Say what? Cilantro, mint is great in dishes

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 19, 2012

The cliantro and mint in this green chicken curry blends nicely.

I usually do some Indian dishes every week and this week was no exception. I did notice that I was using cilantro and mint in most of my dishes this week and realized they are a great combination and Indian cooks must know that.

Cilantro, also known as coriander, is an important ingredient in many savory dishes, salads and chutneys. Its delicate leaves have a distinctive, fragrant aroma, and are usually added to dishes just before serving. My husband’s cilantro is going to seed, since it does not like the hot weather, but it is an herb than you can find in the grocery store year round. It is reasonable in price and sometimes gets mistaken for Italian parsley, but you just have to smell it to know it is not parsley.

Mint is all over the place here, since it loves the heat. Fresh mint is so much nicer that the dried, and adds a zesty freshness to so many dishes. It is easy to grow so you should have it in your garden year round.

These dishes below are fresh and easy to prepare. The green curry chicken is sweet and spicy and cooked in a coconut sauce which is common to South India. It calls for palm sugar or jiggery, which I did not have so I used soft brown sugar instead. These recipes are taken from a great little Indian book called Fresh Indian by Sunil Vijayakar, and it contains more than 80 healthy Indian recipes.

Green Chicken Curry

Serves 4

1 Tbsp. Sunflower oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tsps. finely, grated fresh ginger root

Large handful cilantro leaves, chopped

¼ cup chopped mint leaves

1 jalapeño, chopped

¼ tsp. crushed cardamom seeds

2 tsps. ground cumin

2 tsps. ground coriander

1 tsp. jiggery or palm sugar, (use soft brown sugar)

1 ¾ cups low-fat coconut milk (used regular coconut milk)

1 ¼ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small pieces

Scant 1 cup water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

English cucumber, cut into fine strips for garnish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok, add the onion, and cook over medium heat for five or six minutes, stirring often.

Meanwhile, place the garlic, ginger, cilantro leaves, mint leaves, jalapeno, cardamom, ground cumin, ground coriander, brown sugar and coconut milk in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Add the chicken to the onion and cook over high heat for four to five minutes, stirring often, until sealed and lightly browned. Pour in the coconut mixture and add the water. Season well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and cook gently for 20-25 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through. Serve immediately with the cucumber garnish and steamed basmati rice.

These green chicken kebobs have similar ingredients as the curry but these kebobs are bursting with flavor, and would make an excellent light lunch or dinner dish when served with a red onion salad.


Green Chicken Kebobs

4 servings

½ cup low-fat yogurt

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 teaspoons finely grated gingerroot

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 jalapeño, finely chopped

Large handful of freshly chopped cilantro leaves

Small handful of chopped mint leaves

Juice of 2 limes

Sea salt

4 chicken breasts, skinned and boned

Lime wedges to squeeze over

Place the yogurt, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, jalapeño, chopped herbs and lime juice in a blender and blend until fairly smooth. Season lightly.

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Pour the spice mixture over and toss to coat evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for four to six hours, or overnight if time permits.

When ready to cook, preheat the grill to medium-high and thread the chicken pieces onto eight (8) presoaked skewers. Cook over a preheated grill for eight to 10 minutes, turning frequently, until cooked through and lightly browned. Remove and serve immediately with lime wedges to squeeze on top and red onion salad on the side.