Cashew Chicken with Cilantro Sauce
Adapted from 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer
After checking this book out of the library last year and reading through some of the recipes, I knew it was a book to own. I like to check cookbooks out of a library before buying them to make sure I will use them. In the end, if I know I will cook from the book, I prefer to buy it. For me, cookbooks are a bit difficult to only use from the library. Especially large, in depth books. 660 Curries, for instance, has many new spices for me, so I need to plan in advance for these recipes, at least until I’ve become more familiar with the cuisine, spices, and usage.
Cashew Chicken with Cilantro Sauce looked like a good starting recipe, because there are relatively few ingredients, so it’s less intimidating. Many curry recipes throughout the book do use a lot of ingredients, however they are mainly spices, so they are not difficult. I plan to start off with the recipes using fewer spices and lentils and gradually build my repertoire. This way I’m not buying 20 new spices and letting them all go stale before I get to use them.
Since I’m relatively new to cooking Indian food I followed the recipe almost exactly. The main difference, I used leftover pre-cooked chicken instead of raw. I highly recommend making your own Punjabi garam masala (recipe provided). Since there are so few ingredients and spices, you want the best flavor you can get.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4 servings
2 red onions, small – 1 chopped coarsely; 1 cut in half and thinly sliced
¼ cup raw cashews
¼ cup packed cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons canola oil (or other neutral oil)
1 ¼ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast – about 2, (or precooked chicken breasts) cut into 1-inch wide strips
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon Punjabi garam masala (recipe below – yes, make your own!)
¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Make the Punjabi garam masala (recipe below). Chop and slice the red onions. Cut your chicken into strips.
Into a blender add ½ cup water, the coarsely chopped onion, ¼ cup raw cashews, and ¼ cup packed cilantro. Puree until smooth.
Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. It’s best to not use a non-stick skillet. You want the flavors to build up on the bottom of the pan.
When the oil begins to shimmer, add the sliced onion and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion slices are a light brown color, about 5 minutes. Turn down the heat if the onions get too dark, too quickly.
When the onions have lightly browned add in the cilantro-cashew sauce and continue to cook over medium heat. Stir occasionally and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. The sauce will have become darker, with oil coming out around the edges. A thin amount of browned paste will be on the bottom of the skillet (brown, not black). This will take about another 5-7 minutes.
Add in the chicken pieces and cook until the meat is seared on all sides. About 2-4 minutes. The brown layer on the bottom of the pan will have darkened a bit.
Now pour in ½ cup of water, scraping up the brown layer on the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon. This helps create a very flavorful sauce.
Sprinkle in the 1 teaspoon sea salt, the ½ teaspoon Punjabi garam masala, and ¼ to ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 8 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked. Stir occasionally.
Now uncover the skillet and raise the heat to thicken the sauce. Stir occasionally. Cook for about 5 more minutes.
Serve immediately on a bed of rice.
Punjabi Garam Masala
Makes – ¼ cup
This spice blend toasts whole spices, allows them to cool, and then grinds them to a powder. You can make this spice blend ahead of time and it will keep in an airtight container (away from sunlight) for about 2 months. I like to use a dry erase marker or wax crayon to write the date the mixture will “expire” on the bottom.
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon whole cloves
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon cardamom seeds from black pods (order from an online Indian grocery website)
3 cinnamon sticks, broken into smaller pieces
3 bay leaves (fresh or dried)
Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add all the ingredients above to the skillet and toast. Make sure to shake every few seconds and watch the spices closely. You want them toasted, not burned. The cumin with turn reddish brown as they toast, the bay leaves will become brittle, and the peppercorns will turn ash black. Everything will smell very fragrant in just a couple of minutes.
After 2 minutes transfer everything to a plate to cool. The spices need to be cooled to the touch before grinding otherwise they will cake up.
Once cooled grind the spices in a spice or coffee grinder until the mixture looks like finely ground black pepper.
Store in a tightly sealed container in a cool location, away from heat and light, for up to two months. Write the “expiration” date on the bottom of the jar.