NEW DELHI, India — There are around 25 million Christians in India, concentrated in northeastern states like Mizoram and Nagaland, near the border of Myanmar; and in the former Portuguese colonies of Goa and Kerala. But for my money the best Christian grub comes from Kerala, the state known here as “God's own country.” So my Christmas feast always comes with coconut milk.
This year, it's Duck Curry, prepared Christian style, according to Vijayan Kannampilly's Essential Kerala Cookbook.
Spiced with green chillies, red chili powder, cardamom and coriander, it's readily recognizable to your taste buds as “Indian.” But if your experience is limited to the neighborhood curry house, you're in for a surprise. Kerala duck curry is based on a coconut milk gravy, rather than tomato, and seasoned also with cinnamon and a liberal dose of curry leaves that are ubiquitous in dishes from Kerala and Tamil Nadu, so it has a sweet, vaguely smoky flavor.
Recipe: (Serves 8)
1 kg duck
2 tbsp oil
2 medium-sized onions, sliced
5-cm piece ginger, chopped
6 green chillies, slit
4 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 cups coconut milk
Ground to a fine paste:
5-cm stick cinnamon
4 white cardamoms, peeled
2 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp black pepper
2 tbsp water
Tempering (fry in a small pan before adding):
1 tsp ghee
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 stalk curry leaves (Murraya koenigii)
Cut duck into 5-cm pieces, wash well and drain.
Heat oil in a pan, add onions, ginger, garlic and green chillies and fry until onions are translucent.
Mix in duck, vinegar, salt, spice paste and ¾ cup water. Cover pan and cook over low heat until duck is half done.
Pour in coconut milk and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer gently till duck is cooked and gravy has thickened.
Heat ghee for tempering in a small pan and sprinkle in mustard seeds. When they start spluttering, add remaining ingredients and fry till shallots turn brown.
Pour contents of pan into curry, mix well and serve with rice or porotta.