Thursday, March 29, 2007

Chicken Casserole for JFI

Tomatoes, red glowing, colorful

"India is a land of colors". I have written this line as an opening statement for the "Holi" essay at school once every year till 5th grade, more if the essay was in the exams (after that I found better introductory statements) and read it innumerable times. The line remains etched in my mind, a part of my being. Never really paid attention to it, and it remained just another statement.

I missed my family, my home and lots of other Indian "ness" when I came here but never really missed "Colors of India". This land seemed colorful to me too, beautiful fall colors, the fresh clean green, the scrubbed blue sky, clean and beautiful.

I didn't miss the vibrant pink of saris in the crowded supermarket, the turquoise blue of the swirling chunnis in the workplace, the splash of canary yellow on the Asian paints billboards (btw did you know that the guy with the brush in those ads was known as Gattu ?) , the flashing gold of the bangles of the lady selling the veggies. No, I was happy with the subtle pastel colors until a sleep time chat session with the 3 year old.

Nudge, nudge she goes at the most opportune moment

"Yes darling" I say sticking to the neo-mother technique which insists you be sweet and calm and encouraging to the kid at all times even if you she nudges you out of slumber at 11:30 at night

"You know Didun(maternal grandma) says in Kolkata there is no bathtub, but there is a shower and she has many buckets too", the little one informs

"That would do fine" I say, not reminding her that on her last visit she would sit in one of those buckets filled with water and have a blast.

"You know Didun says, in Kolkata she has a pink bucket, a purple bucket, a green bucket, a pink mug and a red mug” she says all excited

"Wow really?? That’s nice, now close your eyes" I say, trying to sound cheerful at the vision of all those buckets lined up

"But we have to go to Kolkata with Didun, we have to get those pink, red and green buckets here and I want to bring the pink mug too", she insists.

Not happy with her sole dull blue bucket she craves for what but pink and purple buckets, something hard to find here and she knows they are there in India -- "the Land of Colors".

That made me sit up and notice how such vibrant colors in the most unexpected places influence us and I thank JFI for giving an opportunity to explore a color and taste each month. So this is for JFI Tomato hosted by RP of MyWorkshop and brain child of Mahanadi. Thanks RP and Indira.

This Chicken Casserole is a Tomato based dish I had learned long time ago from Sanjeev Kapoor, either from his web site or TV. However I had forgotten all about it for the last 2 years. Searching for a Tomato recipe, that would be different from my everyday Tomato dishes (have tomato, add tomato theory I follow) I thought of this but the site was no longer available except for a price. That would be a expensive JFI recipe I thought. But browsing through my old recipe book I chanced upon a Chicken Casserole which was almost what Sanjeev Kapoor had suggested and the memories came back. So I followed the recipe in the book almost but it was Sanjeev Kapoor whom I associate with this dish


Spicy Chicken Casserole

What You Need

Serves 3-4 adults if accompanied with other dishes. Serves 2 if you are greedy and hungry :)

Chicken ~ 1 lb cut up in small pieces. I used chicken breast
Red Onion ~ 1 medium chopped in large pieces
Baby Carrots ~ sliced in halves about 1 cup
Red bell pepper ~ 1 chopped in thin rings
Green Chillies ~ 3-4 chopped
Tomato paste ~ 2/3 cup. I used Hunt's Tomato paste.
Tomato ketchup ~ 1 tbsp. Use Maggi Hot&Sweet or some tangy ketchup
Ginger Juice ~ 2 tsp
Peppercorns ~ whole pepper corns coarsely crushed 1 tsp. If you don’t like the taste of this in your mouth you can ground them fine

Red Chilli Powder ~ 1/2 tsp or more
Bay Leaves ~ 2
Green Cardamom ~ 2
Butter ~ 1tbsp or more

For marinade

Vinegar ~ 1 tbsp
Ginger paste ~ 2 tsp heaped
garlic paste ~ 1 tsp heaped
Chilli powder ~ 1/2 tsp
Maida ~ 1 tbsp

Olive Oil

How I Did It

Marinade the chicken pieces with 1 tbsp of Vinegar, 2 heaped tsp of ginger paste, 1 tsp of garlic paste, ½ tsp of Chilli powder and a little salt in a bowl. Keep aside for half an hour or more.
Chop the onion, carrots and red bell pepper as said
Sprinkle 1 tbsp of maida on the chicken and mix it lightly
Heat Olive Oil or any other suitable oil in Kadhai/Frying Pan
Add 1 clove of garlic chopped.
As soon as you get the fragrance of garlic add the chicken pieces. Do not add all the chicken pieces together by tipping the bowl as this will add the remnant liquid too. You want to lightly brown the chicken and you do not want any water/liquid in there.
Lightly sauté (do not fry them up) the chicken pieces and as soon as they are lightly golden brown, remove and keep aside
In the oil add 2 Bay Leaves and 2 Cardamom
Add the onions and sauté till they are soft and pink
Add the sliced carrots and the bell pepper rings. Cover and cook till they are a little soft, not totally done but slightly soft
Add the green chillies and the ½ tsp or more of red chilli powder
Add about 2/3 cup of Tomato Paste and 1 tbsp of Tomato Ketchup and sauté
Add the chicken and mix thoroughly
Add 2 tsp of Ginger juice, salt and the crushed peppercorn
Add a little water, very little and let it come to a simmer and switch it off

Then Bake...
Heat Oven to 350F
Transfer the chicken along with gravy, veggies etc. to a oven safe bowl
Add butter and cover this dish and bake
Should be done in 15 minutes. Let it sit in the oven after that for some more time. That is what I did.
Best had by itself or with Chapati or Bread

Note: The dish looks beautiful with all the red & orange. You can add other veggies too to offset the colour and have more green veggies.
Next time I am going to increase the "hot" level as this was not enough for me, maybe the chillis lacked the required hotness
The peepercorns were lightly crushed, you may powder it if you do not want to bite into peppercorns in your mouth
You can make your own Tomato paste if you want
If you have the Tomato paste, this dish is quick to prepare

Trivia:There have been several legends about Tomato. A story goes that the lingering doubts about the safety of the tomato in the United States were largely put to rest in 1820, when Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson announced that at noon on September 26, he would eat a basket of tomatoes in front of the Salem, New Jersey, courthouse. Reportedly, a crowd of more than 2,000 persons gathered in front of the courthouse to watch the poor man die after eating the poisonous fruits, and were shocked when he lived.(Source: Wiki)


  1. Yay! The first one to comment! Hmmm, looks good. I love baked dishes for weeknights, put it in the oven, do your other chores without needing to babysit dinner :-)

  2. Lovely recipe-not for me, but K...I am going to show this one to him...he eats Chicken on occasion. Loved the write up on tomatoes...aah, I remember those essays we used to write too....seemed so difficult back then.

  3. grrr, my comment disappeared!!

    I was saying the song "Des Rangila" from Fanaa popped into my head as soon as you mentioned India and her colours! :) Also, I didn't realise your daughter was only 3, kept thinking she was 6 or 7.

    You have so many wonderful chicken recipes, I'm starting to feel sorry for the chickens because I know I'm going to copy something from you one fine day! :) Yum yum, you take it even further by baking it!

  4. The essay memory made me smile - your daughter is such a sweetie :-)

    As for dark and sensuous posts, you may be on to something. Totally made me sit back and think! Food psychology will blow my cover :-D


  5. Sandeepa, lovely post... I always thought US is much more colorful, just the vegetable isle in the grocery store, what vibrant colors!! And in summer, everything from picnic wares to beach chairs, so colorful. But I forgot about the colorful buckets and the saris and all those other things that make India the land of colors. :). Ur girl is so adorable, I love reading your posts about her, she always has some words of wisdom, doesn't she? :)

    The casserole is beautiful, fiery red...and sounds very yummy.

  6. Your write up and sense of humour makes me smile :) And the colours are so vibrant! And the casserole, um, can imagine licking my fingers!!

  7. A great write up! Yes, India is a wonderfully colorful place and the people light up the colors with their smiles. The chicken sounds really good.

  8. Nice write-up as usual, you are a good story-teller. Loved the pix!

  9. i remember writing essay on dr.ambedkar and mahatma all through promary and high school;)
    so did u buy buckets and pink mug for ur little one? ha ha ha... i always enjoy ur writeup sandeepa.

  10. your statement is how true!!!
    Your lil' one is really cute, very smart speaker too :D

  11. Lovely write up!!!!! and beautiful pic of the tomatoes. :)
    Your little one is the sweetest!!! I was imagining the scene in front of me while reading it. :)

  12. LOL @ land of colors.I like my kitchen full of colors too like her Didun!!;D

    Loved the trivia,I read that too that they used to think it's poisonous bcos it was red!:D

    Dish looks great,nice change from seeing all those veg dishes.Great combo of meat and vegetables.Thanks friend:)

  13. Hey Sandu!! I loved the vibrant color of the dish. Surely must be tasting great!!
    You brought back some nice memories of India.
    I miss Kolkata a lot, and planning to send bee a postcard about kolkata pics.


  14. Wonderful writeup! And great colors on your pics!

  15. Nice write up and nice colour. The dish looks great.

  16. SJ
    The whole thing takes very little time, and I always have the veggies cut up on one day and the cooking on another.

    Do you guys cook chicken at home ? I met a very nice Gujju girl at a training last week and she reminded me of you, she was from Canada married to someone here and her hubby ate Chicken while she didn't :)

    What you remember songs from "Fanaa" too ? Lousy movie, didn't like it except for kajol

    Oh my you get me all excited now :)

    Yeah colour at unexpected places, right ?

    So sweet of you, thanks

    That one was nice "people light up the colours"

    I don't think I can "tell" verbally that well, while writing it all gushes out :) Of course I chat a lot with my friends but writing lets you sit back and edit :)

    its hard to get a pink or purple bucket here, the real ones that is and mugs no way !!! Haven't see any yet.

    Thank you :)

    Yeah she is a little chatterbox. I wish I could tape all that she says in Bengali, when I translate to bengali the flavor is a little lost

    hee,hee -- Loved your tomato chicken too

    Waiting to see your kolkata pics.

    Sneha and Sunita

  17. Thats a very lovely post Sandeepa. Your daughter is so sweet. I love kids and their sweet talks. Looks like you need a lot of patience to answer their questions at that time of the night :).

    Chicken casserole looks so colorful.I would love to try it sometime

  18. Sandeepa, your kid always makes me smile and the more u write about her, my desire to meet her is more! As u said, our country is a land of colours and I think thats the reason I have some sort of inclination towards red...whenever I set up our home, the color is more prominent in our home furnishings and the only reason I could find out was our rich vibrant culture!! Good that you noted the heat level of the food..will keep that in mind and add more chillies!


  19. Sandeepa, I always smile reading about your daughter's world view. Pretty soon, she will be writing her own posts :) The chicken looks colorful and delicious.

  20. Hey Sandeepa
    As usual wonderful write-up I wonder what will I answer once my LIL one start asking me:D.
    Picture looks great, can;t comment on chicken though;)

  21. Hi Sandeepa,

    even though i am a vegetarian, i read this post with great interest. Love your write ups-they are an eclectic combination of food and fun, and some great thoughts.


  22. It's a very vibrant dish indeed, Sandeepa! I just loved reading your bedtime chat dialogue. Children are able to cut through everyday life so easily... treasured times, for sure! :)

  23. Thats a colorful chicken and baked too..i love it..will be trying it soon..Good entry for JFI.

  24. Can't agree with you more about Indian colorful culture. I really enjoy it! And your tomato chicken casserole sounds great. I love tomatoes :P

  25. Hello Sandeepa,

    You daughter is sooooooo sweet and smart....loved the colourful chicken recipe...

  26. nahi Sandeepa. I don't make Chicken at home...but K usually has a friend make my Brahmin home remains
    "pavitra"...I am a stickler for such things! :)

  27. Sandeepa, I don't like it but I am working this weekend, what a waste of beautiful Spring Weather I know I know but here I am ...

    The recipe and article gave the much needed color I so desperately needed. Chicken Casserole is making me hungry.

  28. Hi sandeepa, I have one of Sanjeev Kapoors books and its a great recipe store even for Bengali recipes sometimes.

    By the way, do you have a nice macher jhole recipe?


  29. Lovely dish! just had tomato pickle with dosa .sandeepa,Tomatoes are so very much part of all the cuisines in the world,can't imagine a world without these lovable adaptable veggies that I love so much.

  30. Its been quite sometime since I have cooked Chicken. Probably I can try this.

  31. Shilpa(Aaayis Recipes)
    ha, ha..patience..less we talk about it the better :)

    You are such a beautiful designer would love to peek into your home some time you know

    Mandira, Padmaja, Musical, Linda, Maheshwari, Sushma
    Thank you girls :) Your comments colour my day

    Yeah its more brightly coloured !!!

    Have you been to India ?

    I think someone heard you up there. Its been raining since yesterday and the temps dropped too. Hope your work load get lighter by Easter

    Macher jhol mane alu, bari etc. diye ? Seita nei emniy tomato diye patla jhol er ache -- check the right hand drop downs

    Yeah tomatoes are my everyday veggie

    Let me know how it came out

  32. Sandeepa, just let me know whenever you come this side..I would be happy to have u all and ur lil one :) I will prepare a kerala meal for u and i want you to cook a proper bangala meal for me ;))) Deal ?

  33. Sandeepa, I'm back! :) Really? Fanaa was lousy? I have the DVD but haven't watched it, only know the songs! :)

  34. Sure looks beautiful with that red and orange colours.. lovely recipe and wonderful picture.

  35. Hi,
    I tried making chicken casserole with lots of curd during the marinating process instead of tomatoes. Also, after marinating I put everything in the oven to bake rather than sauteing and than baking.
    And towards the end (one the dish was cooked for half an hour), I spread chopped tomatoes and onion rings over the chicken and cooked for 10 minutes till the oinions turned brown.

    Now, I will try making casserole using your recipe :)


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