Who Put Buttermilk In My Curry?

23 May

When I first saw this post from Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks, I knew a few things immediately.

1. I wanted it right now.

2. That when I emailed it to the boy, he’d want it right now as well.

3. That I had to come up with an excuse to make it as soon as humanly possible.

and 4. That it would taste a helluva lot better with some chicken and a lot more heat.

Well, I didn’t have to wait very long. Saturday was beautiful, bright, sunny, and the boy was sick. Like, pitiful sick. Like, not moving from the couch sick. It was kinda heartbreaking. So, not to sound like June Cleaver or anything, but, when the boy gets sick, my immediate urge is to cook him something. And what better to try and scare away some nasty upper respiratory monsters than a wicked spicy curry?

I had my excuse!

Off I tromped to Dowel Quality Products to pick up some spices and other assorted oddities. If you live in NYC and have never been here, shame on you. If you’re visiting NYC and have some room in your suitcase (and you aren’t afraid of your clothes smelling like curry) stop by to pick up some wonderful spices, snacks and food and beauty products.

For this dish I only needed black mustard seeds but I was seduced by the green cardamom, kalonji (black onion seed, aka Nigella sativa), curry leaves and frozen paneer. I figured I could come up with some way to use them in the lentils I was planning to make to accompany the curry.

Alas, when I got home and was excitedly sniffing all my spices I realized something was amiss. I’ve never bought curry leaves before but I have a pretty solid suspicion that they shouldn’t smell like ammonia. Oh well, at least they were cheap!

I had to move into multi-culti mode then, because I just didn’t think that cardamom scented black lentils would be a strong enough flavor to cut through the boy’s head cold. I settled upon using some Pimenton de la Vera to add some serious heat and a lovely hint of smokiness that would be redolent of my favorite meat, bacon!

Just as Heidi said it would, the curry came together in a snap! The lentils, on the other hand, were as stubborn as cloned mules. They just would not cook. I didn’t add salt, I did nothing different from the last time I cooked them. I was expecting everything to be done in about 15 minutes, but those stupid little legumes just refused, taking well over 45 minutes to bend to my will. But, in the end, I got them. Not only were they cooked, they were damn tasty too… Bwaaahahahah… Oops, sorry, back to our regularly scheduled cooking show…

And just to keep with my Croatia obsession, we drank a wonderful white from the Island of Krk topped off with a little mineral water (aka bevanda style). The light acidity and fresh fruit sweetness of the wine really cut through the heat and flavors, and the lovely bubbliness from the water kept the whole meal feeling very fresh and healthy.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering about the rice, no, I did not suddenly become capable of cooking delicious, perfect rice. But I did buy it from someone who could.

Head below the break for my version of Heidi’s curry and a recipe for some multi-culti lentils.

Multi-Culti Lentils

prep time: 10 minutes ~ cooking time: who the hell knows, lentils are finickey little devils

  • 1 Onion, finely diced
  • 1 head (yes, head) Garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow Bell Pepper, diced
  • 2 very hot Chilies, cut in half (or if you’re very brave, minced)
  • Olive Oil
  • 3 handfuls Black Lentils
  • 4 or 5 Green Cardamom Pods
  • 2-3 tbsps Pimenton de la Vera
  • Saffron Threads
  • Water
  • 1 package frozen Paneer (generic “white cheese” often sold at Key Foods and Steve’s C-Town stoes in NYC and probably latin groceries in other places makes an excellent stand in if you can’t find paneer)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

In a pot or dutch oven over a medium flame heat a healthy glug of olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and peppers (both bell and chilie). Sweat until the onion becomes slightly translucent.

Add the lentils, cardamom and pimenton and stir. Add water to cover the lentils and toss in the saffron threads. Stir and cook, stir and cook, stir and cook. You’ll know when your lentils are done because, well, they won’t be hard anymore!

When they’re done, add the paneer and allow it to heat through.

Season with salt & pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Buttermilk Chicken Curry

prep time: 15 minutes ~ cooking time: 30 minutes

  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, sliced
  • 1/2 head Garlic, minced
  • 4 very hot Chilies, cut in half (or, if you’re very brave, minced)
  • 2 tbsps Black Mustard Seeds
  • 2 tbsps Kalonji (Nigella sativa seeds)
  • 2 tbsps Cumin Seeds
  • 2 tbsps Tumeric
  • the meat of one grocery store or home roasted Chicken
  • 3 cups Buttermilk
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Cayenne Pepper (to taste)

In a heavy bottom pot over medium heat sweat the onion, garlic and chilies until the onions just begin to brown. Add the mustard seeds and cook and stir until they are all popped. Add the rest of the spices, stir to incorporate. Add the chicken and stir to coat.

Turn the heat way down. Add the buttermilk and stir to incorporate and heat through. Do not let the curry boil!

Cook’s Note: The curry can actually hold at this point for quite some time. Mine had to because of the stupid lentils. I kept tasting it and would from time to time add more spices/buttermilk and at one point even a wee bit of lemon juice as the flavor matured over the extra 15 or so minutes it took for the stupid lentils to cook.

Stir one last time and adjust the seasonings adding salt and Cayenne (if needed) to taste. Serve with rice or naan and enjoy!

2 Responses to “Who Put Buttermilk In My Curry?”

  1. Sher May 23, 2006 at 8:00 pm #

    Looks delicious. I’ve had that happen with lentils. It’s VERY annoying! Love Paneer!

  2. kalyn May 24, 2006 at 10:05 pm #

    Hi Ann,
    Fun seeing the comment on Blogher and finding out how your blog was named. I found it on Food Porn Watch and have enjoyed visiting.

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