It’s been a while, but I’ve been away, in Italy – Florence, Montepulciano, La Spezia, Genoa, Pienza, Cinque Terre and Rome (there were others but that would be bragging :)). Many were day trips and some, well “port” trips?! And really, how much could you see in a couple of hours on land?! But you know how much I love Italy and even if only for a few hours – it was fantastico!

Ate much, drank more – this thing about Italian wines, even the single euro cost bottles were equivalent to many of our $20+ bottles here. My suitcase just wasn’t big enough. But one of the most exciting things we did when I was there, was to take a cooking lesson. Now let me explain – this wasn’t an Italian lesson, but really a South Indian – predominantly Kerala region cooking class. We ran into the owners of this business – Nura Foods, an Indian Food Truck business. The Chef – Basheer (from India), and his lovely wife – Marta (from Italy), hosted us for a wonderful afternoon of cooking, eating, drinking, great conversation and most importantly lots of learning about this cuisine for me. Chef Basheer delighted our palettes with Shrimp, Chicken, Chickpeas, Lemon Rice and Chapatis – did I mention wine as well!

Theirs is one of those “meant to be” stories – accidental meeting, long distance relationship and 2 beautiful children later. They have the only Indian Food Truck in Florence via their business Nura Foods and if you are in the Florence area, you must look them up and try their food or better yet, book a cooking lesson with the Chef. It was incredible. His style of cooking is casual but precise. Questions I asked were either greeted with a smile or an “are you kidding me” look – I say that with the utmost of affection and respect. He really is a wonderful teacher. You will note that while I am a fan of the Aroy-D brand of coconut milk (I have no affiliation to this brand), we used the coconut powder readily available in most grocery stores, for the thickener (as well as taste) along with the cashew paste.

So here is the recipe for Madras Chicken Curry – a long way from Kerala I know, but speaks to the talents of this Chef. I’ve recorded this to the best of my ability; if some of the steps are changed from his instructions, it’s only because he is in Italy and I’m in Canada.

2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts – cut into bite sized pieces
1” piece of ginger, mashed
6 cloves of garlic, mashed
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 medium red onion, diced
1 tomato, deseeded and diced
2 tbsp. oil (coconut oil or ghee)
15 – 20 fresh curry leaves (look for them, well worth the taste)
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsps garam masala
3 tsp coriander
1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder (beautifully red and not too much heat – look for it. Also called Kashmiri Mirchi and available in Indian food stores or ethnic appropriate locations of Loblaw’s.  Also not the same as regular chili powder which is more south west flavors.)
1 tbsp. cashew paste (in a mini-food processor, grind up about ½ a cup of cashews to produce this, you could also use almond butter, peanut butter or wow butter – it won’t be the same taste, but it is a suggestion)
2 tbsp. coconut powder
¼ cup water (more if needed)
Fresh chilies, additional curry leaves and salt and pepper to taste

To the cut chicken, sprinkle the turmeric, rub and set aside
Add the oil to a medium sized pot over medium high heat
When oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and curry leaves – the mustard seeds will pop so cover the dish
After a minute or so, reduce the heat and add the garlic and ginger – stir, then the onions – stir
While the onions are softening, in a small non-stick pan, add the garam masala and coriander – toast over medium heat until fragrant, remove from the fire and add the Kashmiri Chili Powder – mix well
Add the diced tomato to the onion mixture, then the spices in the pan
Stir and cook for about 1 minute
In the interim, add the coconut powder to the water and mix until uniform
Add the cashew paste to the coconut mixture – mix well and pour into the pot
Add a ¼ cup of water as necessary – don’t put too much water or you will have a thin curry
Add the chicken pieces to the dish and stir to coat
Cover and cook for 10 minutes, remove the cover and add another 10 – 15 curry leaves, salt, pepper and some sliced chilies, cook 5 minutes more or until the chicken is cooked through
Enjoy with basmati rice or flatbreads such as roti, naan or chapati (or your favorite type)
As always – enjoy!