Murgh Korma – Chicken in Cashewnut & Cream Sauce



Sinfully Spicy - Murgh Korma (Chicken in Cashewnut & Cream Sauce) #indianfoodA rich and aromatic dish, korma 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  rule by the 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), 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 naans or ladling it over hot steaming basmati.Nothing compares to the comfort that such hearty food brings.

The most important thing to be kept in mind when preparing mild curries is that you cannot go overboard with your selection of ingredients.That regal flavor of korma sauce needs deft proportions keeping in mind that one ingredient does not overpower the other. On those rare three or four occasions in a year when we dined out at the Karims, a place 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 with pleasant richness from the nuts & dairy and finishing notes of warmth from cardamom, he said.I clearly remember that korma there had this distinct hint of kewra(screw pine 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 recipe is definitely a keeper. It came out pretty good, if I say so myself and we really enjoyed it.

I use a bit of  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.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

Marination

  • 1.25 lb chicken thighs, boneless & skinless, cut into bite size pieces (see notes)
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp plain whole milk hung yogurt (not greek, see notes)
  • 3/4 tsp garam masala
  • scant 1/2 tsp white pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

For the Sauce

  • 3 tbsp oil (any neutral oil)
  • 4 cloves
  • 5-6 green cardamom
  • 1/2″ cinnamon stick (see notes)
  • 1/4 tsp shahjeera (caraway seeds)
  • 2 small blades javitri (mace,a really strong spice, a little goes a long way)
  • 1 large tejpatta (indian bay leaf)
  • 3/4 cup chopped yellow/white onion
  • 1.5 tsp fresh garlic, chopped
  • 1.5 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2-3 Thai bird green chillies, chopped (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • scant 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 6 tbsp raw broken cashews (or 5 tbsp whole cashews)
  • 2 tbsp melon seeds (skip if not available)
  • 2/3 cup plain whole milk hung yogurt (not greek)
  • 2-3 tbsp ghee
  • 1/2 cup-3/4 cup water (depending on how thick/thin you want the sauce)
  • 1/2 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, optional)
  • salt to taste
  • 5-6 tbsp heavy cream (I quantity can up to 1/2 cup, depending how how rich you like)
  • a generous pinch of good quality saffron (crushed between palms to fine dust),soaked in 1 tbsp warm milk
  • 1/4 tsp green cardamom powder
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp golden raisins
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish

Notes

  1. I like to use dark chicken meat when making curries but you can go ahead and use chicken breast in this recipe too. Even bone in chicken will work.Just remember to adjust the cooking time so that the meat dosent dry out or remain uncooked.
  2. Hung yogurt is nothing but yogurt tied up in a cheesecloth/muslin and hung for 30-40 minutes to let its water drain.
  3. Indian cinnamon is very sharp as compared to western sweet cinnamon. If using the latter, go ahead and add a bit more.
  4. If you prefer more of a whitish korma, skip the turmeric and just add the saffron strands (without soaking in milk) at the end.

Method

Wash the chicken pieces and pat dry using a paper towel. Mix up lemon juice, 3 tbsp yogurt, garam masala, pepper powder, salt, ginger & garlic in a small bowl to a thick paste and rub this paste over the chicken. Marinate the chicken for atleast 4 hours or preferably overnight, refrigerated.

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 1/2 cup water for 10 minutes. Drain and discard the water.

In a heavy bottomed pot or kadhai, heat up the oil on medium high. Add the cloves,cardamom,mace, shahjeera, cinnamon, tejpatta to hot oil and let the whole spices crackle, about8-10 seconds or till you smell an aroma.

Next add the onions, ginger and garlic and saute for 3-5 minutes until the onions starts to turn light brown. Add the soaked cashews and melon seeds(if using) next along with green chillies. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Reduce the heat to very low now and add the coriander, turmeric along with 2/3 cup hung yogurt. Do not stir immediately else the yogurt will curdle. Wait for atlas a minute and then slowly stir around to mix yogurt with everything else in the pot.Cook the yogurt along with the masala for 5-7 minutes on low heat until you see oil separating on the sides.Put the stove off, pick out the bay leaf & cinnamon,about half of the cloves & cardamom and tip rest of the contents into a blender. The mixture is going to be hot so wait for 10-15 minutes before you start blending it.Blend (do not use water if possible during blending).I do not make a very smooth paste, you could decide the texture of the sauce at this point).

Meanwhile,in the same pot or another pot, heat up the 2-3 tbsp ghee on medium. When the ghee is hot enough, start searing the marinated chicken on both sides.You do not need to brown but a light sear is just about enough.  You could do this is batches. Once all the chicken is seared, add all of it together along the blended sauce to the pot. Stir around on and cook on medium- low heat. The chicken will render its moisture and fat as it cooks and the sauce will thicken and deepen in color.Let cook till the chicken is about 95% cooked, about 6-8 minutes.

Next, add the water depending on the desired consistency  of sauce (I add 1/2 cup water)along with crushed kasuri methi. Check and adjust the salt. Let come to a boil on medium. Next add the cream, saffron infused milk, cardamom powder, sugar and raisins. Let simmer (not boil) for 8-10 minutes on very low heat. Once simmered, put off the heat and let sit covered for 2 hours.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

Chana Pulao (Spiced Chickpeas & Rice Pilaf) With Pomegranate Raita



All I think of at the first sight of pomegranates in the grocery stores is to fold the plump ruby jewels with sweetish velvety yogurt and pair the raita with some kind of a spicy pilaf. To me, pulao/pilaf is a very ‘to taste’ thing in indian cuisine. It is like an assortment of things with any sort of grain, mostly rice in our case – quick, one pot but hearty. On days when mom was not in much of mood to cook, she would make some kind of a pulao – with vegetables, beans, dried lentil nuggets or chicken. There would be pickles, salad and raita to serve along.

Come November and the knock of winter winds brought with itself a sudden rush of green and fresh produce in the vegetable bazaars of Delhi.After long, humid and harsh summers,the next few months presented a respite and a chance to indulge in cooking and eating.On few Saturdays I would accompany mom to the sabzi bazaar. Wrapped in my favorite pashmina shawl, we walked out of the house for an early evening stroll and later to purchase vegetables for the week.Those few hours were spent inhaling the crisp autumn air and watching how the nip in the air got people out of their homes, the pleasing sights of street food carts beaming with everybody, eating, chatting and sharing a quick snack with families.We stopped here and there to get buy and bargain fresh eggs, bread and dairy before reaching the sabzi bazaar.Most of the faces at the bazaar were known, for it has been a place of trade between the same set of people for decades.

Mom would patiently listen to household stories of few sabzi wallas(vendors), of their children not studying at school or the gas prices going up. Few complained about government not doing much for the poor and few praising their farms for such fine produce. In India, such is a way of life, so may day-to-day people slowly connect to your life and you do not even realize, it is how the society operates.I always loved to tag along with her for grocery trips just to observe how she would choose vegetables – touching them, sniffing a few, closely inspecting each piece below the flickering bulbs on the stalls of thela-wallas (street vendors with wooden wheeled carts),she took her time to select. If few of the vendors were in a mood, they would slice off a couple of apples or pluck few greens and let her taste before buying.Thick,dark-skinned capsicum to yellowish cauliflower heads to fragrant methi (fenugreek) and soa (dill) bunches to ruby kashmiri anar (pomegranates) and apples, each sample of produce brought with itself an opportunity for deliciousness.

The onset of winters also meant there would be lots of wholesome,hearty meals in the house full of warm spices and herbs. There would be exotic,rich curries and layered biryanis and indulgent desserts. Mom would make a lot of quick rice dishes to keep our stomachs nourished & satisfied. The house would be enveloped in the pungent aroma of mustard oil and earthy fragrance of basmati rice bubbling on the stove. This is one of her favorite recipes which I have changed to our liking over the years, she did not add bell peppers or potatoes, but I love the combination of both of these with chickpeas and rice so I do it more my way now. A weekly regular in our house with all kinds of variations each time.

Ingredients (Serves 3)

You could use canned chickpeas and cut down the cooking time to half but I recommend starting with dried chickpeas and cooking them in water because the resultant delicious stock will flavor the rice immensely.

For the Chickpeas (Skip this step if using canned chickpeas)

  • 1 cup dried raw chickpeas
  • 2 + 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp oil

For the Pulao(Pilaf)

  • 3/4 cup basmati rice
  • 1.5 tbsp plain whole milk yogurt (skip for vegan)
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp kashmiri red chili powder (or paprika, this gives the color not the heat)
  • 4 tbsp mustard oil (or use canola/vegetable/olive oil)
  • 1/2 ” cinnamon stick (indian cinnamon is very sharp so I use less, adjust if using sweet cinammon)
  • 1 small twig of mace
  • 1 indian bay leaf (or regular bay leaf)
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1 black cardamom, cracked open
  • 1/2 cup heaped chopped onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder(adjust to taste)
  • 1-2 medium potatoes, cut in quarters
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cubed
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, crushed)
  • 1-2 tbsp ghee to finish(optional, skip for vegan)
  • Chopped cilantro to garnish
  • Optional – golden raisins, silvered almonds, cashews.

Method 

Soak the chickpeas in enough water overnight or atleasrt 8-10 hours.Drain & discard the water and add the chickpeas to the pressure cooker along with baking soda, salt, water and oil. Pressure cook for 2-3 whistles on medium heat or till chickpeas are fork tender. The cooking time and number of whistles will depend on quality and size of the chickpeas and alson on pressure cooker. I use small variety chickpeas which pressure cook in about 20 minutes. If you do not have a pressure cooker, use a heavy bottomed pot with lid or your dutch over to cook the chickpeas for roughly 45-50 minutes or till fork tender. Once the chickpeas are cooked,drain and reserve the liquid (stock). Set aside.

Skip the above steps if using canned chickpeas. Open up the can and run the chickpeas under a stream of water, drain and set aside.

Wash the basmati rice under 2-3 times under a running stream of water till the water runs clear. Soak in 1.5 cups of water for 15 minutes. (You can do this while the chickpeas are cooking). Also, mix the yogurt with garam masala and kashmiri red chill powder. Set aside. If making for vegans, skip the yogurt and add these spices when you add the tomatoes.

In a wide bottomed heavy pot with lid (I use my 3 qt dutch oven), heat up the mustard oil on medium till you see little ripples on the surface and the raw smell goes away. Add cinnamon,mace bay leaf and cloves and cardamom. Wait till they crackle and you smell a nice aroma. 10-15 seconds. Add the onions and garlic next. Cook till they are light brown. About 5-6 minutes. Add the tomatoes next along with red chili and turmeric powder. Cook for 2-3 minutes just till the tomatoes begin to soften. Reduce heat to low and add the yogurt mixed with spices. Do not stir immediately else yogurt will curdle. Wait for 30 seconds and gently on low heat(very important) incorporate the yogurt in the masala. Cook for another 1-2 minutes on low heat till the masala starts getting shiny and turning deep reddish- brown in color. Add the potatoes & ginger next and cook along with the masala for another 1-2 minutes.

Next, drain & discard all the water from the soaking rice and add soaked rice and chickpeas to the pot. Do not stir. Measure and add the required quantity of stock (reserved from boiling chickpeas) to the pot. The quantity of stock added should be added as required by your variety of rice(My rice variety cooks in 2:1 ratio of rice to water, I add 2 tbsp extra stock ). (In case you are using canned chickpeas, add chicken/vegetable stock or plain water).

Once you have added the water, check and adjust the salt of the liquid (normally it should be little extra salty at the beginning since the rice will soak up the stock). Also add crushed kasuri methi to. Gently stir now (else the soaked rice will break) and let the rice soak in stock for another 15 minutes.

Once the rice has soaked, cover the pot with a lid and bring to a boil on high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and let cook covered for another 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, open the lid and add the bell peppers to the pot and very lightly mix them in with the help of a fork. Cover and let cook on low for another 2 minutes. After this, put off the stove and let sit for atleast 15 minutes.

Open the lid and add the ghee (if using) along with cilantro, nuts (if using), raisins(is using) on top and gently fluff the rice with fork.

Serve warm with raita(recipe below), salad and pickle.

Pomegranate Raita (Spiced Yogurt)

Ingredients (Serves 3)

  • 1 cup whole milk plain yogurt,cold
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp heaped roasted cumin powder
  • a light pinch of dried mint leaves, crush to dust between hands (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp chaat masala (a tangy spice mix available in indian/pakistani stores or online)
  • 1/2 tsp black salt (this salt is tangy, substitute with regular)
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli powder (or cayanne, adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds (or more/less you like)
  • salt to taste
  • Few fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Method

Beat the yogurt with everything except the pomegranate seeds & salt to smooth. I like the raita thick but if you can thin it with little water if you like. Refrigerate the yogurt for 20 minutes.Just before serving mix in the pomegranate seeds and salt. Sprinkle cilantro. Serve.

Egg Curry

The thought of eating steaming rice mixed with thick, chili hued masala from the curry fills me with as much joy as that of a kid waiting upon a bowl of macaroni & cheese. In our house, a weekday suddenly turns exciting when its egg curry for dinner. It is not an immensely difficult meal to prepare and trust me it spoils your taste buds given how quick it is ready to serve. I use my basic masala recipe with a few whole spices added in.

The husband can live on eggs and for me, particularly at this time of the year when the evenings are colder, diving into a thick tomato gravy with redolent of kasuri methi and warm tones of ginger is enough to drive me hungry out of turn.

In India, egg curry is an immensely popular dish. Usually, hard-boiled eggs are thrown in the home specific curry recipe and served as a protein side to the meals. The recipe varies from home to home as well as region to region. The north indians mostly prepare it in a tomato – onion base while the south indian version is done with coconut & curry leaves.Few regions use a mustard paste base and fry up the lightly hard-boiled eggs before dunking them in the sauce.It is commonly served as a side to flatbreads or plain rice.

My mum always used to add fresh peas to the gravy but the husband prefers potatoes so I started making it that way. If you get a chance, fresh peas, sweet and tender beautifully balance the heat of the spices but potatoes taste quite delicious and comforting too.You can use just eggs too depending on how you like it. The gravy is very flavorful with normal day-to-day spices used in and comes together quickly while the eggs boil.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 5-6 eggs
  • 1 generous pinch turmeric powder
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cut into halves or quarters
  • 3-4 tbsp mustard oil (substitute with canola/grapeseed oil)
  • 1 green cardamom, cracked open
  • 1/4″ cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 small garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger (adjust quantity to taste)
  • 1 cup tomatoes, finely chopped (slight sour variety)
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/8 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
  • 1/2 cup water (or more depending on desired consistency)
  • 1/2 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, skip if you do not have)
  • salt
  • Fresh cilantro to garnish – as much as you want

Method

Hard Boil the eggs. I use this recipe to get perfectly hard -boiled eggs.

Peel the eggs, slit (but not all the way through) them using a sharp knife  and rub them with a generous pinch of turmeric powder and let sit.

In a heavy bottomed pot, add the oil and heat on medium – high till you see faint ripples on the oil surface.If using mustard oil, you will need to heat it a little longer till to do away the raw smell.Reduce heat to medium. Add the cardamom and cinnamon stick and let crackle for 10-120 seconds. Add the finely chopped onions next and cook them till golden brown. About 6-8 minutes.

Next, add the garlic & ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes till you start smelling a nice aroma.Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes next along with coriander,turmeric,chilli,garam masala & amchoor powder. Start to cook this masala on low heat. After about 3-4 minutes add the potatoes, cover and cook the masala till you see the oil separating on the sides of the pan. About 8-10 minutes. In between, if you see masala sticking to the bottom of pan, add some water. .This slow cooking is very important to develop flavors and color of the paste, do not rush.Allow the masala to reduce till it acquires beautiful reddish to brown color and the potatoes are 90% done.

Add the turmeric rubbed eggs to the pot, sprinkle the kasuri methi, add more water (if you want a thinner gravy),cover and let cook for another 5-7 minutes. Put off the stove and let sit at least 2 hours before serving.

Warm up, garnish with cilantro and serve!

Murgh Saagwala – Spinach Chicken

Whenever I pick up a bundle of palak(spinach) at the grocery store -all organic & prewashed & ready to serve and what not, always, without a miss, I think about the vegetable patch(es) in my grandmother’s house,a house where I lived in some 18 years back, having a backyard planted with tomatoes and okra during summers and cauliflowers & potatoes during winters.One where the air would strongly smell of agarbatti (incense sticks) in the evenings which were often lighted to wade away the bugs from the eggplant bush, one which had rows dotted with yellow and orange marigolds & english roses.One where each morning,I strolled along the narrow, wet sidewalks brushing my teeth,bending down to sniff the strong fragrance of tulsi (holy basil) plants.One where I spent a lot of childhood days,counting the ready-to-pluck green beans and tearing leaves apart to spot the cabbage buns. A backyard where you could find us after coming back from school, dressed in printed cotton frocks,bare feet, digging mud and playing hide and seek within the squash creepers.

I visited India last year and everything is the same, the yard still planted with seasonal crop but now more taken care of by maali (gardener) than the family. Mom made dal and she sprinkled a bunch of chopped coriander leaves on top,picked from there. I plucked a few narangi (indian kumquat) from the bush which has now turned into a small tree in all theses years and popped it into my mouth with a pinch of salt, the burst of citrus tang running goose pimples all over my body, bringing memories with itself of the days when squirts of that sweet acid graced our daliya (breakfast porridge) every now and then. I tore up a few spinach and methi (fenugreek) leaves and chewed on them, a wish which I had nestled for so many years to experience that unforgettable earthly, delicate taste all over again.

I wanted our daughter to play  and get her hands dirty in the mud but she could barely crawl at that time, so that fun has to wait till our next visit. But, embraced in all these memories, I made this murgh (chicken) saag (any leafy green) last week and she really loved it. This recipe is a perfect balance of greens and protein to nourish kids and adults alike.You would have seen this dish on indian restaurant’s menus a lot. But it is not something I grew up with. I started making it regularly a couple of years back, mostly around my pregnancy years when I craved spinach all the time. This recipe has evolved a lot from the first time I cooked it.

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

For the Spice Rub on Chicken

  • 4-5 whole dry kashmiri red chilies (adjust to tolerance)
  • 2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 5 cloves
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp methi dana (fenugreek seeds)
  • 2 small black cardamom pods, cracked open
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 lbs boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 1 tsp canola or sunflower oil

Rest of the Ingredients

  • 6-8 oz fresh spinach leaves (~ a little more than 1 cup spinach puree)
  • 5 tbsp mustard oil
  • 1″ cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf, preferable indian
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 fat garlic clove
  • 1 cup finely chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 -1 tbsp thinly Julienne fresh ginger (adjust quantity to taste)
  • salt
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala 
  • 1 tsp heaped kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • 1/4- 1/3 cup water (depending on desired consistency of sauce)
  • 3-4 tbsp heavy cream

Method

Wash thoroughly and pat the chicken pieces completely dry. Set aside. In a small pan, dry roast the kashmiri chilies, coriander seeds, cloves, fennel,methi, cumin and black peppercorns. Transfer to a coffee grinder and coarsely grind. Mix the ground spices with turmeric, nutmeg and salt. In a large bowl, add the chicken, drizzle the oil and sprinkle half of the ground spices and rub so that all the pieces are covered in the spices. Reserve the rest of the spice rub. Cover the bowl and set in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours or preferably overnight to marinate.

Once ready to cook,take the chicken out from the refrigerator and let sit on kitchen counter.Bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil in a pot. Put off the heat.Add the spinach leaves to the water and let sit for 1-2 minutes. Drain out the spinach leaves and puree in the food processor using little water if required. You can reserve the boiled water to thin out the sauce later if you want. 

Meanwhile,heat up the mustard oil in another wide, heavy bottomed pot. Add the cinnamon, bay leaf and let crackle. Add the onions and garlic next. Let cook for 5-8 minutes on medium low heat until the onion starts to turn brown. At this point, carefully add the chicken pieces to the pot in a single layer (if possible), and on medium high heat, let the chicken pieces sear on one side. Flip and let sear on all sides. Next, add the tomatoes, ginger and remaining ground spice powder to the pot. Stir around and let cook on medium heat till you see, tomatoes turn soft and oil just starting to separate on the side of the pan.It might take 8-10 minutes since the chicken will also release its juices but keep on cooking.

Once you see that the chicken is about 80% cooked, add the pureed spinach along with the garam masala. Combine and cover till the spinach blends in the sauce, the raw smell is gone, it turns down in color to dark green and the chicken is completely cooked, about 10-12 minutes on medium heat. You will see little glistening spinach bubbles on the top.Open the lid, add the kasuri methi and water (depending on the consistency you want). Let simmer for another 1-2 minutes.Add the heavy cream, check and adjust the salt, let simmer for 2-3 minutes more (but do not boil).

Let sit for 2-3 hours before serving.Warm up and serve.

Notes :-

  1. You can use bone in chicken for this recipe. Use dark meat portions and make incisions in the flesh with a sharp knife before you marinate it.
  2. When you puree the spinach, do not make a smooth paste out of it (that’s why I do not use a blender). Use as less water as possible when grinding spinach.
  3.  If you like a bit of smoky flavor then you can grill the chicken but I prefer searing it in the cooking pot itself.
  4. You could use a mix of greens – kale and spinach work beautifully, so does spinach and methi(fresh fenugreek).
  5. The addition of heavy cream makes the dish a lot tastier and rich but you can skip the cream if you want.

Enjoy & Thanks for Stopping by!

Tandoori Chicken

On evenings coming back from work, when the bus was running terribly behind schedule, I volunteerd to get down way before my stop and walk down home.The side walk still wet from the rain spells an hour or two before smelled of decaying earth and lush green foliage all along looked as fresh as just bathed.The moist breeze of monsoon evenings was a much sought break after spending the whole day in air conditioning.

The fastest way to home get to home was through of busy market surrounded by the yellow government quarters (apartments) which looked like tiny match boxes stuffed on top of each other. In India, such streets are dotted with places to eat and these little food joints have been around for so many years that they turn into local favorites.

There was is a take out restaurant which was one of our favorites for non vegetarian food in the area. All you notice as a passerby were two or three young men wearing colored vests standing in front of the clay oven (tandoor)on one side,their hands stained in spices skewing marinated birds and tikka on to the slender iron bars, and some making rumali roti (paper thin flatbreads) on the other side. The aroma of smoke & cooked dough clinged to the blanket of air surrounding the entrance and the eternal long queue at the coupon station was a common sight.

When we went to Delhi last year, I made sure that the husband tastes the food from there. I remember we ordered garlicy naan, butter chicken and tandoori chicken for home delivery. Its been quite a while and we still talk about the meal from that night so you know what I mean. There must be thousands of places in Delhi serving bestest tandoori chicken but this little restaurant thriving in a tiny pocket of big city is where most of my family memories are woven around – of celebration, of laughter of cheerful Sunday meals around the table.

This recipe  took me quite a few attempts to get together. In India,the tandoori is more charred and blackish in appearance  than the orange hued you see here at restaurants. Infact, if you use good quality turmeric and kashmiri chilli powder, ideally the reddish-orange color should come along on its own during high heat roasting. In India, we do not eat chicken skin, so whenever making tandoori, use skinless chicken, the meat should be succulent and moist on the inside & chewy on the outside (not crispy).

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken drumsticks  (my package weighed total 2 lb, you could use any dark meat cut)
  • oil for basting
  • For serving - Chaat masala, onion slices, lemon wedges, fresh chopped cilantro.

First Marinade

  • 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder or cayenne (adjust to tolerance)

Second Marinade

  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 2 black cardamom, seeds only
  • 1 green cardamom, seeds only
  • 2 cloves
  • 8 raw cashews, broken (or use 2 tbsp cashew meal)
  • 1 small twig of cinnamon (see notes)
  • 1/4 cup thick plain yogurt
  • 1″ fresh ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1.25 tbsp chaat masala
  • 2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder (this lends the color,not the heat)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
  • scant pinch of ajwain seeds
  • 1 tbsp ghee, melted and cooled
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp good quality saffron threads (optional)

Notes:

  1. Indian cinnamon is quite sharp as compared to the sweet cinnamon used in the west, that’s why I have noted a small quantity, adjust as per taste but do not go overboard.
  2. Black Cardamom has no substitute in this recipe. It has a woody, strong flavor and aroma much different that the sweet smelling cardamom. If you do not have it simply skip it.
  3. Chaat Masala is a tangy blend of spices which is used in indian cuisine.In this recipe it makes the marinade thick as well as lends it distinct hints of sharpness & smokiness,if you do not have it, use some lemon juice and a bit of roasted cumin powder in its place. If you want you can order online  or buy at indian/pakistani store. It keeps well for almost a year and can be used in salads, roasted vegetables or meats etc.
  4. You can make the tandoori marinade and immediately freeze it up to a month. When using, thaw it in the refrigerator and mix in the proteins or vegetables you are using.
  5. I recommend not using lean or boneless cuts like chicken breast for making tandoori because the high heat of cooking will immediately make the poultry chewy. You could use whole boneless thighs though.

Method

Skin the chicken and wash it under a running steam of water. Using paper towels, completely pat the chicken dry.Using a sharp knife, make incisions in the chicken and place in a bowl. Thoroughly rub the chicken with lemon juice, salt and chili powder. Set in the refrigerator.

Lightly crush the the black peppercorns, cardamom seeds, cloves and cinnamon in mortar & pestle.Place them into the blender. Add the cashews, yogurt,ginger, garlic, garam masala, chaat masala, kashmiri chilli powder, turmeric, nutmeg, ajwain, ghee, saffron and salt to the blender.Blend everything very very well till a smooth paste is formed. Refrigerate this paste for 30 minutes for flavors to mix.(If its not very hot, you can leave it on the kitchen counter top else in the fridge so that yogurt does not turn sour)

Mix in the chicken and the marinade and let sit refrigerated for 18-24 hours (at least). This time of marination is really important. You could marinate up to 2 days in advance.

Once ready to cook, leave the chicken pieces out of the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil (this makes cleaning easy) and set a rack over it. Also, preheat your oven to its highest temperature  (600 F in my case). Place the chicken pieces over the rack and roast for 20 -25 minutes or until done, basting liberally with oil. Use a lot of oil for basting, this is very important for a moist chicken. You will need to open up the oven door and brush the chicken 3-5 times, keep on turning it to cook on all sides. Alternatively you could grill the chicken outdoors,basting it at intervals

Serve hot immediately with chaat masala, onion slices, lemon wedges, fresh chopped cilantro.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Rajma Masala

Spice laden tomato(ey) sauce, gooey beans, hints of cinnamon and cardamom, steamed rice on the side and lots of fresh cilantro on top.This pretty much sums up rajma (kidney beans)-chawal(rice). Quite similar to the warming pot roast, we pretty much savor this dish every other Sunday afternoon in the house followed by a long nap which by all means is the necessary element of the brunch ritual. This north indian kidney beans curry is spicy and comforting, all of you who love beans and a side of carbohydrate (potatoes/rice) would know how addictive it can get, just few minutes into eating.

When I think something comforting – an event, a memory, food, travel or in general, any milestone of life, I want to be in that moment and think more and even more about it.These days, I seem to remember my home in India a lot. The routine of daily life back there keeps on flashing in my mind now and then.Our domestic help sitting on the floor peeling and chopping squash, talking about the other homes she works in, mum next to her and grinding fresh chilies and garlic in our decade old mortar & pestle. They discussed nuances of long power cuts- the preparations that precede it, casually chatting about unusually above normal temperatures and yet how late monsoons have been this year. In between, my mum would pour her elaichi chai with few crumbly rusks, both having a good ladies time.

While I brew my green tea on summer afternoons, my lil daughter napping, I also prepare dinner side by side, it is such a pleasant time to dig pockets of such spontaneous memories when I am all by myself in the house. It’s a warm feeling – nostalgic & bitter – sweet at the same time.

When I severely miss home, it’s just left to the meals to comfort us. Talk about comforting and rajma masala is my soul food. Not only because of how hearty it is but also because how uncomplicated the flavors are.Its bright and nourishing, its simple and doesnt need you to baby sit the pot. You could start with a simple masala, add the beans, let simmer and done. As a variation add vegetables (I am thinking whole baby potatoes or even few chopped greens here), why not? I personally like to serve it alongside paneer bhurji, rounding off our punjabi meal.

If you happen to taste this dish at restaurants, it comes rich and heavy, the base recipe remains similar but the final dish is finished with butter and cream. Most Indian restaurants in the west do not cook like how indians cook at home. I donâ€t know how this piling on of the fat started.The way rajma masala is made in rural, punjabi homes is a far cry from the overbearing use of butter and cream, it is homely and essentially what true Indian food is like. That said, stay clear of butter pool and make this kidney bean curry -  delicious, healthy & comforting!

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

  • 1 cup red kidney beans, raw (make sure the beans are not more than 6 months old, I buy my stock from Whole Foods)
  • 3.5 cups water
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1 tejpatta (indian bay leaf)
  • 1/4 heaping cumin seeds
  • small twig of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1-2 fresh Thai green chillies, whole or slit (adjust to tolerance)

For the Sauce

  • 5 tbsp mustard or olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup finely chopped tomatoes (slightly sour)
  • 1.5 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder/cayenne (adjust quantity to tolerance)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • Salt
  • Chopped cilantro

Method

Cooking the beans

Note – Skip this step if using canned beans, add the whole spices listed under cooking the raw beans at the time when you make the sauce.

Soak the kidney beans in enough water overnight or for at least 8 hours. This is an important step if you are using raw beans, if not soaked enough, the recipe will not turn out well. Once the beans have swelled, drain and discard the water. Transfer the kidney beans to a pressure cooker. Add 3.5 cups water, cloves, cardamom, tejpatta, cumin, cinnamon, oil and 1/2 tsp salt. Close the lid of the cooker and pressure cook on medium heat for 2-3 whistles or till the beans are 95% cook. An easy indicator to know if the beans have cooked is that the skin starts peeling off from few of them but the shape is intact. You could cook the beans open in on stove top till tender for approximately 45-50 minutes.

Once the beans have cooked, pick up the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, tejpatta and discard. Transfer the cooked beans and stock to a bowl and mix in the ginger and whole chillies. Let sit while you make the sauce.

Making the Sauce

In the same cooking pot/pressure cooker that you boiled the beans,add the oil and heat on medium till you see ripples on the surface.If using mustard oil, you will need to heat tills it’s about to smoke so that the raw smell goes away.

Reduce heat to slightly and add the finely chopped onions and garlic and cook them till golden brown. About 6-8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes next along with chili, coriander,turmeric and amchoor powder. Cook this masala on low heat till the oil starts separating from the mix along the sides of the pan. About 10-12 minutes. If you see masala sticking to the bottom of pan, add some stock. Cook thoroughly.This slow cooking is very important to develop flavors and color of the paste, please do not rush.Allow the masala to reduce till it acquires beautiful reddish to brown color.

Add the boiled beans to the pot next along with all the stock.Check and adjust the salt. Add the garam masala & kasuri methi. Cover and let simmer on low heat for 25-30 minutes.

Once the beans have simmered, removed from heat and let sit undisturbed for 2-3 hours.

Serve warm garnished with cilantro.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Yogurt Stewed Cauliflower & Potatoes

The silence of the afternoon in the house is totally different from the one at night.It is not as quiet and soothing as when its dark outside but definitely relaxing. I sit on our beige couch tucking a pillow below the knees and legs streched out to rest on the coffee table. It the time when I mostly hear the day than just seeing it. Sounds of normalcy, sounds of neglect, symphony of routine. The tap of  each key on the board is louder than usual as I write this, also the tick tocking of the clock above. I raise my head and through the blinds witness how extremely windy it is outside, the tall desert palms forcibly swaying against the milky blue sky. The street is that quite so the humming of the sprinkler in the front yard is evident even through those noise proof panes and the dancing water droplets in the glaring yellow sun promising that sweet summer days are not far. The irregular clattering above our fireplace indicating how we have been putting off that exhaust pipe repair and the aquarium in the is screechy than usual due to the interrupted  flow of the water through its uncleaned filter. My little girl naps in the afternoon and since I could never abide by the concept of afternoon siesta and certainly do judge people who follow it (well almost) these few hours of the day are most precious, ‘me’ time as they fancifully term it. I want to soak up in the nothingness of this moment before I rush back to regular household chores. Afternoon is also time for tea. Something simple, cozy and warm to sip on while I spend few hours practically doing nothing. The humid air in the room is intense with the aroma of lemongrass, time to get up, strain the tea and rest the hissing pot.I guess that the neighbors are soaking in their pool for I can hear a water splash every now and then, lots of laughter too.Engrossed in ‘me’ time, at the back of my head, ‘what to cook of dinner’ thoughts also hover by. I ponder over what my refrigerator stocks and mentally tick up and down a lot of ideas. It could be a cauliflower for dinner kind of day today. Some days inspiration does not come easy, particularly when we are tired of regular turmeric hued aloo gobi. If I want to make something different which does not need me to continuously stand beside the pot but still with deliciously deep flavors,I make this recipe, one of my mom’s best.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 4 tbsp virgin mustard oil (use olive or sunflower/grape seed)
  • 3/4 cup red onions, thin sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 ” cinnamon stick 
  • 1 black cardamom, cracked open
  • 3 whole dry chillies (adjust to tolerance, any mild hot variety will work)
  • 1 fat garlic clove, grated
  • 1 ” fresh ginger shoot, grated
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 medium cauliflower (about 1 lb)
  • 1 large potato
  • Up to 1/2 cup water if required
  • Chopped cilantro (for garnish, optional)

For the spice rub

  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves
  • 1.5 tsp coriander seeds
  • Pinch of ajwain (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp plain greek yogurt (or equivalent quantity, thick hung yogurt/curd)

Method

Cut the cauliflower into florets. Peel the potatoes and cut them roughly the same size as cauliflower florets. Wash thoroughly under running water & let the water drain completely.Ensure that the cauliflower and potatoes are completely dry, use kitchen towel if required. 

Using your coffee grinder, grind black peppercorns, cumin seeds, cloves, and ajwain(if using). Mix these ground spices along with nutmeg and salt to the yogurt.

In a large bowl, combine the cauliflower and potatoes with spice mixed yogurt and let sit.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot with lid on medium heat.Once the oil is just about to smoke, add the chopped onions to the pot. Also add the bay leaf, cinnamon, chilies and black cardamom. Cook the onions till golden brown. About 5-7 minutes. Next, add the grated ginger & garlic to the pot. Cook for 1 minute.Add the tomatoes to the pot and let cook for 2-3 minutes till they start to sweat.

Lower the heat, wait for few minutes (very important to avoid curdling of yogurt)and add the marinated cauliflower to the pot next and combine well.Cook for 2-3 minutes with constant stirring, You will slowly see yogurt releasing water.Cover the pot and let cook to almost done,about 18-20 minutes. (This time will depend on your variety/size of cut too)

Lift the lid, check and adjust the salt now. If you want gravy, add water to the pot and let cook for another 5-8 minutes. Try not to stir the pot else the vegetables will turn mushy.

Remove from heat and let sit covered for another at least half an hour. Garnish with cilantro and serve warm.

Pindi Chana – Tea Infused Spicy Chickpeas

I don’t remember having Dora or Barbie themed birthday parties with perfectly frosted pretty cakes sitting in the center of the table waiting to be cut wearing those frilly birthday gowns. Yet, it was the most special day and definitely something I looked forward to for weeks.

I pretty much had a black forest cake for most of my birthdays, the indian version being a far cry from the  european marvel, still many of you who grew up in India in the 80s would know how we loved it. As with most indian families any kind of celebration meant lady of the house staying in the kitchen dawn to dusk, making one dish after the other.It started with special homemade samosas for breakfast and aromatic biryani or pilaf for lunch and the best was saved for dinner. Everything the rest of the family did whole afternoon was decorating the living room like a bride with those odd colored, mismatched paper ruffles & shimmering swirls, lacking in cohesion but strings of happiness & celebration running through them for certain.

It did not feel like a birthday unless guests had scooped spicy hot chole with yeasty, puffed bhaturas and gobbled down at least a few dozens of warm homemade gulab jamuns. Sometimes, dum aloo and moong dal ki goli were added to the menu but relishing that aromatic, earthy chickpeas curry is what my most fond birthday memory is made up of.You would wonder as to whats so special about chickpeas, but in our  house, chickpeas and other bean curries were limited to special occasions. Given that most of the indian kids I have known in my life LOVE chole-bhature, I was no different.

Usually, I am not hell-bent on starting traditions in the family but the equation changes when food is involved. A couple of weeks back when we celebrated little A’s birthday, amongst those pink cupcakes & chinese food, I severely yearned to eat chole- bhature and missed the time when we sat in rounds on the floor with food loaded bhojanthaals set in front of us, laughter, greasy fingers and steam emanating from straight-out-the-wok fried bread. Suddenly, it made perfect sense to make chickpea curry for the two of us and relieve those moments for a while.

Pindi Chana is a spicy chickpea curry which gets its name from Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan) before India-Pak partition, where it originated.This curry is different from the regular chana masala in terms of the selection of spices and rich color from tea added during boiling the chickpeas.Don’t worry you will never taste the tea here,rather a very unique, earthy flavor,notable to this spicy preparation. Pindi Chana is a dry preparation of chickpeas  coated with the masala (sauce) and is best served with a bread, salad and pickle on the side.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

For Boiling the Chickpeas (skip this step if using canned chickpeas)

  • 1 cup chickpeas, raw
  • 1 no black unflavored tea bag((if you are using a mild tea variety, you can use 2 bags)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 tbsp chaat masala

For the Sauce

  • 4 tbsp mustard oil (or any neutral oil)
  • 3/4 cup tomatoes, chopped
  • 1.5 tsp grated fresh ginger shoot
  • 1 fat garlic clove
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1-2 Thai green chilies (adjust to tolerance)
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped Cilantro for garnish

Grind to a coarse powder

  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1.5 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • 1 tsp anardana (dried pomegranate seeds, use lemon juice/dry mango powder if you don’t have these)
  • 1 small black cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp kasuri methi(dried fenugreek leaves)

Method

Soak the chickpeas overnight in enough water.Drain and discard the water and transfer the chickpeas to your pressure cooker. Add tea bag, salt,soda, oil and 2.5 cups water and pressure cook for 4-5 whistles or till 95% cooked. Please adjust the cooking time & number of whistles depending on your variety of chickpeas. Once cooked, drain the chickpeas, discard the tea bag and reserve the stock. Mix with chaat masala and half of the ground spice powder with the chickpeas and set aside.

In a pot, heat up the oil to smoky on high heat. Take off the stove and add the chopped tomatoes to the oil. Also add ginger and garlic. Cook on medium heat till the tomatoes soften and you see oil separating on sides of the pot. At this point, add the turmeric and rest of the spice powder to the pan and cook for another 3-4 minutes till you smell a nice aroma. Add the chickpeas to the pot next with about 3/4 – 1 cup of reserved stock and green chillies. Taste and adjust the salt. Cover and let the chickpeas cook on medium low heat for 20-25 minutes or till they  are completely soft but not mushy.

Let sit for 1-2 hours before serving. The sauce will thicken up and develop flavors as the dish sits. When ready to serve, reheat and if you feel that they are too dry, add little bit of reserved stock, simmer again for 5-7 minutes and serve garnished with cilantro.

Serve with bhatura, warm tortillas, pita bread or naan.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Palak (Saag) Paneer – Spinach & Indian Cheese

I think that one of the best palak paneer that I have eaten ever is the one prepared with home grown spinach from my grandma’s house. One from the vegetable patch which sprung to life with all sorts of greens under the winter sun. It was so thoughtful how our maali (gardener) was instructed to allocate square patches to vegetables.The cilantro, dill and mint which were used so very frequently throughout the day were sown first, followed by tubers and other root vegetables.To wade away the pests, every now and then badi mummy would keep a lighted incense amongst the large coarse leaves of the eggplant area.And it worked.Last few rows were the leafy greens & other delicate creepers, just so that you go towards them only when you need to.

There were the few aromatic methi (fenugreek greens) with its distinctive bitter sweet smell and the laal chaulai having smooth & shiny leaves.Then appeared the tender garlic & onion scapes which were plucked every now & then to accompany the lunch.As compared to these spinach rows were many and more sought after. During winters, spinach became a sudden favorite in the house, it was added to lentils, tossed in salads, made into fritters with evening chai or simply stir fried with garlic & potatoes.

The juicy, fleshy short stems reminding you how simple yet nourishing mother earth’s bounty can be. The mellow, soft taste of the organic leaves hardly needed a dash of lime juice and salt to become a perfect salad alongside dal – rice.Having eaten homegrown for so many years, that fresh taste is something hard to match with anything I cook from stores.

I was always the child who ate her vegetables. I cannot eat meat for more than two days in a week. I love vegetables and if I don’t eat them for a while,my body starts missing them. On days, when I cook rich & heavy foods for the husband which I am not much in a mood for, I treat myself to palak paneer. Slow cooked spinach gives the dish a beautiful green color and creamy homemade paneer add the perfect richness.This recipe uses very less spices & no cream/butter so that the delicate taste of spinach is not overpowered by them.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 8 oz organic spinach
  • 2 – 2.5 cups water
  • 1-2 cloves
  • 4 tbsp mustard oil (or any neutral oil of choice)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds, finely crushed
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
  • 1 fat garlic clove,minced
  • 3/4 cup tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 2-4 Thai green chillies (adjust to tolerance)
  • pinch of turmeric
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1.5″ fresh ginger shoot, grated
  • 1/2 tsp  kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, optional but recommended)
  • 6 oz paneer, cut into cubes (store-bought or homemade)
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream to finish off (optional)

Notes - 

  1. Use extra firm tofu in place of paneer and skip cream to make it a vegan recipe.
  2. You can lightly fry the paneer cubes in 1-2 tsp of oil before adding to the curry if you want.

Method

Add cloves to water and bring to a boil.Meanwhile, thoroughly wash the spinach leaves. Roughly chop the leaves if they are too big. Since I use baby spinach, the stems are tender, however you can pick the stems out if they are too hard.Once the water is boiling,turn off the heat & immediately add spinach to it.Let the leaves soak for 2-3 minutes and then drain. Reserve the liquid and transfer the spinach to food processor.Put in the cloves too. Pulse. I do not like to make a smooth puree however you can blend the spinach to desired texture. If needed, the reserved can be used liquid while blending.Set the blended spinach aside.

Heat up oil on high in a kadai or medium heavy bottomed pot.Once the oil is smoky, reduce the heat to medium & wait for 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped onions to it along with fennel & cumin seeds (in that order) and sauté  till the onions start to lightly brown.Next add the garlic, chopped tomatoes, coriander powder, green chillies, turmeric & cinnamon to the pot and keep on cooking on medium low heat till you see oil separating on the sides of the pot. This may take 8-10 minutes. Add the spinach, ginger, and salt to the pot and mix well. Also add 1/3 cup of reserved liquid. Let the spinach cook on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes and then reduce the heat to low. Let cook on low heat for least 20 minutes. The spinach will bubble a lot during cooking (you can put a lid) and you will need to stir it in between to avoid sticking to bottom. Also the spinach will change color to dull green and you will start seeing glisten on the sides of the pot. At this point, add the paneer cubes and kasuri methi (if using) to the pot along with reserved liquid (quantity depending on how runny you want the dish). Also add the sugar. Cover and let cook on medium low for another 8-10 minutes till the paneer softens.

Let sit for 1-2 hours before serving. When ready to serve, add the cream, reheat and serve alongside hot flatbreads, steamed rice & salad.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by.

Chicken With Yogurt & Whole Spices – Sabut Masale ka Murgh

A very homestyle, rustic kind of chicken dish where you just need to throw everything together and let it be on its own for some time.The soggy whole spices steeped beforehand in warm water burst open their flavors over slow heat. The dark chicken meat soaks up all of it and gives in,releasing its juices to the sauce and requiring very little care as it cooks.

If you try to lift up the lid to peek in, a strong aroma wafts out, filling up your senses. Once the steam clears you would see little bubbles in the sauce with holes in the centre and reddish glisten all around from fat of the chicken. You know its going to be good.

Except whole peppercorns, almost all the spices (including the red chillies which become sweetish) melt away in the gravy.Even though you might be intimidated by the long list of spices but the addition of yogurt perfectly offsets the heat level, not making the sauce too spicy, rather savory.

I made this dish quite a number of times for few weeks. This is what happens when we like something. We keep on cooking and eating it till we are at the brink of getting bored. Then we nestle the recipe for a while and start our quest for another spice blend, another curry, different flavors.

Sabut (Khade) Masale ka Murgh- Chicken with Whole Spices & Yogurt

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 1 lb  chicken thighs, cut into 2″ pieces (use dark meat)
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 3-4 tbsp mustard oil
  • 3/4 cup onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tejpatta (indian bay leaf)
  • 1/3 cup water (or more/less depending on the desired consistency)
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped Cilantro for garnish

In a small bowl, steep the spices below in 1/3 cup warm water for 30 minutes –

  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds 
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 black cardamom
  • small twig of mace
  • 1″ piece of cinnamon
  • 6-7 dry whole red chillies (adjust to tolerance)
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2″ shoot of fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder (optional,this primarily lends a beautiful color)

Method

Marinate the chicken in yogurt,turmeric and 1/4 tsp salt for about 2-3 hours, refrigerated.

Once ready to cook, take out the chicken from the fridge and let sit on the kitchen counter. In a large pot, heat up the mustard oil on high till you see its slightly smoky. Reduce the heat to medium and wait for 2 minutes. Add the sliced onions to the pot, also add the tejpatta and cook till onions are lightly browned.This will take around 5-8 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low and add the marinated chicken to the pot.Using the cooking spoon, slowly toss the chicken pieces to combine with the browned onions. Let cook for 5-6 minutes.Do not rush else the yogurt will curdle.

Raise the heat to medium and add the soaked spices (along with liquid) to the pot and mix well with the chicken. Let cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add salt to taste to the pot. Next, close the lid, reduce stove to low and let the chicken simmer for 30 minutes. There is no need to stir continuously, you can check 1-2 times in between than the chicken is not sticking to the bottom.

After 30 minutes,check the seasoning and the doneness of the chicken. Raise the stove to medium heat, add 1/3 cup water and let simmer for another 10 minutes.

Let rest for at least 2-3 hours before serving.

When ready to serve, reheat, garnish with chopped cilantro & serve.

Enjoy & Thanks for Stopping by!