If I knew someone who is afraid of opulent, complex, hot flavours, this is the dish I would probably serve to introduce her or him to the marvels of the Indian cuisine. This was my first Murgh Masala, so I don’t know if all the Indian cooks prepare it this way, but this one was low-fat, subtly seasoned and mild (the last point can easily be changed of course!). In short: a toned down, but equally delightful side of the Indian cuisine I was happy to discover. Apart from being more delicate, Murgh Masala proved also quite effortless and relatively quick (especially compared to other Indian dishes), so I think I will be preparing it quite often.
This Punjabi speciality is another fabulous recipe I found in the Classic Indian Cookery by Julie Sahni. I have followed the author’s instructions almost to the letter, the only modification being the use of skinned chicken breasts instead of cut up whole bird. I have also scaled down the 8-servings recipe to a dish for two, which meant I have slightly changed the ingredients’ amounts too.
If you like Indian cuisine, you might be interested in these (other gems found in Julie Sahni’s book):
Indian Chickpeas in Tangy Sauce (my absolute chickpeas favourite!)
TIP: This was the first time I used black cardamom (I used to replace it, as it’s often advised in Indian recipes, by green cardamom). The difference is surprisingly huge. If you cook Indian from time to time, I strongly encourage you to invest in a package of black cardamom.
Preparation: about 1h30
Ingredients (serves two):
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces or half a chicken cut into small skinned pieces
1 medium onion (sliced)
2 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped and skinned, or 100 – 150 ml/ approx. 3,5 – 5 oz canned tomatoes
1 medium clove garlic (chopped)
1/2 cm fresh ginger (chopped)
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 black cardamom pod (or 2 green cardamom pods)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon hot chili powder
200 ml/ 7 oz hot water
1 teaspoon roasted and ground cumin seeds
oil or ghee
Heat one tablespoon oil in a pan.
Brown the chicken pieces (without cooking them thoroughly!).
Add one more tablespoon oil and fry the onion on medium heat constantly stirring until it becomes light brown (it can take 15 – 30 minutes).
Add the garlic and the ginger and fry for 5 minutes, stirring.
Afterwards add the cinnamon and the cardamom, fry for 2 more minutes.
Finally add the turmeric, the chili pepper, the chicken, the tomatoes and the water.
Season with salt (just a bit, you will be able to adjust the saltiness later) and cook at low heat, covered for about 30 minutes. If you use pieces with bones, including thighs, it might take more time. (Check from time to time if it’s not burning!).
Uncover the pan, increase the heat and finish cooking until the sauce has thickened.
The author recommends putting the dish aside for minimum one hour (perfectly two hours) and then reheating it slowly before serving.
If you are in a hurry, you can serve it straight away, but it tastes better reheated indeed.
Sprinkle with ground cumin and give it a stir. Then sprinkle with fresh coriander just before serving.