Thursday, December 31, 2015

Sesame Chicken

Sesame chicken
Chicken with sesame seeds and spinach
Hello everyone! We got back from our Goan holiday but I was so caught up with my household chores and gardening that I was literally off the face of the internet. But since this is the last day of the year I thought it'd be better to end it with a request from a dear reader. The dish is sesame chicken.
Sesame is widely cultivated in our region and used in both sweet and savoury dishes. Around this time of the year and particularly during mid-January (Sankranti) til laddoos are made and consumed. In the neighbouring state of Meghalaya, sesame seeds are used in many dishes and as you drive past small towns and villages, the aroma of toasted sesame fills the air. It's a heady smell particularly when the weather is pleasant and you are peckish, you'd surely want to check out the source!!
In our cuisine we often use toasted sesame seeds to garnish, as well as add flavour, to the dish called mudru. The dried plant  (after the seeds are taken) are burnt and the ashes are used to make the alkali that is known as khari. Sesame seeds are known as shibling in my mother tongue.
Ingredients:
900 grams chicken cut into regular pieces
3 medium onions, peeled and sliced
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and diced
6 dried bird's eye chillies
1 tbs coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbs black pepper
3 tbs black sesame seeds
Salt to taste
2 bunches spinach
Coriander leaves for the garnish
3 tbs mustard oil
2-3 tejpatta 
Sesame chicken

Method: 
  • Make a paste of the onions, ginger and dried chillies. (Fresh chillies will also do but I am drying bird's eye chillies at the moment and it was convenient to grab some to add to this curry. And we like the heat too).
  • Marinate the chicken pieces with this paste as you prepare the rest of the ingredients. I marinated the chicken for an hour.
  • Wash the spinach leaves under running water to remove sand and grit. Pick the leaves from the stalks. (The stalks can be added to another dish later). Grind the leaves and set aside.  
  • Toast the coriander and cumin seeds together. Add the pepper too and stir till they crackle a bit and let out their unique aroma.  Take care that the spices do not burn. Remove and grind the mix to powder.
  • Toast the sesame seeds till they emit a nutty smell. Care must be taken so that they do not burn or the taste will be bitter. Remove and grind. Set aside.
  • Heat the mustard oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. When it comes to smoking point, add the tejpatta and the marinated chicken. Cook on a high flame for about 15 minutes. Turn to medium heat and cook till the chicken is more than half done.
  • Season with salt and add the mix of coriander, cumin and pepper. Stir well. Add a bit of water so that the curry does not catch at the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the spinach paste and cook for a few minutes. Add water depending on the thickness of the gravy that you want.
  • Check the seasoning and make adjustments, if needed. When the gravy starts to thicken, add the toasted and ground sesame paste. Stir till the curry is homogeneous and remove a few minutes later.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
This curry goes best with steaming hot rice. The addition of spinach was an afterthought but I loved it as it added more depth to the gravy. The dark colour might not be the most tempting but the curry was delicious. No wonder this is such a popular dish in our region.:)
I wish all my regular and new visitors a wonderful 2016
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