I’ve started exploring a neglected tome on my cookbook shelf: 1,000 Indian Recipes by Neelam Batra, with the belief that there may be nothing better than spicy, fragrant Indian food in the depths of winter. Everything I’ve tried from it is layered with wonderfully complex flavors and spices from across India’s varied regions that I never dreamed I’d be able to reproduce in my own kitchen. Most of the recipes are paleo-friendly (especially if you include dairy from happy, grass-fed cows in your diet) and many offer new ways to prepare veggies beyond my standby method of roasting everything under the sun with some sea salt, so that’s promising!
I suggest getting to an Indian market for some of the ingredients listed below – they might be tough to find otherwise and are often inexpensive there.
Cashew and Poppy Seed Chicken Curry, adapted from the original recipe in 1,000 Indian Recipes by Neelam Batra
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped raw cashew nuts
- 2 teaspoons white poppy seeds (you can substitute black poppy seeds if that’s all you can find)
- 1/2 cup hot water
- Seeds from 10 green cardamom pods (crack open the pods with the flat side of a knife)
- 2 large cloves garlic
- 6 quarter-size slices peeled fresh ginger
- 3 scallions, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, including soft stems
- 1 to 2 fresh green chili peppers, such as serrano, stemmed
- 1 cup plain yogurt, whisked until smooth (I used Maple Hill Creamery full-fat yogurt from my local Whole Foods because it’s from grass-fed cows. You can use coconut milk here if you’re avoiding dairy.)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground fenugreek seeds or methi powder (finely ground fenugreek seeds)
- 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 2 pounds chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup heavy cream or water
- 1/4 cup dry-roasted cashew nuts (roast raw cashews on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees until they’re golden brown)
Optional side to mop up that sauce: Paleo naan with cilantro and garlic
Soak the cashews and poppy seeds in hot water for about 1 hour. (If you’re short on time, use boiling water and soak for 30 minutes.) Transfer to a blender (or use a large bowl and immersion blender), add the cardamom seeds, garlic, ginger, scallions, cilantro, green chili peppers, and yogurt/coconut milk, and blend to make as smooth as possible, about 1 minute.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the cumin, fenugreek, and black pepper. They should sizzle upon contact with the hot oil. Quickly add the coriander, garam masala, salt, and chicken. Cook, stirring, until the chicken is golden, about 5 minutes. Remove to a bowl.
To the same pan, add the cashew-yogurt mixture and cook over high heat, stirring as needed, until most of the juices evaporate and the mixture becomes highly fragrant, about 10 minutes.
Add the chicken to the pan, reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan, and cook about 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Adjust salt, if you wish. Add the cream (or water) and boil a few minutes. Garnish with the roasted cashew halves, and serve.