Here is an Indian dish I developed several years ago, have perfected over time, and it’s been one of my favorite Indian dishes since. My family loves it and it’s always a hit with our dinner guests. The flavor is out of this world delicious. Multiple layers of flavor will keep your taste buds entranced the whole meal through.
Indian food is one of the most complex cuisines in the world. Indian meals are often prepared after Ayruvedic philosophy that insists the meal be balanced to include each of the following flavor components/characteristics: spicy-sour along with something pungent like garlic or onion, bitter (like fenugreek or lemon), astringent (like green vegetables or potatoes), and sweet (like chutney, fruit, or dessert). and it’s one that I particularly enjoy cooking. And while each of these components may not be present in one dish alone, the complete meal (including sides and condiments) will traditionally have each of these components represented. So next time you eat out at an authentic, traditional Indian restaurant, pay attention to the careful preparation that goes into the meal. It’s fascinating.
I love experimenting with the vast variety of spices that are common to Indian cooking. And it’s not just the ingredients that make Indian food so flavorful and delicious, it’s the various cooking methods involved. One dish can utilize several cooking methods in specific orders. Whether it’s sauteing, stir frying, stewing, steaming, tempering, caramelizing, slow cooking…everything is aimed at coaxing the maximum flavor out of each ingredient. Dry roasting whole spices before grinding them to a powder is essential to optimal flavor as is frying whole spices in hot oil before adding the other ingredients. I love to cook – and eat – Indian food. And today I’m sharing one of my personal favorites with you: Balti Chicken with Tomatoes and Coconut. I’ve named it such because many of these particular spices and ingredients are commonly used in Balti cuisine.
A fabulous variety of spices and ingredients combine in this dish to make its flavor profile simply amazing. You’ll love it!
Now, don’t be intimidated fall into the trap of equating foreign spices with “difficult”. This dish is super easy to make and is ready in 30 minutes. You just need the right ingredients.
Before we get started, here is a list of some of the spices used that you may not already have in your spice cabinet. If you’re serious about Indian cooking, these are all spices you should have as they’re used again and again in various Indian dishes, so don’t worry – they won’t go to waste! You’ll them used in the other Indian recipes on my blog and there will be many more recipes to come. Some of these spices you can find in regular grocery stores. Others you will only find in your local Indian grocery store, if you’re lucky enough to have one. Otherwise, you can purchase them online and **I’ve provided links to where they can be conveniently purchased (just click on the name of the spice). My nearest Indian grocery is an hour away, but I usually order online anyway because I like to buy in bulk. It’s far cheaper that way and I go through them fairly quickly. And yes, as long as you store them in airtight jars (I use glass) in a dark cupboard, they (especially the whole spices) will last a long time without losing their flavor and aroma.
Nigella Seeds (aka, kalonji or onion seeds) – an amazing tasting spice
Curry Powder – I will be posting my own secret homemade curry powder in the near future – stay tuned!
Ground Cumin – I normally dry roast whole cumin seeds and grind them for optimal flavor, but I realize you may not want to take those extra steps
Ground Coriander – see remarks for ground cumin
Now that you’re equipped, let’s get started!
Chop up the garlic, ginger and cilantro
Dice up the chicken. For even more flavor, you can use dark meat (boneless, skinless chicken thighs).
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ketchup, sugar, paprika, chili powder, salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, cumin, coriander, and curry powder.
Add the shredded coconut and stir to combine.
Add the water and stir to combine.
Stir in the chicken pieces until thoroughly coated. No need to marinate for more than a few minutes.
Heat the ghee or oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the nigella and fenugreek seeds and fry for one minute until aromatic.
Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another minute.
Add the chicken mixture along with the bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the cherry tomatoes and fresh cilantro and simmer for another 3 minutes. The tomatoes should be tender but still “snappy.”
You will be amazed at how aromatic this dish is. It smells wonderful and tastes even better!
Serve with Basmati or jasmine rice and/or naan bread. Enjoy!
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast (or thigh meat), cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ cup ketchup (yes, ketchup is used regularly in Indian cooking today)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1½ teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1½ teaspoons chili powder (mild or spicy - your choice)
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1½ teaspoons poppy seeds
- 1½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1½ teaspoons ground coriander
- 1½ tablespoons curry powder
- ⅓ cup shredded dried coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
- ⅓ cup water
- 3 tablespoons ghee, or oil
- 1 teaspoon nigella seeds
- ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 2 teaspoons fresh minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ pint (1 cup) cherry or grape tomatoes
- ¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro
- Chopped cilantro for garnish
- Combine the ketchup and next 9 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the coconut and stir to combine. Add the water and stir to combine. Stir in the chicken until thoroughly coated. Set aside.
- Heat the ghee or oil in a large skillet until hot. Add the nigella and fenugreek seeds and fry for one minute until aromatic. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another minute. Add the chicken mixture and bay leaf, bring it to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cherry tomatoes and chopped cilantro and simmer for another 3 minutes until the tomatoes are tender but still a little "snappy." Add salt to taste.
- Serve with steamed Basmati or jasmine rice and/or naan bread.
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