For years I have heard my grandmother and others of her generation indulging in nostalgia about the good old days when most dishes would be prepared in Pure ghee which has been replaced with refined oil. The first time I decided to give a dish a try with ghee alone it was a big celebration where we had invited a lot of guests and I cooked a delightful recipe of Chicken in it and my guests could not stop praising it even though the recipe was of course collected. It was from then on that I realized that ghee can never be repalced by refined oil.
On any regular day I would rather use Olive oil or extra virgin olive oil for my poached or boiled or steamed chicken but on those rare occasions that I make a special preparation I stick to ghee or in some other traditional cases I use mustard oil which has a full bodied flavour of its own. So these days I only use refined oil on those rare occasions when I deep fry some item.
The influence of Mughal cuisine is quite strong in the whole of North India and even though Bengal lies in the far east it has a strong influence of Mughal because the Mughal rule had spread out to the Far east by the 16th century which is why most Bengali families have a strong affinity for Mughali cuisine. And not that when the Nawab of Lucknow had to relocate to Calcutta he brought along with him a culinary tradition which has stayed on in the beautiful city of Calcutta currently known as Kolkata.
While growing up I have mostly seen my father prepare a Mughlai Chicken preparation which he liked to call Mughlai Murgi which means Chicken cooked in the Mughlai style. Much later when I stepped into adulthood and had by that time developed an intense passion for cooking I read in an article about the history of Chicken Korma and realized what my father would cook was essentially Chicken Korma except that he would add that one ingredient which most Bengalis have an intense love for and the one ingredient I hate using in dishes , the humble potato . So what I did was modify the recipe to suit my taste (with influence from that article that I read) by trying to keep it as close to the original Mughal recipe as possible and the result is a lip smacking dish. Cooked in pure ghee with the resultant thick gravy coating the succulent pieces of chicken it is indeed a dish I would suggest people to try.
400gm chicken (preferably leg + thigh)
1 large onion roughly chopped
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste as smooth as possible
2 green cardamom
100gm thick curd
3 tsp non-melted clarified butter
1 large bay leaf
Salt as per taste
1 tsp coriander powder
Pinch of cumin powder
3 dried red chilies
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 inch cinnamon
Pinch of turmeric powder
1/2 cup water
Cut the chicken into medium sized pieces. Marinate it with half the ginger garlic paste for 1 hour. Now heat 2 tsp unmelted ghee and fry the chopped onions on low heat.
First cover the onions and let it soften and then open the cover and fry it on low heat till it reaches a golden stage. Take it out and let it cool down and in the meantime add 1/2 tsp unmelted ghee and seal the juices of the chicken on high heat till its browned on both the sides and switch off the gas and transfer the chicken to a plate.
Whisk your curd . Once the fried onion cools down blend it to a smooth paste . Now add 1/2 tsp unmelted ghee to the same pan and add the remaining ginger garlic paste and the onion paste and saute on low heat for a minute and add the dried chili , cloves, green cardamom, cinnamon , mace , coriander powder, cumin powder and bay leaf and then add the curd keeping the heat to low and now you must keep stirring it continuously to prevent the curd from splitting.
Stirring it continuously bring it to a boil. It takes patience but is the only way to prevent the curd from splitting. Once it comes to a boil, add water and then add turmeric powder, chili powder and salt and stir on low heat and bring it to a boil again and add the chicken and keep stirring and then cover and cook for 10 minutes and then add the milk , mix well and cook till the oil separates and the gravy becomes thick and coats the chicken. Let it rest for 15 minutes to absorb all the flavour and serve with homemade wholewheat flat-bread.
- Covering the onion when softening it speeds up the process
- Take care to fry the onion to a golden brown colour but make sure you do not burn it else it will leave a bitter taste
- Stirring the gravy continuously after adding the curd is essential to prevent the curd from splitting.