Friday, April 3, 2015

Chicken Khirmich Pulao

Chicken Khirmich Pulao 

(Murgir Khirmich Pulao)

If one asks me about the exact moment when I got so interested in the kitchen I would not be able to give the person a straight answer. Part of it was because my mother who always stays away from the kitchen had taken up cooking delicious Chinese food when I was about 11 years old. It was more so delightful for me because I was usually an ostracized person in groups where people of my age group would brag about their mother's skill in the kitchen. What amazed was how close my mother's Chinese was to the food of old Chinatown from Calcutta. Unlike my friends who brought greasy Chinese which was doused in soya sauce or lacked the flavour my mother made balanced mild flavoured Chinese food which had amazed me. I had later learnt that she had learnt this from a friend who had studied hotel management. Then came a period when as with many teenagers I had a dramatic relationship with my ma and she stopped cooking and focused on her love of mountains. So perhaps it was to taste her delicious dishes that I started cooking Chinese food the ones she made at home. She had shared the recipes. That will be for another post.

If I close my eyes I see myself salivating while reading Enid Blytons books and the descriptions of picnic baskets and having this urge to taste all of them but the truth is I grew up among my maternal grandmother and aunt (mother's brother's wife) who left a deep impact on my mind about cooking. While my mother was the fiery no nonsense woman who was rough and tough I grew up in a world of drying lentil dumplings and making lip smacking Bengali dishes. My aunt's influence and an urge to imitate her filled me with an intense desire to learn the way she would render her magic to dishes. She is like a mother to me and taught me all that she knew about Bengali cooking encouraging me and appreciating my efforts.

What I learnt from her was mostly what had been passed down by her mother some 40 years ago hence I have the greatest regard for tradition when it comes to cooking.

Much later I realized that if I do really want to know about my Bengali culinary roots I must do what I believe if the only way to gather knowledge, that is read books.

What I discovered has left me brimming with pride for imagine this in Bengal women were publishing cookbooks at a time when emancipation for women was unheard of in most parts of the world.

Anyway I have bought a number of cookbooks by a number of talented ladies. The point is the books use a language and measurements which are from an era gone by and I am ever grateful to have my mother and paternal grandmother around me who help me out with the measurements.

Before I share the recipe you must know that Bengal's cuisine is one cuisine which keeps on evolving with influence from various cultures and that is what makes it so unique. Even then I am referring to the era after the Bengal Renaissance and hence the food to my knowledge has various influences which include the muslim influence from the north, the British and Portuguese influence and there might be other influences which I am not aware of.

This recipe is called  'Murgir Khirmich Pulao' Chicken Khirmich Pilaf. A rice based dish which includes a whole chicken stuffed with minced lamb or minced goat meat and has meatballs and fried eggs and boiled eggs and the end result is meaty, fragrant from the spices, ghee  and the rice and an utter delight. It is by Progyasundori Debi and has been adapted from her cookbook 'Amish o Niramish Ahar Dwitiyo Khando' (Non vegetarian and Vegetarian Meals Volume II)

Instead of the 750gm of mincemeat I have used 500gm of mincemeat and have changed the amount of spices accordingly. You must use ghee for the flavours to come out.

This easily serves 4 to 5 people

Cups used hold 210ml of water

2.5 cups of  fine Basmati rice
500gm goat /lamb mince meat
4 eggs
1 whole skinless chicken weighing about 800gm

2 large sized onions and 1 medium sized onion
2 tsp smooth ginger paste or 1 tbsp juice from coarse ginger paste
80gm curd
2 tsp milk
Approximately 200gm to 250gm of pure desi ghee

2 tsp whole coriander seeds
Cinnamon stick 1.2 inch (approximate )
Salt as per taste
Fat pinch of saffron
8 cloves
1 tbsp black peppercorn
5 to 6 green cardamom

Start off by first marinating the whole chicken. Prick the chicken all over with a fork and use the paste of 1 onion , salt and 2 tsp ginger paste . Please note that the pastes used must be extremely smooth.

Wash your mince meat once using a strainer and leave it in the strainer for the meat to dry up.

While the chicken is marinating make your dry spice by lightly dry roasting  6 cloves, 4 green cardamom and half of the cinnamon and grinding it in a mortar to a fine powder.

Soak the saffron in milk kept at room temperature. Let it soak for 15 minutes.

Mince 1 onion.

In the meantime heat 2 tbsp ghee and saute the whole coriander and grind it in the mortar and pestle. We usually dry roast spices and then grind them so this process had at first seemed a bit confusing to me but I followed and the aroma was enough to let me know the reason.

Dry roast 3/4th of the black peppercorn and grind it.

Now take one fourth  of the dry spice mix and half the coriander paste that you have made and mix it with the curd and the saffron once it gives that beautiful yellowish saffron colour to your milk after it has soaked for 10 minutes.

Take 100gm of mincemeat and mix it with salt , 1/4th dry spice mix, 1/4th coriander paste , half the minced onion and mix it well.

Boil 2 eggs and then shell them and chop in in round shapes.

Clean and soak the basmati rice in water.

For the koftas aka mincemeat balls :-

Heat 50gm ghee and fry the remaining half of the minced onion and then add the remaining mince meat and cook on medium heat till its cooked well and then make a fine paste of the onion and mincemeat fry and add the remaining dry spice, black pepper powder and salt and add 1 egg white and make small balls out of the mixture and flatten the balls a bit.

Use ghee to shallow fry these flattened balls till its reddish brown on both sides. Make sure you fry them on medium to low heat lest they burn.

Now stuff the chicken with the mincemeat and take a  heavy  bottomed deep vessel wither a dutch oven or a pressure cooker. I used a pressure cooker. Heat 75gm ghee and add the whole chicken after you have trussed the chicken that is tied its legs together and have tied the wings to the side of the breast. Fry this on medium heat turning it over and over again and basting  it with the yogurt mixture for about 10 minutes and then close the lid and cook on low flame till one whistle and then let the steam go out on its own.

Drain the basmati rice. While the pressure builds up parboil the rice with the remaining cardamom , cinnamon, cloves black peppercorn and salt .

In the meantime heat a bit of ghee and add half the medium sized onion chopped finely and then whisk the single egg yolk with 1 egg and a pinch of salt and make an omelette. Cut it into pieces. I had skipped this part because its too hot in Calcutta and I did not feel like doing this but this is part of the original recipe.

Once the steam has released open the lid and cook the chicken uncovered till all the water evaporates and then take out the chicken and add 40gm ghee and add a layer of rice and place the chicken in the middle and add another layer of rice , add the mincemeat balls and add another layer of rice and then add the boiled egg roundels and then add another layer of rice and add the fried chopped up omelette and cooking on dum low heat with the mouth sealed for about 15 minutes to 20 minutes and serve this decadent dish all by itself.

Points to be noted :-

  1. The author had not used the pressure cooker for the chicken but had roasted it over gas flame for a long time till the chicken was cooked. I have used the pressure cooker for fats cooking and pressure cooker renders soft meat easily but remember it must be cooked on low flame. 

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