Back in my days at Oklahoma State University, I had the pleasure of living in a duplex next to three very nice guys from India. Each night they would cast open the front door and the fragrant aroma of real Indian food would fill the quad, sometimes they’d show me how to cook. Often, my roommate and I would find ourselves sitting on the front porch enjoying the most delicious dishes while swapping cultural stories. It was a fantastic time in my life and one my taste buds will never forget.
2 teaspoons – coriander seeds (or powder)
2 teaspoons – cumin seeds (or powder)
1 teaspoon – turmeric
½ teaspoon – ground black pepper
½ teaspoon – cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons – sunflower oil (or canola oil)
2 chicken breasts
¼ cup – cashews, toasted
1 large yellow onion
1 can – diced petite tomatoes
2 tablespoons – clarified butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon – ginger, fresh chopped and minced (or ginger paste)
½ – jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
2 bay leaves
3 star of anise
1 can – coconut milk
1 tablespoon – lemon juice
1 tablespoon – cilantro
Note: Star of anise is a spice not typically found at the corner store but may be found at a higher-end retailer and certainly in an Asian market if you’re fortunate to have one. It is a strong spice and one necessary for this dish.
Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; do not add any oils or butter. Once the seeds begin to pop, remove from heat and grind in a food mill or using a mortar and pestle.
Tip: You may also use spice powders to save time.
In a bowl, stir together the toasted seeds, ½ teaspoon of salt, turmeric, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and sunflower oil until well mixed. Cut the chicken into small cubes, add to the bowl and coat well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for an hour or overnight.
Slice the onion as thin as possible. Drain the juice from the can of tomatoes, if using fresh tomatoes, remove seeds, peel the skin and chop the flesh, set aside. In a sauté pan over high heat, warm the clarified butter. Add the onion and sauté until it begins to soften, 4-6 minutes. Next, add the garlic, jalapeno, ginger, bay leaves and star of anise and continue to sauté until golden brown, 6-8 minutes.
Add the chicken and sauté until the meat begins to brown, 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring until softened, 3 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until chicken is tender, 20 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and simmer for 5 more minutes.
When serving, garnish with toasted cashews and cilantro.