This month for Rainy Day Bites Cookbook Club, we’re using a book that is extra special to me.
Masala & Meatballs is by Asha Shivakumar. I have had the pleasure of getting to know her over the past few years thanks to IG, and meet-ups in San Francisco. Asha is an elegant, well spoken, kind mother of two, and has taken the love of the cuisine of her homeland and family, and given those recipes an American twist. Living here in North America has given her a fresh perspective and she joyously marries the two worlds most beautifully. You can see for yourself if you visit her blog, ‘Food Fashion Party’.
There are so many recipes that I can’t wait to try. Her unique twist on a Pumpkin Pie is giving me all the feels, and I am just itching to make it!! This weekend, I think! She has a wonderful mixed fruit jam spiced with cardamom that I have already made once. It will get used to fill some donuts later in the month. Her chickpea socca are so much fun to whip up, and are very versatile. I loved her Coconut Cardamom Granola with Saffron Infused Yogurt. How does Curried Shrimp Skewers with Pineapple sound? Or Coffee Chocolate Walnut Challah? And tell me that the Sesame Mini Cakes with Chai Glaze doesn’t send you swooning!?
Today I am sharing the recipe that I made yesterday. White Chicken Curry Pot Pie. Who doesn’t love a good pot pie? And when it has some spice and heat, even better! What I love about this recipe, is her take on a bechamel or white sauce that the filling is cooked in. Instead of a flour and dairy milk laden sauce, the first part of the recipe actually involves softening onions, cashew nuts, garlic cloves and a piece of ginger. This then gets puréed up (I used my Vitamix). It will be added to the veggies and chicken pieces as well as a bouquet garni made up of whole Indian spices. Whole cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, cardamom pods and star anise get folded into some cheese cloth and then bashed slightly to break open all the components. This simmers away in the ‘onion paste’ and water, to flavour the liquid most aromatically! Add some split chilli peppers to the simmering pot, and you’ve got flavour on so many levels happening.
Once you remove the pot from the heat, fish out the peppers and bouquet garni, and then let it cool down. Before I started letting the pot contents cool down, I added some thawed frozen peas, and fresh thyme leaves. Just cuz I could! After it has cooled down, the contents can be put into a baking dish, or into separate little ramekins or baking dishes. I will say here, I cut the recipe in half, since I was cooking for just Jim and myself. But the recipe made enough to fill four separate baking dishes. Two meals covered!
Asha has us covering the pie contents with puff pastry. I love it whenever puff pastry joins the party! She suggests cutting the pastry and covering the pies in any creative way you want. I decided to try something a bit different. I rolled up the pastry like a jelly roll and then sliced it into 1/2 inch rounds (like cinnamon rolls) One of them I just haphazardly folded it over the dish. The next time I make these, I will probably opt for the second method. For some reason, the rounds didn’t expand the way I expected they would. So the crust they created was a bit more dense than I wanted. But oh well, it still tasted amazing!!!
Here’s to a month of spice, heat, some unusual ingredients (searching these out is always an adventure!) and cooking along with a friend! Hope you join in. If you like the recipes that I’m sharing, perhaps you’ll want to add the entire book to your collection!
White Chicken Curry Pot Pie
All the spices and fragrances of India in a comforting chicken pot pie. Bake it up in a large baking dish or in little individual ones, and the whole house will smell fabulous!
- 2 lb 908 grams boneless chicken breast (I used both breast and thigh meat)
- 2 large potatoes or 10 baby potatoes
- 2 carrots
- 3 cups 705 ml water, divided
- 2 onions quartered
- 10 garlic cloves
- 1 inch 2.5 cm piece of ginger
- small handful of cashews
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 inch 2.5 cm cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves
- 4 cardamom pods
- 1 star anise optional
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 4 green chillies slit open slightly (I used a combo of a red chilli and a jalapeño pepper)
- 1/2 cup 120 ml semi thick coconut milk, or more as desired
- 1 tsp white or black pepper
- 1/2 cup 120 mi thawed frozen green peas (optional)
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves optional
- 1 sheet of puff pastry thawed
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 1 tbsp black sesame seeds
Clean and pat try the chicken. Cut into 1 inch cubes, or slightly smaller
Peel the large potatoes and cut them the size of the chicken. If using baby potatoes, there is no need to peel, just scrub and cut in half or thirds depending on the size.
Dice the carrots to the same size.
In a saucepan, combine 2 cups of the water, the onions, garlic, ginger and cashews. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes or until softened. Cool and then transfer to a blender. Purée to a smooth paste.
Place the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon stick, cardamom, star anise and bay leaves in a piece of cheesecloth. Bring the corners together and tie tightly to make a bag. Using a wooden mallet or even a sturdy mug, crush the contents gently to release their goodness.
Add the oil to a heavy bottomed pot and warm over medium heat. add the spice sachet to the oil. Then add the onion paste. Simmer for a minute, but do not let it turn brown at all. Stir constantly. Then add the chilli peppers and at least 1 tsp of salt.
Add the chicken, potatoes, carrots and remaining cup of water. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes at a bubbling simmer. The chicken should be cooked through and the veggies just softened enough.
Remove the lid and add the coconut milk and white pepper. Simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the desired consistency is achieved. If you like it thicker, raise the heat and cook another 5 minutes. If you want it thinner, add a touch more coconut milk.
Remove from the heat. Taste to see if you want to add more salt. Remove the chilli peppers and the spice sachet.
At this point I added the thawed peas and thyme. Stir and let cool down a bit while the oven is pre-heating.
Preheat the oven to 425F (220C or gas mark 7) Spoon the chicken mixture into one large baking dish or into individual ramekins.
To make the crust, unroll the puff pastry and cut out any shape(s) you want. Place on top of the filling, brush with egg wash and sprinkle the sesame seeds over it.
Bake on the middle rack for 15-20 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the sauce is bubbling.
I cut my puff pastry 'rolls' into 1/2 inch rounds. Next time I would roll them less tight, and cut slightly thinner. This will give them more ability to expand open and make a pleasing crust. Alternatively, the dish that I covered with just some puff pastry loosely draped over the filling baked up more evenly.