This was the day of Diwali, 2013. With the Elaborate menu of the previous day which included deep fried bengali puris (luchis) , chanar dalna (homemade cottage cheese in a true Blue Bengali gravy) , aloor dum (Dum aloo ) and kesar pista kulfis all I craved for was some rice and dal and a jazzy chicken. Now festive days cannot be celebrated with salads and health food in my dictionary.
So I fondly recalled one of my favourite chefs, marut Sikka and rummaged through his recipes on NDTv Cooks.com and bingo I found my desired preperation, kadhai murgh, the added advantage was the absence of onions which are the source of your tears even if you look at them what with the 300% increase in prices.
Ah chicken, succulent, soft spicy , robust. As always I did make a wee bit change in the recipe not by adding or subtracting any ingredients but by simply adjusting the quantities.
Its easy , its simple, its lip smacking if I may say so. No, no I am not patting my own back, I am simply patting Marut Sikka's back and the great Awadhi cuisine's back.
So all that you need:
650gm of chicken
5 whole dried red chilies
Coriander seeds a little more than half a tsp
a little less than half a bowl of ghee
1 tbsp garlic paste
1.5 tbsp ginger green chili paste (use about 4 green chilies)
500 gm of tomatoes pureed
1 tsp green cardamom
half a tsp black cardamom
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin powder
A good pinch of fenugreek (kasoori methi ) leaves
salt as per taste
A good pinch of saunf powder
2 tsp chopped coriander (please chop finely because they deserve that kind of love )
I did marinate my chicken for a good 2 hours with salt and half the amount of garlic and ginger to tenderize it.
Start off by dry roasting the red chilies and coriander seeds and simply grind them . Now I did use the old fashioned mortar and pestle because with less amount of spice the grinder does not do a very good job but then its your call.
Now heat ghee in a wok , this is the part of kadhai hence kadhai murgh and be generous with your ghee. Here I must pause and denounce usage of any other medium of cooking oil , its one day enjoy, let the flavours fill your taste buds. You can sue as much olive oil and extra olive oil as you want the other days.
Anyways so fry your coriander chili powder and then add the cardamom and remaining black pepper and finally the tomato puree. Stir stir stir on high heat and lower the heat so that the flavour remains intact and does not give any burnt taste and then finally add the remaining garlic and ginger but make sure that it doe snot burn so moderate heat moderate heat. Add your chicken, bring to a boil , simmer cover and dance around. When the chicken is tender and soft and succulent, add kasoori methi , cumin powder and saunf and again bring to slow boil because by this time the gravy would have thickened but due to the cover it would still be on the thinner side so now cook for sometime without the cover to make a thick gravy. I cannot imagine kadhai chicken swimming around. Add the chopped coriander leaves a minute before everything is done and voila (ah this voila I borrow from the great French chef Raymond Blanc, what daring I have :) ) you have kadhai chicken , enjoy it with soft fluffy basmati or fluffy chapatis.
P.S. Anyone who has ever made a paste of green chilies would know how intoxicating and wonderful it is so hence the green chili ginger paste. It does add extra flavour.
The father who is a grouchy bear said that it reminded him of the kadhai murgh of Ambala cantonment and the ones he would have in Lucknow whenever they would pass through it for the annual expeditions. Ah my joy knows no bounds.