India is one of the largest tea producers in the world, Indians are also one of the largest tea consumers in the world. Darjeeling tea & Assam tea are two of the most famous black teas from India. Drinking tea is supposed to have many health benefits: tea is rich in antioxidants, heart healthy and promotes better overall immunity.
The Hindi word for tea is simply “chai”, but tea with fragrant spices is known as “masala chai”. Although I am a big coffee drinker, I do enjoy a nice cup of tea every now & then. Indian masala chai is so fragrant and aromatic, I thought: “Dare, I try this in a curry?” Well, I did and it was delicious! The delicious flavor of tea infuses the curry very gently and provides a wonderful depth of flavor.
The state of Kashmir is located in Northern India, in the region of the Himalayas. It was a strong trade route between the Middle East, Central Asia and the rest of India. This distinctive chicken dish has those wonderful Middle Eastern and Persian influences making it very unique. Kashmir is well known for their use of dried fruit and nuts and this particular recipe is no exception. This recipe also lends itself well to the combination of tea & aromatic sweet spices in a savory application.
It is important to brew the tea a little differently for cooking purposes, gently warm about 2 cups of water on very low heat and add 2 tsp of black tea (Darjeeling or Assam). I prefer to use loose leaf tea, but you can use tea bags if you prefer. Turn off the heat & let the tea steep for just 5 minutes. Then either strain the tea if you are using the loose leaf variety (or remove the tea bags), the tea is now ready to use.
KASHMIRI CHICKEN CURRY with tea
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken cut into 1½ inch pieces
1 large onion, finely chopped
1” piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
¼ cup blanched almonds, ground into a fine paste
3-4 green cardamom pods, gently crushed (or 1 tsp cardamom powder)
2 bay leaves
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
½ tsp smoked Spanish paprika
½ tsp ground coriander powder
½ tsp ground cumin powder
½ tsp garam masala
¼ tsp red chili powder, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups lightly brewed tea
½ cup cream
3-4 tbsp oil (vegetable or canola)
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish (or you can use mint leaves or a combination)
Using a spice blender, grind the green cardamom pods into a fine powder.
In a large mixing bowl, add together the ginger, garlic, ground fennel seeds, salt, pepper, red chili powder and half of the ground cardamom powder with 1 tbsp of the oil. Mix well and marinate the chicken pieces, cover and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hrs (overnight is best).
In a large deep skillet or wok on medium high heat, add 2 tbsp of oil. When hot add the cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and star anise. Stir fry 2-3 minutes until slightly browned and fragrant. Then add the onions and stir fry until golden brown (around 8-10 minutes). Now add the spices (paprika, ground cumin powder, ground coriander powder, garam masala, ground cardamom powder, salt & pepper). Stir & let the spices fry for a few minutes before adding both the almond paste & tomato paste. Mix well to combine & add the chicken (along with any marinade) & the tomatoes. Stir to coat the chicken piece evenly among the spices. Now add the tea, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the chicken is fully cooked and tender (around 25-30 minutes). Stir occasionally & finish the dish with the cream. Garnish with fresh mint or cilantro leaves and serve with hot rotis and fragrant Basmati rice.