An Indian feast: Mughali Chicken
We were having five people over for dinner on Saturday night and, as I was digging through the cookbooks looking for inspiration, the Boyfriend asked if I had ever cooked an Indian curry from first principles. Well, with a challenge like that it didn’t take me too long to dig out a few recipes that I’d been wanting to try. Indian food was particularly appropriate seeing as two of the guests – the Canadian girl and the Cobh boy – are heading off to India in November and, as they’re leaving Christchurch soon, this meal was in their honour.
Normally I don’t have much time for starters but when we were at the supermarket we picked up a couple of packets of poppadums and decided to serve them with some of our Lady Rose relish from the Saturday St Albans Market. The Boyfriend took over cooking or, rather, frying duties on the poppadums as I prepared desert (Feijoa and Apple Crumble) and thoroughly enjoyed himself. Once the oil is hot enough, the poppadums cooked in seconds and the major problem was making sure that they didn’t burn. I thought they might be oily but, after spending draining on a few pieces of kitchen towel, they were fine – I’ve had far greasier ones from real Indian restaurants.
As regards the main course, the first thing I wanted to try out was a recipe from Nigella’s Feast for what she calls Mughali Chicken, a creamy almondy curry with a slow chilli burn. She uses a food processor to blend the ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander and chilli to a paste but who would need one of those when they’ve got their perfect pestle and mortar on hand? Unusually for me, I actually followed the recipe – apart from her addition of sultanas. There’s something about finding sultanas in savoury dishes that just doesn’t sit right with me. To accompany the pale elegance of the Mughali Chicken I also decided to cook a Chickpea and Tomato Curry adapted from a wee Family Circle Step-By-Step Indian Cooking book that I picked up for 50c in the charity shop (a surprisingly good resource). Just in case anyone would be hungry after that, I found a recipe for Cauliflower with Roasted Cumin in Tamasin Day-Lewis’ evocative West of Ireland Summers and fiddled with that until it was to my liking. With all those, and a massive pot of basmati rice, piled on the table there nearly wasn’t any room for the plates. But we managed…
Fresh ginger – 2.5cm, peeled
Garlic – 4 cloves, peeled
Ground Cumin – 2 teaspoons
Ground Coriander – 1 teaspoon
Dried chilli – ½ teaspoon
Ground almonds – 4 tablespoons
Water – 125ml
Cardamom pods – 5, bruised
Cinnamon stick – 1, broken in half
Bay leaves – 2
Cloves – 4
Vegetable oil – 4 tablespoons
Boned and skinned chicken thighs – 1.5kg, each cut into 2 pieces
Onions – 2, finely chopped
Greek yoghurt – 250ml
Chicken stock – 250ml
Double cream – 125ml
Garam masala – 1 teaspoon
Caster sugar – 1 tablespoon
Salt – 1 teaspoon
Flaked almonds – 75g, toasted
Blend the ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander and chilli to a paste using a pestle and mortar. Add the ground almonds and water and stir. Set aside. Measure the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and cloves into a handy little bowl. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the chicken pieces in batches. Cook long enough to seal on both sides then remove to a dish.
Tip the bowl of spices into the pan and sizzle for a minute. Add the onions and cook over a gentle heat until softened and lightly browned. Stir frequently. Pour in the blended spicy paste and cook until it starts to colour. Add the yoghurt, 125ml at a time, mixing it in well. Stir in the stock and cream. Put the browned chicken pieces, and any juices collected underneath them, into the pan. Sprinkle over the garam masala, sugar and salt and stir into the sauce. Cover and cook on a gentle heat for 20 minutes before testing to see if the chicken meat is cooked through.
[It is at this stage, apparently, that the curry can be taken off the heat, left to cool and reheated the next day. Needless to say, I wasn’t that organised.]
Serve scattered with the toasted almonds and with basmati rice on the side .