all of India�s diverse regions, and she thoroughly explains what makes each area unique, from the familiar cooking of Punjab and Kerala to the distinctive offerings of Goa. With its spicy sweet taste and rich texture, West Bengal�s coconut and mustard shrimp appeal to any shellfish fan. A Gujarati stew of white and sweet potatoes with eggplant, parsnips, and beans offers a host of colors and flavors within a vegetarian dish. A glossary supplements Anand�s sprightly descriptions of individual dishes. --Mark Knoblauch