Does the world need another weeknight recipe for chicken? If it’s smothered in fresh mint and cilantro, garlic, ginger and chilies, I say yes. Today’s recipe from author, blogger, and Kolkata transplant Mallika Basu (aka Miss Masala) set my lips on fire (in a good way).
I used to think cooking Indian food at home was too complicated with all its special ingredients and freshly ground spices. But then I discovered Mallika’s brilliant cookbook, Miss Masala: Real Indian Cooking for Busy Living, a collection of easy, healthy recipes perfect for weeknight meals, and my life was transformed. I love Miss Masala so much that it’s the only cookbook I own TWO copies of — one for Paris, and one for my other itinerant home. (If you take one piece advice from this blog, let it be this: buy this book! I cook from it weekly. It changed my life.)
Along with cooking and writing, Mallika — who now lives in London with her husband and two adorable sprogs — is a high-powered PR executive. Today I’m thrilled to share her quick Indian cooking secrets!
On her regular Tuesday evenings:
I usually race home from home desperate to get a glimpse of the kids before they fall asleep. After I tuck them in, I turn my attention to the man, an ice cold glass of wine or gin and tonic and then start flinging doors open wondering what to cook for dinner!
On prepared vs. freshly ground spices:
I tend to use ready powdered spices during weekday cooking and keep grinding my own for the weekends or special occasions. I would also highly recommend an afternoon of mincing fresh green chillies, ginger and garlic. Spoon them into silicon ice cube trays and freeze for later. This way, you will always have a supply when you are short of time later.
When she doesn’t feel like cooking:
I tend to make extra quantities when I do cook, so there is always a stash of frozen dal or curry in the fridge. If I am not up for cooking, it’ll be either a case of one of these with some steaming hot Basmati rice, or ready pizza. Failing both, I am afraid I am left to my man’s devices.
On her pantry and freezer staples:
You can’t beat lentils and chick peas for a quick, healthy and wholesome meal. I am also a big fan of ready, freshly frozen vegetables like spinach and peas. And you will always find a supply of chicken thighs and drumsticks in my freezer too. They work so well marinated and shoved into the oven to cook slowly (as in the quick fix Murgh Hariyali below), while you get on with bedtime stories, blogging and housework!
Chicken with mint, cilantro, and chiles
by Mallika Basu
*Note from Ann: Mallika’s spicy marinade transforms boring chicken into something fresh and fiery. Though Mallika is not a fan, I have to admit I used chicken breasts (and shortened the cooking time to 20 minutes) and the dish was delicious.
25 grams (about 1 oz) fresh coriander leaves
25 grams (about 1 oz) fresh mint leaves
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
1 green finger chile
Half tsp black pepper
2 tbsp oil (any colourless and flavourless oil)
8 Chicken thighs and drumsticks
Salt to taste
Turn the oven on to 190 C / 375 F.
Whizz the first seven ingredients with a bit of warm water in a blender to get a smooth marinade. Add salt to taste.
In an shallow ovenproof dish, lay the chicken pieces one beside the other and slather them in the marinade and oil. Place in the oven and bake for an hour, turning the chicken pieces over once during cooking.
This is lovely scooped into warm pita bread.
In case you missed them, here are some other posts I’ve written on Miss Masala (have I mentioned that I love this book?)
Tadka dal (Tuesday dinner with Croque Camille)