Book Bites: A Blend of Spices by J. Kathleen Cheney

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Book Bites is Cooking the Books‘ more easygoing cousin. Authors talk about their book and share a recipe, all in one tasty bite. 

J. Kathleen Cheney‘s Golden City trilogy twined magic, history, and intrigue. Her new book from Penguin Randomhouse, Dreaming Death, brings us psychic talents and fatal magic. Welcome!

In my new book Dreaming Death, my characters come from two different cultures, one of which favors strong spices. In a cold climate, that means imported spices. Frankly, I can’t imagine the horror that must have been European food before the importation of spices. All the sage and thyme you can consume?

J. Kathleen Cheney: Me, I like my food super spicy. I grew up on the border, and honestly came by a taste for habañero salsa. I picked up spicy Asian foods after college, and as a result, you’re more likely to find cultures that prefer spicy in my writing. Because I just have trouble imaging a world without it.

The hero in Dreaming Death, Mikael, spends a bit of time worrying at the line between stew and curry. He’s fine with spicy food, he’s just unsure where that dividing line it. But in his honor, I’ll offer one of my favorite curries to cook: Butter Chicken Curry.

Fast, and easy, I promise. This recipe originally came from PaleoLeap, but I’ve altered it a bit.

OK, here are the ingredients:

  • 2 x 2 T butter
  • 2 lbs chicken, cubed
  • 2 tsp garam masala;
  • 2 tsp paprika;
  • 2 tsp ground coriander;
  • 1 T grated fresh ginger;
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder (adjust to taste);
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon;
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom;
  • 14oz tomato puree;
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk;
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice;

(For what it’s worth, I cheat on ALL those spices. I never measure anything, and I put in a lot more than it calls for. I prefer the hot spices.)

The assembly is pretty easy:

  1.  Heat a pan, add the first 2 tbsp of butter and stir-fry the chicken chunks. You can cook them in 2 batches if your pan is too small.
  2.  Remove the chicken from the pan.
  3.  Put the second 2 tbsp of butter and slowly heat the spices for a minute or two until you can smell the aroma.
  4. Put the chicken back in the pan and stir so you mix in all the spices with the chicken.
  5.  At this point, add the tomatoes and simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir from time to time.
  6. Add the coconut milk and lemon juice and let it simmer for another 5 minutes.

And that’s it! It’s a simple dish, but one guaranteed to get your systems running. I suggest serving with cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes, or any combination of those, plus some good basmati rice or naan.

(And now I’m going to go make stew….because the meat’s already out. Oh, the irony.)

JKCJ. Kathleen Cheney taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, but gave it all up for a chance to write stories. Her novella “Iron Shoes” was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist. Her novel, The Golden City was a Finalist for the 2014 Locus Awards (Best First Novel). Dreaming Death (Feb 2016) is the first in a new series, the Palace of Dreams Novels.  You can find her on Facebook, TwitterTumblr and her Website.



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