Sunday, September 21, 2014

Chicken Tikka Masala

Although I'm not what you'd call an adventurous cook, I do like trying to recreate food I've enjoyed in restaurants or at a friends' house. When I came across this recipe, it brought to mind the great Indian food we enjoyed while living in Uganda. My favorite restaurant there was an Indian place with the improbable name of Khana Khazana, and my favorite dish was a mushroom curry. I have hunted high and low for the recipe, to no avail. Every recipe I've found includes tomato, which this curry did not have.

But back to this recipe. To be honest, the first time I made it, I thought I was making butter chicken. I'd pinned both recipes, and meant to pull up the butter chicken and it wasn't until I was finishing the dish that I realized my mistake. Oops.

My other mistake was fortuitous, because I discovered that marinating the chicken for several days (instead of overnight as called for in the recipe) makes it much more flavorful.

Indian food is not something we can find here; maybe in Buenos Aires, but definitely not in Cordoba. So if we want it, I have to make it. I haven't tried a lot of other Indian recipes yet, mainly because this is so good that I keep going back to it (it made the cut for my "Favorite Recipes" Pinterest board). But if you have a good Indian recipe, please do share!

I've had to adapt this recipe a bit, because I don't have access to a few things, but they are minor and make no big difference. For instance, even when I can find boneless chicken (which is rare), it's very expensive; so instead I usually buy pata-muslos (leg/thigh sections) and don't mess with kabobs. Limes are also hard to come by, so I substitute lemon, and I use ground cumin instead of seeds.

It takes some time to put together, but it is so worth it! This dish is very flavorful, and the leftovers heat up beautifully (if you're fortunate enough to have any). One thing I started doing (after the second or third time) was doubling the masala, because we like a lot of sauce.


Combine marinade:
4 T. oil
1 T. minced garlic
2 T. lime (or lemon) juice
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. ground coriander
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
3/4 t. paprika
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
2 T. plain yogurt
Marinate 1 lb. chicken in marinade for 3-4 days.
Pour into a greased pan, bake at 375 degrees until done (leg/thigh sections take about 45 minutes).

3 T. oil
1 diced onion
2 t. minced garlic
2 t. minced ginger
1 chopped tomato
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. paprika
1 t. salt
1-1/2 T. sugar
2 T. butter
1-1/2 T. lime (or lemon) juice
1/4 c. heavy cream
3 T. water
In a large skillet, sauté onions about 6 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and sauté an additional minute or two. Add tomato, cover and simmer on low heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mash into paste, stir in dry ingredients (spices and sugar) and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Add butter and stir to melt.
Pour mixture into a blender and add remaining ingredients (juice, cream and water) and pureé until smooth. Return to skillet and bring to a boil. Add chicken (and pan drippings) and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve with rice.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Learning Spanish: A Personal Story

Speaking  Spanish

First in a Series

(graphic via lingos blog: interesting stats on the Spanish language)

My mom used to say she couldn't "carry a tune in a bucket" and I inherited her disability. In my head I know how a song should sound, but what comes out of my mouth bears no resemblance. (Just ask my husband or kids.)

Speaking Spanish is a lot like that. In my head I can converse with some small amount of fluency, but the words I actually speak are rarely pronounced correctly. It.Makes.Me.Crazy.

In theory speaking Spanish should be easier since each vowel has one sound, and one sound only, and it is ALWAYS pronounced that way. In reality, my mouth trips over those sounds, refusing my efforts to manipulate it into the correct form.

[Right here I want to stop and apologize to all the wonderful language teachers out there, because I will not be using the correct terminology since I don't know it. I'll describe things in the best way I know how, which will probably make you grind your teeth. Feel free to correct me in the comments. Just be kind!]

Let's take the word Europe. In English it has two syllables and sounds like "Ur-up". In Spanish it's Europa, and you say each and every vowel.

But let's back up and talk about how each Spanish vowel sounds:
a = soft a, as in father
e = short e, as in pet
i = long e, as in seen
o = long o, as in post
u =soft u, as in due

Okay, now try to say Europa, pronouncing each and every vowel:
e as in pet
u as in due
ro as in post
pa as in father

Yep, that makes four syllables. Does your mouth have a hard time forming those sounds? Mine sure does!

And certain vowel combinations are guaranteed to come out garbled. The "ae" in aeropuerto has me doing oral contortions, and I still can't say it properly 95% of the time.

I'm telling you, it's sooooo much easier to learn a language when you're young. Not only because the brain is more like a sponge when you're young, but also because that's when your mouth is learning how to shape itself to form the words you use. My fifty-five year old mouth is reluctant and recalcitrant, and sometimes I wish I could slap it into submission.

The other part of speaking Spanish that I find frustrating is the brain-to-mouth delay. I tend to talk fast, and sometimes often realize as it's coming out of my mouth that I've tacked on the wrong conjugation or gender (Spanish nouns are either masculine or feminine). Aargh!

But you know what? People still understand me! Well, most of the time. I'll occasionally have to repeat and/or correct what I've said, but in general I can make myself understood.

With practice I see progress. Miniscule progress, but progress nonetheless.

This learning a new language is not for the faint of heart. It is the absolute hardest thing I've ever done, and there's no end in sight. I realized early on that this was going to be a life-long endeavor, and that there will always, ALWAYS be more to learn.

I'm going to share in future posts what it's been like learning to understand what others say (way harder than speaking!) as well as learning to read (easiest part for me, although I'm not a fluent reader either). I'd love to hear from you, too, what your experience has been like if you've learned another language.