The day I discovered Dini’s Flavor Blender was a happy one. I was looking for a chicken curry of pretty much any kind, as long as it featured tomatoes. I had recently created beetuto and really wanted to see how it worked in Indian food. Dini’s beautiful recipe looked delectable. Normally I’ll scan a dozen different recipes searching for a the right template to work from, but this recipe looked like a winner right from the start.
Obviously the tomatoes weren’t the only thing that had to change. The beetuto worked well enough the first time around, but I still felt that, like many beet-based sauces, it lacked a certain crispness that seems inherent even to canned tomatoes. There is a spring in the step of tomatoes that have only just been cooked down, and that’s what I wanted to recreate. Finally I hit on the combination of ground cilantro stems and lemon juice, what ultimately became Bright. The peppers were also an obvious and significant loss, so to compensate I amped all of the other spicy elements, increasing the garlic, onion, and supplementing the fresh ginger with the dried (yes—add them both). The final kick is provided by Grains of Paradise and Indian long pepper.
- oil for sauté (given the coconut milk finish, coconut oil is a nice choice here)
- 1 medium or large onion, minced finely
- 6 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
- 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
- 2 teaspoon dried ginger
- 6 – 7 curry leaves (Some people substitute bay leaves. I’m not an advocate. I’d rather go without.)
- 3 tablespoons roasted Sri Lankan curry powder
- 1 teaspoon Grains of Paradise, ground
- 1 teaspoon Indian long pepper, ground
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- salt to taste
- 2 pounds chicken, legs and thighs, bone-in
- 2 cups beetuto
- 1 6 ounce can coconut milk
- 1 cube of Bright
- water as needed
1Using a large (and preferably heavy) saucepan, warm your oil using medium/high heat. Brown the chicken pieces, and remove to a plate. Start by using just a teaspoon of oil, as the browning may render some chicken fat into your pan, but be ready to add more as needed.
2Scrape the pan to loosen any chicken bits that adhere, refresh the oil as needed, and add the onions. Sauté for several minutes before adding the fresh ginger and garlic. Just a hint of caramelization here is good, but not too much. And remember that once you add the garlic and ginger the mixture is more likely to stick and burn.
3Once the onions are softened, add the curry mixture, grains of paradise, Indian long pepper, dried ginger, cinnamon, and curry leaves. (Several times I’ve forgotten the cinnamon and curry leaves. It was still delicious!) Cook for a few more minutes; as the spices absorb the oil and the moisture you’ll need to watch the heat. You want to begin cooking the spices and activating their flavor, but you really don’t want to char them.
4Add the chicken and the Beetuto and continue cooking over medium high heat until everything is up to temperature. Gradually add water to just shy of the desired consistency, then add the coconut milk and bring the whole mixture to a simmer. Taste for salt, and adjust to your liking. Cover and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
5Depending on the water content of your beetuto you’ll be adjusting the moisure content of the curry gravy by either adding more water or removing the lid and reducing the sauce. With about 5 minutes to go, add a cube of Bright
Serve over rice.