(not) Lost in Translation

The first time I visited Casey in Paris, his mom gifted us an Indian cooking class. We made chicken in a thick, turmeric infused yogurt sauce; a deep and heavily spiced channa masala; potatoes with curry leaves and coconut milk; chapatis; and, a banana and semolina dessert. Between five of us (Casey, his mom, two of their close friends, and myself), we still had left overs. I never recreated the recipes verbatim, but channa masala creeps its way into out recipe rotation occasionally. I’d love to recreate the potato and curry leave dish, but lack curry leaves (suggestions?).

This past spring, we decided to make our Indian cooking classes with Poonam tradition. The classes are private, in Poonam’s large (by Paris standards) kitchen. Aside from learning how to make the dish, Poonam talks about the traditions surrounding the food, her experiences with what you’re making. The class is part demonstrative, part hands on. I even did my best at mixing the Pooris dough – I’m still not very talented at it.

Maybe it’s one of those skills that comes with practice.

Craving Indian food, I opened the recipe file I’d been sent after the class. Despite the recipe being in French, Casey did fairly well translating. In the end both of us learned cuillère à café and cuillerée à soupe. Thats teaspoon and tablespoon for future reference! Excellent teamwork resulted in a delightful  butter-free butter chicken.

Here is the English translation below, and a link to Poonam’s website. (Yes, it’s in French.)

Butter Chicken

  • 250 grams boneless skinless chicken breast, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 8oz cup of 2% greek yogurt
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons Tandori spice
  • 6-8 tablespoons pureed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1-2 teaspoons Garam Masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 cardamom pods, lightly broken
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ground cashew nuts
  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek leaves (if available, if not feel free to leave out)
  • Cream or coconut milk – optional
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the yogurt and tandoori. Coat the chicken with the yogurt tandoori mixture. Saute the onions with cardamom pods, cloves, and salt. Add the tomato puree, tomato paste, and ground cashew nuts. Mix, combine, and allow to cook for about five minutes. Add some water (to thin the sauce) or tomato sauce and simmer for 10 minutes.

In a separate skillet, cook the chicken in 2 tablespoons oil. Once cooked, add the tomato sauce along with honey, Garam Masala, and dried fenugreek leaves. Simmer for five minutes. Add 3-5 tablespoons of cream or coconut milk, combine.

Serve over whole grain rice with cilantro for garnish.


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