Last week, I had some long time friends over for dinner. It had been aeons since we’d seen each other and I owed them a dinner at my house. We have known each other for a long time, longer than I have known my husband! We always have a great time when we do get together and that’s got a lot to do with the fact that they love to cook and eat as much as we do.
I know that when I go over to their house, there is always something delectable and enticing on the table; warm, charred kebabs right off the grill or creamy, mango kulfi dripping syrupy goodness. They informed me that they have just bought a smoker and we should be ready for an invitation as soon as they have perfected the art of smoking! I can’t wait.
So, last week was my turn to entertain and I had to pull out all the stops. They love Indian and Pakistani food so I decided to treat them to some typical Indian foods that we eat in my family. My family originates from Hyderabad which is in Central/South India. The Hyderbadi cuisines takes its influence both from North Indian cooking (rich, creamy kormas and kebabs) and also from the South (vegetarian, tangy tamarind laden sauces with lots of peanut and coconut use) Hyderabadis are very serious about their food and all are considered great connoisseurs of cooking and eating. People moving to Hyderabad from different regions, countries and communities have also influenced and enriched its cuisine.
I love Hyderabadi food because I grew up eating it and it’s just really, really good. People who cook Hyderbadi cuisine are serious about their dishes and take the utmost pride in their food and hospitality. It’s a cuisine with great depth of flavour; layer after layer of flavour. It doesn’t have to be mouth searing hot and in most cases it’s not, but it’s the layering of spices, the use of nuts and dried fruits, the tang of the tamarind and the tropical coconut, where you experience the many simple yet deliciously complex flavours of Hyderabadi cuisine.
Majority of my menu last week was Hyderabadi. I made Hyderabadi biryani, spinach paneer, chicken 65, Bihari kebab, tomato chutney and this mirchi salan or chilli curry. This chilli curry is one of my favourites. It’s not meant to be eaten as a side dish as such, but more as a hefty condiment. It’s the condiment of choice when biryani is on the menu. Although, I like it with white rice and soft white bread (I’ll eat it with anything really) just as much.
Since it is a chilli curry, it will be hot, but you can minimise the heat by removing the chilli’s innards and frying or by boiling the chillies before adding to the gravy. I removed and discarded the seeds and the white ribs of most of the chillies and then fried them.
The addition of the coconut and the tamarind makes this a dish with strong South Indian influence. The onion and coconut impart a little sweetness, the chillies and spices add depth and some heat, and the tamarind rounds it all off by giving it a tangy finish. Your mouth will be dancing with all the exotic flavours.
There are a few steps beforehand to complete like dry roasting the spices, soaking the tamarind and frying the chillies, but once all that is complete, the dish comes together fairly quickly. I like to use wet tamarind block that can be found at Asian stores, usually by the Thai goods. There is tamarind paste available and you can use it but it is stronger and you need less of it. I find that it tastes metallic for some reason and so usually, I try and find the wet tamarind block.
- 10-12 green chillies, long variety like Serrano or Cayenne
- ¼/59mL vegetable or Canola oil
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoon ginger, minced
- 1 tablespoon dessicated coconut (not sweetened flaked)
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- tamarind, golf ball size or 1 teaspoon paste
- 11/2 cups/354mL hot water
- 12-15 curry leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Prepare the chillies first; keep intact but split down the middle.
- Remove the seeds and white ribs (they don't have to be totally clean)
- Soak in cold water for about 30 minutes.
- Put the tamarind in 11/2 cups warm water and let soak and soften.
- Meanwhile, dry roast the spices and grind.
- In a small, heavy skillet or pan, dry roast the cumin seeds, sesame seeds and coconut, one at a time.
- Roast until lightly golden and fragrant. Once cooled, grind all together in a spice grinder.
- In the same pan, add a drop of oil and brown the onions.
- Once the onions are browned, cool slightly and grind in a blender or food processor until fairly smooth. Add a drop of water if needed.
- Remove the chillies from the water and dry them.
- In a medium pan or skillet, add the ¼ cup of oil, fry the chillies until lightly brown.
- Remove the chillies from the oil and put aside.
- In the same oil, add the curry leaves and allow to splutter for a minute or two.
- Add the onion paste, garlic and ginger. Cook for minute.
- Add the ground spices, coriander powder and turmeric powder. Cook for a minute.
- Add the chillies and mix. Cook for a minute or two.
- Strain the tamarind water, squeezing the tamarind to get all the tang.
- Add the water to the pan with the chillies.
- Bring up to a simmer and cover.
- Cook until oil begins to float on top, about 15-20 minutes.
- Stir occasionally to make sure onions are not sticking to the bottom.
- Add more water if needed for consistency.
- It should be thick, paste like masala.
- Add the salt and check, add more if desired.
- The sauce should have a spicy, tangy after taste.
- (You can add more tamarind water if you want it tangier)
- Take off the heat.
- Curry can be served hot, warm or room temperature. It's even good cold.
- Serve with biryani as a side.
- Tastes great with white rice too, soft bread and Indian flatbreads called parathas.
This is one of my favourite dishes with biryani. Many people prefer yoghurt raita with theirs but not me, this green chilli curry or the similarly prepared eggplant curry is my favourite.
If you like biryani, try making this green chilli and have it alongside. You will not be sorry!
Hope you’re all having a great week. We got some unexpected snow yesterday afternoon and I had a wonderful time watching beautiful, huge snowflakes fall and within a few hours, everything was covered in a pristine white blanket. Today, the sun is out, the skies are a vibrant blue and that frosty, white blanket is dripping away.
Time to get into the kitchen.