Yasmin and her family arrived in Malaysia with the clothes on their backs, family documents in her handbag and her skills.
With little or no help from the local community, she decided to start a self-help group to get refugee women together to support each other.
Having, against all odds, been given such an opportunity to learn, Yasmin’s mission became, in her new environment, to empower refugee women to become independent.
In training them in the craft of cooking and sewing, she sought to develop their motivation and self-reliance skills so that they could become contributing members in the wider community.
“Becoming a refugee is not a choice – it’s because of circumstances. You are faced with something difficult and you have to flee. Leaving your home country is very difficult. We could not live under those circumstances because of our children. I have everything in my country, it is only peace we do not have.”
Yasmin thrives in being active and productive which generates a sense of normalcy and purpose.
With the same passion and energy that fuels everything she does, she prepares the most wonderfully succulent spicy chicken tikka with a side of cooling pudina chutney and freshly baked naan bread.
Every mouthful is an explosion of flavours harmoniously dancing on your tongue. She insists that simple food is always the best, keeping true to the ingredients and grinding one’s own spices.
Tikka means pieces or morsels. Thanks to the spiced yogurt marinade they become succulent flavoured morsels, perfect for gatherings.
The tanginess and heat from the spices is beautifully counterbalanced by the coolness of the yogurt.
Chicken tikka is usually cooked in a tandoori oven, which gives it a wonderful smoky charcoal taste, but you can use a barbecue to achieve almost the same flavour.
This dish has a good kick to it, so if you want it less spicy, you can either remove the seeds or reduce the number of chillies.
Ingredients: Serves 2–3
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2–3 small fresh green chillies, whole
- 2 dried red chillies
- 2–3 lemongrass stalks, white part only, ends and outer leaves removed
- 1 piece of ginger, around 3 cm long, cut into small pieces
- Juice from 2 lemons or 4 tbsp apple vinegar (either of these acids tenderises the meat)
- 150g Greek style yogurt
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp chicken stock powder or ½ stock cube, crushed
- 600g chicken breast, cut into even sized strips
- 3 tbsp olive oil for grilling
- Put the garlic, small fresh green chillies, dried red chillies, lemongrass, ginger and lemon juice (or apple vinegar) in a blender and blitz to a liquid paste.
- Put the yogurt in a large bowl or oven dish and add the ground coriander, cumin, garam masala, black pepper and chicken stock powder and mix to incorporate well.
- Spoon the spicy paste into the spiced yogurt and mix everything well. Add the chicken pieces into the marinade, making sure all the pieces are well coated. Leave to marinate in the fridge overnight, or for at least 30 minutes.
- Remove the marinated chicken from the fridge about half an hour before cooking.
- You can use either a grill pan or a barbecue hot plate to cook the chicken. Heat the pan over a high heat, pour the olive oil and evenly spread the chicken strips in the pan or plate. Cook for 5 minutes on each side before turning over, or until the chicken is cooked through and golden brown.
- Arrange them on a platter and serve with freshly baked kulcha naan and pudina chutney and eat with your hands.
Pudina Chutney/Mint and Coriander Chutney
This mint and coriander chutney is a great all-round condiment that pairs well with most barbecued meats. The freshness of the herbs mixed with the coolness of the yogurt makes for a very flavourful chutney. You can omit chillies altogether and rely on the spiciness from the barbequed meats, or spice it up even more according to your taste.
Ingredients: Makes around 350ml
- 1 tightly packed cup mint leaves
- 1 tightly packed cup coriander leaves
- 1 tightly packed cup tulasi leaves (you can use more coriander and/or mint leaves instead)
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 – 2 small fresh green chillies
- ½ tsp salt
- 300g Greek style yogurt
- Combine the herbs, garlic and chillies together with a little bit of water in a blender and whiz into a smooth paste. You can freeze the paste at this stage and fully defrost it before making the chutney.
- Add the paste, salt and yogurt in a bowl and mix well until you have a vibrant green chutney. Chill in the fridge for an hour for the flavours to infuse.
- Serve as an accompaniment with any grilled meats. Also great as a dip. This will keep in the fridge for two to three days.
This article was written by Haris Coussidis and originally published by UNHCR Malaysia in “A Taste from Home: Recipes and stories from refugees living in Malaysia”. It was re-published in uppre.com