12 April 2011

Chicken South Indian Style from Bal Arneson for Our Canadian Chef Series

Chicken South Indian Style

If you have been following More Than Burnt Toast you will know that a while ago I started a feature to highlight Canadian Chefs. Through your TV networks, or perhaps on other blogs, or even just right here on More Than Burnt Toast you may have heard of some of our Canadian chefs. For those of you who haven't, I hope you will find it interesting to see what our chefs are up to, a little about their history and how they came to love what they do.

There will be some chefs you have heard of and adore and some lesser known who are "up and coming". Some are not even chefs at all, but just Canadians who are passionate about what they do!!For the past year I have been featuring one of our Canadian chefs or personalities periodically and will continue to do so. As the seventeenth installment in my Canadian Chef Series I introduce you to:

Bal Arneson

Forget the mystery of the Taj Mahal, the residence of the Dali Lama or the sacred waters of the Ganges River the true mystery for me is producing outstanding East Indian cooking and the intricate layering of spices. Most Indian dishes are easily constructed but complexly layered. The assortment of mouthwatering recipes of Indian food is simply awe inspiring and for a "newbie" like me rather daunting. It is often said that `variety is the spice of life, and never has a  proverb held so true than it does to describe Indian cuisine.

Nowadays I can at least spell asafetida and make paneer but finding most of the exotic ingredients used in Indian cooking is a fruitless safari here in K-town. Come to the rescue Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen who lives and blogs in Southern Ontario with a focus on East Indian cuisine. Lisa sent me a care package of some of her favourite spices and combinations to get me started. This gives me the confidence to skim, saute and sneeze my way through layers of spices, vegetables and meats and demystify East Indian cooking for life. I am looking forward to the day I no longer need to stop for East Indian takeout at one of our local hangouts and can move the cooking and recipe developing into my own kitchen. Thank you Lisa for getting me started and developing a life long passion for another cuisine.

To start me on my journey beyond Butter Chicken and Mughlai Chicken I chose a recipe from Bal Arneson the subject of our Canadian Chef Series today. According to her website, "she is an author, educator and passionate advocate for simple and healthy, Indian inspired cooking. Since September of 2009 Bal has been hosting a weekly cooking segment broadcast on Global Television here in British Columbia. In July of 2010 her series Spice Goddess was launched on the Cooking Channel in the United States and now on the Food Network in Canada.

Spice Goddess with Bal Arneson affirms the power of using fresh, wholesome ingredients to make delicious, simple, everyday Indian meals. In each episode, Bal delves into the world of herbs and spices and shows how just a pinch of this and little bit of that can add pizazz to any dish." For a budding East Indian cook like me she demystifies Indian cooking and interprets it into terms we can understand.

At the heart of her cooking are fresh ingredients and the vibrant flavours of herbs and spices. Having grown up in a traditional village in Punjab, India, Bal learned to cook over the coals of a small clay pit with the instruction of her elders. When she immigrated to Canada more than 15 years ago she earned a master’s in education, worked for the Vancouver Police Department, taught cooking classes and published a best-selling cookbook as well as teach autistic teenagers part time. Bal sells a line of organic spices, donating a portion of the proceeds to her village to fund educational programs for women and children.

Her first cookbook Everyday Indian:100 Fast, Fresh and Healthy Recipes is a best seller which highlights classic and contemporary Indian cuisine with a healthy focus.  The healthy recipes in Everyday Indian prove that Indian cooking doesn't have to be complicated. Bal Arneson provides recipes that use everyday spices and common techniques to create simple, mouthwatering dishes that even the novice cook can whip up at home.

Bal lives in Vancouver with her husband and two children and is a food and wine correspondent for a national newspaper in Canada (The National Post). She has launched an organic spice line with proceeds supporting educational programs for women and children in India.

This recipe is the perfect way to ease yourself in to East Indian cooking and open up the gateway, or in my case the flood gates. With a good cookbook and some guidance you can demystify East Indian cooking as well. Bal Arneson's cookbook is a great beginning or check out Lisa's Kitchen and ask her what she would recommend.

**Chicken South Indian Style**
from Bal Arneson

  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup dried curry leaves*
  • 1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sambar powder*
  • 1 teaspoon asafoetida*
  • 1 teaspoon red chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 pounds chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cubed
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup water  
  • *Can be found at specialty Asian and Indian markets.  
Serving suggestion: Serve with fragrant Jasmine rice.

1. Place the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and then add the onion, ginger, and garlic. Cook for 4 minutes, until onions are soft and golden. Add the curry leaves, mustard seeds, sambar powder, asafoetida, red chile powder, and turmeric to the pan and cook for 2 minutes.

2. Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, and water and cook until chicken is done, about 8 minutes.

3. Serve the chicken with Jasmine rice.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. I have always been kind of intimidated by Indian cooking but this looks super and easy pretty easy too!

  2. Lovely post though I don't eat chicken. So glad I could help you out with spices.


  3. What a fun series featuring the cooking of Canadian chefs. Most are new to me, and it's been great getting to know them.

  4. I love Indian food SO much too, Val! Slowly but surely I'm adding to my Indian spice collection and get so excited when I find a new one. :-) This chicken looks delicious. Perfect fare for these stormy nights we've been having. :-)

  5. I love Indian food, but usually rely on my favorite restaurant for it! Maybe with a cookbook like this one I'd be more confident cooking this cuisine. This dish sounds fabulous! :)

  6. What a beautifully frangrant and tasty Indian dish!



  7. I like your Canadian chef series, you know wich is my fav. Love Indian cook , despite i never cook with much spyce i like the taste.

  8. Thanks for the delicious introduction to Bal. We are fortunate to have good sources for the herbs and spices needed for these complex dishes. Years ago when I taught and directed a cooking school in Charleston, S.C., I had a lovely friend who taught Indian classes. She so inspired me that one, entering our home, would have thought we were from India with the wonderful aromas. I've gotten away from it since we have several favorite restaurants we enjoy. Thanks for the memories. Maybe I'll start putting more of these dishes on our table.


  9. Yay for you - highlighting Canadian chefs. I love Indian food - and always stay with the same 3-4 dishes. I love how they delicately spice everything. I do little with coconut milk - maybe it's time for a change.

  10. What's the step below newbie? That's where I am in Indian cooking. The list of spices and exotic ingredients is daunting to me. I'll have to check out her cookbook and see if it helps demystify for me.

  11. I've been looking to create curries by combining my own spices versus using pre-made spices. This is a good approachable recipe to try.

  12. Wonderful background on Bal Arneson, Val. I've never heard of her and really have done very little Indian cooking at home. So enjoyed this post and her wonderful recipe.

  13. I can almost smell that soup from here!

  14. I'm very eclectic with my spices and many times my Italian dishes get the spice of life from India as well. Interesting post Val ;o)

    Ciao for now,

  15. I officially really really really need this cookbook! I love indian food but definitely don't cook it as much as I'd like! This curry looks fantastic!

  16. South Indian by way of a northern neighbor! :-)

    I do love Indian food, but rarely venture to cook many recipes because so many ingredients are hard to find. Thank goodness I have a wonderful Indian restaurant right down the street from my home.

    There is a new Indian market opening up right near my office and once it does, I think I need to venture out and try some Indian recipes. This book should be on my list!

  17. This is a wonderful series and that dish looks delish!

  18. How lovely, I've always love Indan food. Especially from the southern part of India. Yours look delicious.

  19. That recipe sounds full of flavors. I like to experience with Indian cuisine.

  20. i love the authentic components in this dish, val--it would no doubt make one's home smell amazing!

  21. Great post. I love watching the Spice Goddess show on foodtv. I love her books even more. The second one is even simpler, and tastier (if that's possible) than the first. Quick & Healthy Indian I wrote about it here...http://www.cookbooks4everykitchen.com/2011/04/bals-quick-healthy-indian.html

  22. I'm watching you on tv.
    It's right this delicious recipe.
    Regards from Romania.


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