It’s time to garnish!

                                         It’s time to garnish!

We have all had re-unions with friends, right?  How about a re-union with your dad? Had that? If yes you know what I am talking about.  Papa has always been that one person that I share all the stories of my life. A loyal Railway government employee, he is also a singer, an anchor and a theater artist. Oops! I forgot to mention, he is also an amazing cook. Within our vast family, his signature chicken curry has quite a reputation. Papa is someone who is full of life; someone who lives every moment. And each moment of his life holds some great stories and I keep them all treasured for my grandchildren to savor.

While at home, I have always had the luxury of living the life of a Queen. I would never step into the kitchen except to eat. But, it was different this time around. As dad and I cooked, I not only enjoyed it but also found that special “bond” that develops when you cook together. In that one hour of an interactive “Cook with dad” session, I was not just given tips on recipes but also on life.  All this happened a month back, in September, when Papa gave me a surprise visit and I requested his signature Chicken Curry. Papa, as usual was super excited to get his hands on the stove and so was I, to learn from him and also show some of my cooking skills.

We started off chopping up the dark pink onions. As always, they made me cry. Papa, busy peeling ginger and garlic to make a paste, didn’t notice his daughter weep. Unlike me who uses the instant paste, he always prefers making his own ginger- garlic paste. He tried making me understand the importance of eating fresh. “Ginger and garlic is one of those ingredients which not just provide flavor to your dish but also act as good digestive agents”, he said as he put the wok onto the stove.  Mustard oil was poured into the wok and then we waited for it to get heated. Once it was, we introduced onions and waited till they became golden brown. Papa followed it up with the ginger and garlic paste and stirred continuously for the next few minutes.

Then I fetched the marinated chicken from the fridge which was generously packed with turmeric, curd and green chilli paste for an hour. Papa gently placed the marinated chicken on the heated wok and then proceeded towards mixing them properly. Also added to the mixture was Cumin powder, Meat Masala and salt to taste.  Meanwhile, he gave me instructions to lower the flame which he said is a great way to make the dish tastier.

Papa is someone who likes to eat fresh and healthy. Nowadays, we have packaged food that comes with labels telling you what the constituents, the calories and preservatives are. However, during his days, they had no such thing, yet they always had a healthy diet.  Papa has the habit of chewing curry leaves early in the morning, which he says has miraculous effects on the body. We even have curry plants in our lawn and mom used to prepare different recipes out of it. Her curry pakodas were a favorite with both me and my brother and also were her curry leaves –tea with honey. It is good for your skin, hair and even solves digestion problems.

As our dish was being cooked, Papa also dished out old stories.  Stories about how my grandmother once caught him bunking school to catch a super hit Anil Kapoor movie. He told me how he managed to save his pocket money to just have a glimpse of Anil Kapoor. According to him, I have strength, energy and power which I should drive towards a positive act. I should go after my passion to make life meaningful. He also added that he has hardly ever wasted time and always lived for a purpose and may be that is why today, he can take a sigh of satisfaction.

My kitchen by then was filled with the aroma of authentic spices and I was salivating already. I was curious to know if the chicken was cooked properly or not. Papa fished out a piece and put it on a plate. The chicken was tender and soft. He instructed me to bring the chopped coriander leaves. Coriander leaves are something that papa brings home as it helps my aunt who has rheumatoid arthritis, Coriander leaves have always helped her with it and also with skin inflammations. So as a habit, I use a lot of coriander for garnishing and also to bring in a flavor in almost all of my curries and even Lentils or “Daal”. As papa put off the burning stove and sprinkled coriander leaves on it, the dish looked delicious and I was all set to attack. And God, Delicious it was!

My Dad’s Chicken Curry: Simple, easy and tastes great

Key Points:
·         Prep. Time: 10mins
·         Cook Time: 45mins
·         Serves: 5 people

Key Ingredients:
·         Chicken=1 kg
·         Onions = 3, finely chopped
·         Ginger = half ginger root
·         Garlic = 2 full Garlic pods.
·         Red Chilli powder = ½ tbsp
·         Turmeric Powder = ½ tbsp
·         Coriander Powder = ½ tbsp
·         Roasted Cumin Powder = ¼ tbsp
·         Curd = ¼ tbsp
·         Garam Masala Powder = ¼ tbsp
·         Fresh Curry Leaves = 1 Spring
·         Salt to taste
·         Oil = 2 tbsp

Cooking Method:

Tip: Don’t use curry leaves, if you are going to garnish it with coriander leaves.

Cooking with Papa brought back the strong bond that I share with my family. The table was set and the two plates were ready to get decorated.  Someone truly said, "Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.”