Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Chicken or the Egg?

Hello food friends, finally it is time for Guy to post. My first posting will be an introduction to my background and interest in food and it's cultural an emotional impact on my life. This first recipe is a unique mix of my home town Perth (Western Australia) and my father's home town of Calcutta (India). Now I'm not claiming that a simple chicken curry is unique or unusual, however through informal research I am yet to find any of my Indian, Australian or other friends that have knowledge of a "chicken and egg" curry, the egg being the novel ingredient. As far as I know this dish is spawned from the imagination of my mother and the curry obsessions of my father. As a quick background to this situation my father was born in Calcutta and raised there and in Darjeeling. Immigrating to Australia in the late 1950's he eventually met and married my mother. Perth at this time was not the cosmopolitan hub it has become, Indian restaurants were rare things in the 1960's. When my father's mother (Gran as I called her) moved to join us in Perth from her post Indian home in Britain, a campaign for my mother to learn Indian cooking from my grandmother began. I hope that as our postings continue, I will be able to revisit this story and others, that revolve around my families strange relationship with food and cooking. My fathers imaginary plate shooting and simian like calls of approval will be discussed later, but for now here's how one of my favorite dished goes.

The basic ingredients are variable in amount, the pictured pot makes about 3 quarts. It consists of one large potato cut into 2 inches cubes. 6 chicken legs (Skin on, or you can use any cut of chicken in a relative amount, bone and skin cuts prefered for the best flavor!), half a large onion, 4 cloves of garlic and 6 large hard boiled eggs. Begin by slicing the onion and garlic and browning it in oil and a small pat of butter. Indians would use ghee (clarified butter), but that can be hard to come by, and in my opinion dose not change the taste dramatically. Once browned add the curry herbs. This too is a point of contention with purist. My mum would often use a curry paste at this point, Bolst's or Fern's being the best brands, some believe that the curry should be created from the distinct indian herbs that make up a curry powder. Here's my solution. One large tablespoon of any curry paste you like.2 heaping teaspoons of ginger powder. 2 teaspoons of Gram Masala, one teaspoon tumic, 6 chardamon pods, 3 bay leaves, and liberal sprinklings of black pepper, chili flakes and salt. As with all cooking, experimentation with variations of the theme is the best way to find the results you want.
So once these herbs are mixed in with the browned onions add the Potato, Chicken and eggs. coat these ingredients with the goop in the pot. Next add about 2 cups of water or enough to submerge the contents, then set the pot to simmer. Cover with the lid and stir the curry every 15 minutes, whilst simmering for 2 hours. One hour in I like to add peas or green beans, frozen seems to work as good as fresh. This is one of those stew like dishes where it tastes even better after having cured over night.

I must have eaten this meal hundreds of times as a kid growing up, and like to refer to it as "legs and eggs". I love to cook it and enjoy it as much now as in my childhood. It is the comfort food of my family. This dish when cooked by my mum, (and as it turned out on my fathers last visit, also by me) can elicit a number of strange vocal and visual responses of contentment from my father. I wish you luck with the chicken and the egg curry, and should someone begin to whoop like a howler monkey at the table, know then that you have achieved the desired result!

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