Kuku Paka (Chicken & Coconut Curry)

I was happy that the weather cooled down a little bit so that I could sneak this dinner into our springtime menu. The sauce was beyond creamy and delicious. Typically, this dish is prepared with charcoal-grilled chicken; I loved that this recipe was adapted to make using the broiler instead- perfect in cooler weather.

This recipe was adapted from Let’s Eat by Zaynab Issa, via Bon Appétit. It is a wonderful version of this popular East African-Indian chicken curry. It gave my son, who is studying World History in high school, a moment to review the impact and influences of the Indian Ocean trade routes prior to 1450 with our family. 😉 In Swahili, the trade language formed across the Indian Ocean, Kuku means chicken and Paka means to smear, to spread, or to apply.

The original recipe recommends using boneless thighs but notes that any cut of chicken, or a mix of breasts, tenders, or drumsticks (with pieces of similar size), could be substituted. A mix of vegetables can also be used in lieu of chicken to create a vegetarian version. I served it over rice with steamed spinach. Fast and fabulous.

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings

  • 3 to 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 lemons, divided (one for marinade & one for serving)
  • 1 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt, divided, plus more (or 2 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt)
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika or Kashmiri chile powder
  • one pinch or dash of cayenne pepper (omit if using Kashmiri chile powder)
  • 2–3 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 8 to 10 large)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 plum tomato
  • 1 medium jalapeño or 1–2 green Thai chiles, seeded and ribbed
  • 1/4 cup (packed) cilantro leaves with tender stems, plus more for serving
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 can (13.5 oz) unsweetened coconut milk
  • 4 T (1/4 cup) heavy cream (can substitute nondairy milk or additional coconut milk)
  • Basmati rice and/or crusty bread, for serving
  1. Finely grate the garlic cloves into a large bowl with a Microplane; alternatively, a garlic press can be used.
  2. Cut 1 lemon in half and squeeze juice into the bowl; discard seeds.
  3. Mix in 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt (or 1 tsp Diamond Crystal) and the smoked paprika and cayenne pepper (or Kashmiri Chile powder).
  4. Add the skinless, boneless chicken thighs (I used 10) and toss to evenly coat.
  5. Cover bowl and let sit at room temperature 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the curry base.
  6. Coarsely chop the onion, tomato, chile(s) (depending on how spicy your chiles are and your heat tolerance), and cilantro. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend or process until smooth. (I used a Vitamix.)
  7. Place an oven rack in the highest position. Heat the broiler. (I set my oven to Broiler+Max at 500 degrees.)
  8. Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a high-sided skillet or large pot over medium. (I used a large, low, and wide enameled cast iron pan.)
  9. Add ground coriander, ground cumin, and ground turmeric. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  10. Pour in purée and add 3/4 tsp Morton kosher salt (or 1 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal). Stir to combine and cook, stirring occasionally, until raw onion smell subsides and curry is paste-like in consistency, 15–20 minutes.
  11. Arrange chicken on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet and broil until cooked through, charred in spots, and a thermometer inserted into the thickest parts registers 165°, 14 to 20 minutes. (I placed the chicken “skin side down” for 7 minutes, flipped each piece over and cooked an additional 7 minutes.)
  12. While the chicken is cooking, shake the can unsweetened coconut milk to ensure coconut cream is incorporated, then add coconut milk to curry and stir well to combine. Curry should be pale yellow. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until warm and slightly thickened, 5–10 minutes.
  13. Once chicken is finished, add chicken and all of the pan juices to the curry and reduce heat to low; mix well to combine. Stirring constantly to prevent curry from breaking, dribble in the heavy cream.
  14. Taste and season with more salt, if needed.
  15. Serve the chicken and sauce over Basmati rice garnished with additional cilantro.
  16. Cut remaining 1 lemon into wedges. Serve kuku paka with crusty bread and lemon wedges for squeezing over at the table, as desired.

Coconut Chicken Curry

This dish was a home run in my house. Everyone really enjoyed it. I served it over brown Basmati rice with warm naan and steamed spinach on the side. Perfect weeknight comfort food! It does take a while to cook but it is mostly unattended. Letting the finished dish sit for 20 minutes after cooking allows the flavors to soak into the chicken- perfect.

This recipe is from Desmond Tan and Kate Leahy of Burma Superstar in the San Francisco Bay Area and their book “Burma Superstar,” via The New York Times, adapted by Genevieve Ko. I used Maharajah curry powder and additional garlic. I also had Greek yogurt available to temper the spice.

Yield: 8 servings

Pressure Cooker Butter Chicken (Chicken Makhani)

One more Indian dish to share… for now. 😉 This is another wonderful pressure cooker version of a classic Indian dish. A pressure cooker is a great tool to use when making Indian food.

This recipe was adapted from The Essential Indian Instant Pot Cookbook: Authentic Flavors and Modern Recipes for Your Electric Pressure Cooker by Archana Mundhe of Ministry of Curry. I used my stove top pressure cooker instead of an Instant Pot. I also modified the proportions and omitted the sugar.

I served this wonderful, saucy chicken over brown Basmati rice with warm naan and steamed beet and turnip greens. Full-flavored, fast and fabulous.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 T ghee
  • 2 large yellow onions, finely diced
  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, halved and patted dry
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes or tomato purée
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 T grated fresh ginger
  • 5 to 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp ancho chile powder, Kashmiri red chile powder or another mild red chile powder
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 cup canned coconut cream
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 T dried fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • brown Basmati rice, for serving (stove top: 1 1/2 cups rice & 3 cups chicken stock)
  • naan, for serving, optional
  1. Heat the ghee in a stove top pressure cooker or on high sauté in an Instant Pot.
  2. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken, crushed tomatoes, water, ginger, garlic, Chile powder, salt, garam masala, and turmeric; stir to combine.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the rice in a separate pot. (If using an Instant Pot, stir 1 cup rice, 1 1/2 cups water, and 1 tsp kosher salt in a stainless steel bowl that will fit in the IP. Place a tall steam rack in the pot, making sure the legs rest on the bottom, and place the bowl of rice on the rack.)
  5. Secure the lid of the pressure cooker or Instant Pot. Cook at high pressure for 5 minutes.
  6. Let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes, then vent manually to release any remaining steam. Open the pot. (Remove the rice if using an Instant Pot.)
  7. Add the coconut cream, tomato paste, and fenugreek and stir to combine.
  8. Sauté until the curry comes to a boil and is heated through, about 2 minutes. (At this point, I removed the chicken and continued to reduce the sauce for an additional 4 minutes.)
  9. To serve: Spoon the rice onto plates and label the curry over the top. Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with naan on the side, as desired.

Winter Squash & Wild Mushroom Curry

This dish was quick to prepare and was absolutely fabulous. The biggest mistake I made was not doubling the recipe! I made it for an early birthday celebration dinner for my mom. We topped it off with a birthday pear snacking cake for dessert. 🙂 It was a great autumn comfort food meal.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s “Vegetarian India,” contributed by David Tanis. I increased the amount of squash, mushrooms, and garlic. Any type of wild or cultivated mushrooms could be used such as royal trumpets, oyster, shiitakes, chanterelles, or cremini mushrooms; I used a combination of cremini and shiitake mushrooms. The recipe below is double the original recipe. We ate it served over brown Basmati rice with warm naan on the side.

Yield: 8 Servings

  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 20 to 28 ounces butternut or other winter squash, peeled and diced in 1/2-inch cubes
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 4 small whole green chiles, such as jalapeño or serrano
  • 6 medium shallots or 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • handful of fresh or frozen curry leaves, optional (basil leaves could also be substituted)
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • pinch of cayenne, or more, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 1/4 pounds mushrooms, preferably a mix of cultivated and wild, trimmed and sliced 1/8-inch thick
  • 15 oz can coconut milk
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice (from 1 lime)
  • cilantro sprigs, for garnish
  1. In a wide skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add squash cubes in one layer. Season with salt and pepper. (This may be done in batches.) Cook for about 2 minutes, letting cubes brown slightly, then flip and cook for 2 minutes more. Use a slotted spoon to lift squash out, and set aside.
  2. Cut a lengthwise slit in each chile to open it, but leave whole. (This allows the heat and flavor of the chile to release into the sauce without making it too spicy.)
  3. Add shallots to skillet, salt lightly and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  4. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry/basil leaves and let sizzle for 30 seconds, then add garlic, coriander, cayenne, turmeric and chiles. Stir well and cook for 30 seconds more.
  5. Add mushrooms to pan, season with salt and toss to coat. Continue to cook, stirring, until mushrooms begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  6. Return squash cubes to pan, stir in coconut milk and bring to a simmer.
  7. Lower heat to medium and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  8. If mixture looks dry, thin with a little water. Taste and season with salt.
  9. Just before serving, stir in lime juice. Transfer to a warm serving dish and garnish with cilantro leaves.

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Pressure Cooker Coconut Curry Chicken

Using a multi-cooker like an Instant Pot seems to be all the rage. I can’t justify owning one… as I have a fabulous stove top pressure cooker and a separate slow cooker. Thankfully, wonderful dishes like this work with my old school kitchen supplies. 😉

The sauce is incredibly flavorful in this dish. I LOVED it! I am such a sauce person. I made it with boneless, skinless chicken thighs but cubes of lamb, fish, or pork could also be used. If using chicken breast meat the cooking time should be reduced to 2 minutes. This recipe was adapted from Dinner in an Instant by Melissa Clark, via The New York Times. I used crushed tomatoes instead of fresh and used a stove top pressure cooker. We enjoyed it with roasted CSA cauliflower on the side. Fabulous.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 28 oz can crushed San Marzano tomatoes or 3 to 4 ripe tomatoes, halved through their equators
  • 3 tablespoons ghee, unsalted butter or safflower oil
  • 3 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
  • 6 garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane or minced
  • 2 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 3-inch cinnamon stick or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 8 cardamom pods, lightly crushed with the flat side of a knife, or 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 ½ to 3 pounds (about 10) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons garam masala, to taste
  • ½ cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • cooked brown Basmati rice, for serving, optional
  • plain yogurt, for serving, optional
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  1. If using fresh tomatoes, start by setting a box grater over a bowl. Starting with their cut sides, grate the tomatoes through the large holes of the box grater so the tomato pulp falls into the bowl. Discard the skins. Measure out 2 cups of tomato purée.
  2. Heat the ghee and the coconut oil in the pressure cooker. Stir in the onions and sauté, stirring often to encourage even browning, until they are caramelized, 12 to 18 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic, ginger and cumin seeds; cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in the cinnamon and cardamom and cook for another minute.
  5. Stir in the coriander, salt, turmeric, red pepper flakes, black pepper and finally the tomato purée (fresh or canned).
  6. Add the chicken to the sauce, cover and cook on low pressure for 4 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally; this could take up to 30 minutes. If the sauce seems too thin, use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a bowl and then simmer the sauce on the sauté setting until it has thickened to taste. (Note that the coconut milk will thin the sauce down further.) (I reduced the sauce.)
  7. Stir in the garam masala and the coconut milk, and let the curry sit for 20 minutes for the flavors to meld.
  8. Serve with the rice and yogurt, if desired. Garnish with cilantro.

Note: If you’d rather use a slow cooker, cook on high for 2 to 3 hours or on low for 4 to 5 hours, adding the coconut milk during the last hour.

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Shrimp in Yellow Curry

I have difficulty getting together the energy to cook after a long day at the beach. Life is rough! 😉 I’m always looking for new fast and fabulous meals to try.

This is a bright, flavor-packed, quick, and delicious weeknight dish. Perfect after a long day outside. It could be prepared any time of year as well.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Mark Bittman. I modified the proportions, used Maharajah curry, and incorporated spinach and a red bell pepper into the dish. We ate it over brown Basmati rice. Wonderful!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (I used 7 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon minced galangal or ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced hot chili, or crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder, or to taste (I used Penzeys Maharajah curry)
  • 13.5 oz fresh or canned coconut milk
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into slices
  • 6 oz baby spinach
  • 1 ½ to 2 pounds medium-to-large shrimp, peeled with tails intact
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste
  • ¼ cup minced cilantro or mint leaves
  • brown Basmati rice, for serving (I used 1 1/2 cups rice to 3 cups stock)
  • naan, for serving, optional
  1. Place the oil in a large, deep skillet and turn the heat to medium. (I used enameled cast iron.)
  2. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and chilies and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender and the mixture pasty.
  3. Add red pepper slices and sauté until starting to soften.
  4. Add the curry and cook, stirring, another minute.
  5. Add the coconut milk and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is nearly dry.
  6. Add the shrimp and spinach, a few pinches of salt and a little black pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp release their liquid (the mixture will become quite moist again) and turn pink, and the spinach is wilted.
  7. Add 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, stir, then taste and add the rest if necessary.
  8. Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice.

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Green Curry Pork Tenderloin

While I’m sharing delicious green sauces, I have another one to share… Thai green curry this time. 🙂 Using prepared curry paste is a wonderful shortcut, making this dish an elegant weeknight meal.

This dish comes from my favorite column, R.S.V.P., in Bon Appetit magazine. Subscribers write in to request recipes for dishes that stayed in their minds after dining out. This recipe was adapted from Root Down in Denver, Colorado. I doubled the meat and marinade, and increased the amount of garlic and the cooking time (internal meat temperature).

We ate it with steamed spinach over brown Basmati rice. I served the tenderloin over the spinach and rice so that every component was smothered in the wonderful sauce.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Tenderloin:

  •  1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) fresh orange juice
  • 2 T pure maple syrup
  • 2 T toasted sesame oil
  • 2 pork tenderloins (about 1 to 1½ pounds each)
  • coarse salt
  • 1 T grapeseed or vegetable oil

For the Sauce & Assembly:

  • 1 T plus ½ cup grapeseed or vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 medium shallot, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup prepared green curry paste
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest (from 1 lime)
  • 1 14.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 T agave nectar
  • 1 T fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves, plus more for serving
  • Unsalted, roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas; for serving)
  • 1 to 2 pounds spinach, steamed until wilted, for serving
  • brown Basmati rice, for serving
  1.  Combine soy sauce, orange juice, maple syrup, and sesame oil in a large resealable plastic bag. Add tenderloin meat; close bag, pressing out air. Chill, turning once, 4–12 hours.
  2. Remove tenderloin from marinade and pat dry; discard marinade. Season lightly with salt.
  3. Preheat oven to 250°.
  4. Heat grapeseed oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high.
  5. Cook tenderloin, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 2 minutes per side, 5 minutes total.
  6. Transfer pan to the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of tenderloin registers 135°, 20–25 minutes.
  7. Transfer to a cutting board; let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.
  8. While meat is cooking, heat 1 T oil in a large saucepan over medium.
  9. Cook shallot and garlic, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes.
  10. Add curry paste and lime zest and cook, stirring constantly, until paste is slightly darkened in color and very fragrant, about 4 minutes.
  11. Add coconut milk, bring to a simmer, and cook until reduced by half, 20–25 minutes. Let curry mixture cool.
  12. Transfer curry mixture to a blender and add agave, lime juice, ¼ cup cilantro, and 2 T water; blend until very smooth.
  13. With motor running, add remaining ½ cup oil in a steady stream; blend until sauce is thick and emulsified. Transfer to a small saucepan and heat over medium just until warmed through.
  14. Serve pork over prepared rice and steamed spinach, topped with sauce, cilantro, and pumpkin seeds.

Do Ahead: Sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

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