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.
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
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