featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

COOKING WITH CLORIS - GUEST AUTHOR POLLY IYER


We’re giving Cloris the day off and have invited author Polly Iyer to sit in as our chef du jour. Writing novels turned into Polly’s passion after careers in fashion, art, and business. Now she spends her time being quite the hermit in comfortable clothes she wouldn't be caught dead wearing on the outside, while she devises ways for life to be complicated for her characters. Better them than her. You can find out more about Polly and her books at her website

I’m not a particularly crafty person. As a fashion illustration major in college, I was forced to take two and a half days of fashion design, i.e. sewing, pattern making, etc. It was absolute torture for me. The word that best comes to mind to describe my skill in that design room is…incompetent. Nevertheless, I went on to work in the fashion and interior design industry, many as an illustrator for the bible of fashion, Women’s Wear Daily. I moved on to draw everything from household products to food for TV commercial storyboards. I’ve long since put that life behind me. These days it’s comfy clothes and little makeup. My artistic background creeps into my books, though, because I can’t ignore what I spent a lifetime doing. Whether it’s a heroine who’s a docent at the Metropolitan Museum, a character who collects art, or a hero who makes a mean curry.

That’s right―hero. Reece Daughtry in Murder Déjà Vu cooks, and he’s good at it when he’s not on the run from the police and FBI for a murder he didn’t commit. Why should most of the cooks in books be women? In fact―and I just realized this―none of my heroines cooks. Not one. They avoid it like the plague and are just as incompetent as cooks as I was a fashion designer.

Making a mean curry isn’t difficult, whether it’s a vegetable dish, meat, or chicken. Recipe ingredients can change from country to country, and in the case of India, from state to state. Some dishes have coconut milk, others yoghurt. Still others are straight spice. I was introduced to curry when I married my Indian husband. He grew up a vegetarian, but is more a carnivore than I am. I honestly think I like curry more than he does, too.

We use Madras curry at our house, which is a mixture of coriander seed, cumin, turmeric, chili, ginger, cinnamon, bay leaves, anise, cloves and salt. That’s right off the label. We still add more cumin and coriander with lots and lots of garlic, along with more hot pepper. That’s a taste choice. Some like it hot.

Here’s the recipe for our favorite chicken dish. Excuse me if I don’t give exact measurements. We don’t measure in our house, but the great thing about curry is that you can throw anything in it, add your spices, and it’s unlikely you can mess up this versatile dish. I’ve guestimated the ingredients. I made mine with four chicken leg quarters, cut up, but you can use breasts or thighs.

Chicken Curry
serves four

¼ t. mustard seeds (optional)
1 tsp of ground coriander. (You can grind seeds, but they always get caught in my teeth, so I prefer ground.)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbs curry powder (You can add a pinch of turmeric, but there’s enough in the Madras curry powder.)
1 med onion
Garlic—I used 2 big cloves
1 can diced tomatoes
Vegetable. (I used frozen spinach, but you can use broccoli, eggplant, or any green, fresh or frozen. We also like turnip greens with diced turnips. I threw in some dried shitake mushrooms, but that’s optional.)
Salt to taste

Heat oil in a large pot. We use olive oil because that’s all we use, but you can use any vegetable oil. Heat the mustard seeds until they pop. Don’t overheat them or they’ll burn. Add the coriander and cumin, stir in the onion and garlic. Add the chicken and stir to coat with the spice mixture. Add the tomatoes and vegetable. Stir thoroughly. Cook on medium for about 30-40 minutes. Done. Easy peasy.

This works just as well with cubed beef.

āp kā khānā svādiṣṭa ho
or good eating!

Murder Deja Vu buy link

Thanks for joining us today, Polly! The recipe is one I’m sure many of our readers will be trying this week. -- AP

24 comments:

E. B. Davis said...

Your dish looks yummy, Polly. My husband is a bland eater, so I can't make your dish. But I read a lot of English mystery in which the characters always are getting curry take-out. I love the descriptions of Indian food. My mother made curry occasionally, which I always liked. Even though your books aren't cozies, you can include cooking in your books. Even Robert Crais's main character, Elvis, cooks--and sometimes for his girlfriends.

E. B. Davis said...

I left a comment earlier and it disappeared?
Your dish looks yummy, Polly. Unfortunately, my husband eats blandly so I can't use your recipe. But my mother used to make curry. I loved it. I read a lot of English mysteries in which the characters are always getting Indian take-out. The descriptions are fun. But even Robert Crais's main character, Elvis, cooks for himself and his friends, so you can have your characters cook!

Polly Iyer said...

I love men who cook, E. B. My husband cooks, so it doesn't always fall on me. He's pretty good. I tell him he's great though, so he keeps on doing it. :-) Your husband is the opposite of mine. Can't get enough spice into the cooking.

Tiffany N. York said...

Mmmm, I love curry. I'm from NY and they have some really great Indian restaurants there. Here in the suburbs of SoCal--not so much.

This sounds great. Now if only I could figure out how to make that sticky rice...

Polly Iyer said...

Tiffany, I would have thought there would be plenty of Indian restaurants in Southern California. I'm surprised. As for sticky rice, I don't know how to make that either. I have to go to a Thai restaurant for that.

Linda Lovely said...

Your recipe is seasoned with just the right amount of spice--just like your novels. I'm a big curry fan.

Polly Iyer said...

Thanks so much for stopping by, Linda. I think you were on the receiving end of this dish once. Spicy food and spicy novels go together. With wine. :-)

Maggie Bishop said...

Your chicken curry recipe seems easy enough, but I'm not much of a cook. Wish I liked to cook but my cooking is done by default -- my husband doesn't like to cook either. Maybe I'll give it a try.
Your latest book is on my "wish" list. Hope to get a Kindle Fire for the holidays.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Sounds great, Polly. And I love that your heroines don't cook. Both my girls married men that cook. I should have done that too.

Best wishes with Murder Deja Vu!

Ellis Vidler said...

I've eaten this curry--it's great! I recommend the recipe and the book too. :-)

I like that Reece cooks. Many fictional men do, and a few real ones. (It's wonderful as long as they clean up too.) Thanks for sharing it, Polly.

Polly Iyer said...

Maggie, if you don't like to cook, this is the perfect dish. I always make enough for two days. I have your book on my Kindle too. Now if I could only finish these edits. Thanks for the visit.

Polly Iyer said...

Maggie, I had no idea I'd made all my heroines non-chefs until I wrote this blog post. I wonder if it was my subconscious coming out. I cook, and I'm a good cook, but I don't love doing it.

Polly Iyer said...

Ellis, yes you have eaten this. I know you love curry, and that your husband also cooks. Now if we could only get them to do bathrooms. Loved that you stopped by.

Jenni L. said...

Mmm, comfort food! I grew up eating curry, first all over Africa, then all over Asia. I like it hot, but still tasty - if it's too hot, it's hard to enjoy. Luckily, I have a husband who loves curry and loves to experiment in cooking it. We eat a lot of it at our house. Thanks for the recipe, we will try it out!

Heading over to check out your book. :)

Polly Iyer said...

Jenny, your husband probably makes it better than I do. What a treat to have had that culinary experience. I've been to India a couple of times, ate mostly vegetarian, so I really do love the food.

Polly Iyer said...

Lois, thanks so much for hosting me today. It was great fun. Thanks to everyone who wrote in. Bon appetit

Lori L. Lake said...

Polly - congrats on all he book success. I hope you sell a zillion books and become filthy rich. Then you can hire a cook! ...g...
Lori

Polly Iyer said...

Lori, you're so funny. You should only be right. What I really need is a wife. Glad to know your books are doing so well too. Here's to you. Nice that you dropped by.

Karen94066 said...

I love curry, but only order it out. At what point do you add the chicken? I did not see that in the recipe.

Polly Iyer said...

Karen, I added the chicken after sauteing the spices, onions, and garlic. Coat the chicken and let it cook a little, then add the other ingredients. Now you can cook it at home. Enjoy!

Suzanne said...

I've eaten this dish in your home, and it was yummy. Thanks, Polly!

Polly Iyer said...

Thanks, Suzanne. I forgot about that. Glad you enjoyed it.

Cindy Sample said...

I managed to make it until age 57 before I cooked my first turkey if that gives you any idea of my cooking abilities. But I make a great flourless chocolate cake (which lasts about a day in my house). Love your books and this recipe. I might even try it!

Polly Iyer said...

Cindy, you can do this. What I want is your chocolate cake recipe. I don't bake because you have to measure, but your cake sounds like something I can handle. Thanks for the compliment about my books. It's much appreciated. I have one of yours on my Kindle, and as soon as I finish the edits on my next book, I'm going to do some serious reading.