A rich and aromatic dish, kormaÂ originally belonged to the shahi dastarkhwans (royal kitchens) of Mughal emperors. Deep rooted in aristrocasy, the mughlai cuisine, thus, is redolent of sweet-smelling, unique spices,delicate herbs, liberal use of ground nuts & dried fruit as well as exotic ingredients like saffron & rose petals in cooking.Dating back to the era of invasions and subsequent period of Â rule by theÂ Mughals, indian cuisine, particularly north indian evolved and embraced the said style of cooking ranging from extremely spicy to mild curries,rice preparations and bread making.
With addition of ghee, nut pastes and dairy (mava (milk solids) /milk/ cream),Â mughlai cuisine is not your everyday fare. It is once in a while thing in our kitchen but something which we look forward to at mealtime.Those are the days when we don't care about calorie counting or healthy eating. Nothing can beat the indulgence of soaking up all of that nutty sauce in yeasty naansÂ or ladling it over hot steaming basmati.Nothing compares toÂ the comfort that such hearty food brings.
The most important thing to be kept in mind when preparing mild curriesÂ is that you cannot go overboard with your selection of ingredients.That regal flavor of korma sauce needs deftÂ proportions keeping in mind that one ingredient does not overpower the other. On those rare three or four occasions in a year when we dinedÂ out atÂ the Karims, a placeÂ nestled in lanes of the Jama Masjid in Purani Dilli (Old Delhi), a restaurant with great history and luscious mughlai food delicacies, dad always fondly remarked how perfect this dish was done there ,a single morsel of the sauce tasting of tang from yogurt withÂ pleasant richness from the nuts & dairy and finishing notes of warmthÂ from cardamom, he said.I clearly remember thatÂ korma there had this distinct hint of kewra(screw pineÂ essence) and with a simple jeera pilaf, it was all you could want at that particular time and day in your life.
It took a few attempts to come up with this recipe keeping in mind those expectations and the memories.I do not claim to taste like restaurants, but this recipeÂ is definitely a keeper. It came out pretty good, if I say so myself and we really enjoyed it.
I use a bit of Â turmeric in mainly for the color and to enhance that hue,I finish the sauce with saffron infused in milk at the end.If you prefer more of a whitish korma, skip the turmeric and just add the saffron strands (without soaking).Another unusual thing in my recipe is the addition of kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves), a flavor which I really enjoy in creamy curries, you can skip if you like.
To Marinate Chicken
- 1.25 lb chicken thighs boneless & skinless, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 tablespoon thick plain yogurt whole
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon Garam Masala skip if you want mughlai taste
- ½ teaspoon salt
For Korma Sauce
- 10 whole cashews
- 2 tablespoon melon seeds skip if not available
- 3 tablespoon cooking oil I use avocado oil
- ¾ cup yellow or white onion chopped
- 2 green chilies slit
- 3 garlic roughly chopped
- ½ inch ginger roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoon ghee
- 4 clove
- 6 green cardamom
- ½ inch cinnamon stick
- 2 twig mace
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric powder skip for white korma
- ⅔ cup plain thick yogurt whole
- ¼ teaspoon shahi jeera caraway seeds
- 10-12 golden raisins soaked in warm water for 10 minutes
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon kasuri methi dry fenugreek leaves, skip if you want mughlai taste
- 10-12 strands saffron crush with pinch of sugar into a fine dust and soak in 1 tablespoon warm milk
- ¼ teaspoon green cardamom powder
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg fresh grated
- ½ teaspoon sugar adjust to how sweet you like
- Pat dry the chicken using a paper towel. Place in a bowl and add all the listed ingredients. Rub nicely over the chicken.
- Marinate the chicken for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight, refrigerated.
Make Korma Sauce
- When ready to cook the korma, takeout the chicken from the refrigerator and let sit on the kitchen counter. Soak the cashews and melon seeds (if using) in ½ cup water for 10 minutes. Drain and discard the water.
- In a heavy bottomed cooking pot, heat up the oil on medium flame.
- Add the onions. Fry for 5-6 minutes until the onions starts to turn light brown. Add the soaked cashews, ginger & garlic and melon seeds(if using) next along with green chillies. Saute for 2-3 minutes.
- Transfer everything to a blander and make a smooth paste.
- Warm up ghee in the pot. Add the whole spices - (cloves, green cardamom, mace, cinnamon) and let crackle, about 8-10 seconds or till you smell an aroma.
- Add 2 tablespoon water and add the chicken to the pot. Sprinkle salt.
- Cook the chicken with the spices till it looks white. You do not need to brown but a light sear is just about enough. Sprinkle coriander and turmeric powder. Fry with chicken for 1 minute.
- Next, add the cashew paste along with yogurt. Cook the yogurt for 5-7 minutes on low heat until you see start bit of oil separating on the sides.
- Add the cashew paste we made earlier. Stir around on and cook on medium- low heat. The chicken will render its moisture and fat as it cooks and the sauce will deepen in color. Cover if needed and let cook till the chicken is 5 % done. Takes about 6-8 minutes.
- Next, add the water depending on the desired consistency of sauce (I addÂ ½ hot cup water) along withraisins. Taste and adjust the salt. Let simmer for 3-4 minutes.
- Finish with heavy cream, saffron, cardamom powder and sugar. Let simmer (not boil) for 5-6 minutes on very low heat. Let rest for 20-30 minutes. Serve.
- I like to use dark chicken meat when making curries but you can use chicken breast in this recipe. Even bone in chicken will work. Just remember to adjust the cooking times so that the chicken dosen't dry out or remain uncooked.
- Hung yogurt is yogurt tied up in a cheesecloth/muslin and hung fort least 30-40 minutes to let its moisture drain. Greek yogurt is a close substitute.
- If you prefer more of a whitish korma, skip the turmeric and just add the saffron strands (without soaking in milk) at the end.