Monday 9 April 2012

Have you ever told your other half something that you promised that you'd never tell anyone? And then been mercilessly teased by them about it?

Yep, thats happened to me :) Most memorably, on a day when we were chatting about nicknames. Now my husband's name is an easy two syllable name, so its really very obvious what his nickname was. Mine, on the other hand is one that has a story behind it.

It all started when I was in this community group in college. On one of our regular field trips, we usually had time to kick back and relax and play games and do all such activities that young (innocent, ahem!) Indian teenagers do. One of the games was that we'd all put our names in a hat, and one name would be picked out. This person would get to do a dare or have to take part in an activity. One fateful trip, it was my name that was called out, and the group leader at that time had the brilliant idea that I should be given a nickname. Aaarghhh!!! Ideas were thrown back and forth but the name that stuck was.... nooooo.... Mowgli! And for obvious reasons too, if you see the picture below :)

Damn, damn, damn! Now I give away my deepest secret to the world :)

Making like Mowgli

Of course, I swore that no one in England would ever know this, of course, but I ended up drinking a little too much one night and gave it away to DH (that would be Damn Husband!) Of course, now I can't ever watch the Jungle Book with Aditi without that dastardly name coming up over and over again. And of course the fact that I am small and brown with short dark hair does not help a whit!!

So what does all this have to do with Mughlai chicken curry anyway? Nothing, other than the fact that every time I make a Mughlai curry Kay finds it hilarious to call it 'Mowgli' curry. Gah! Save me!

But keeping on track with the food aspect of this blog, the Mughlai cooking is a classic Indian culinary tradition. It originated when the Mughals ruled India, and incorporates the traditions of Persia, Middle East and India in its cooking style and spicing. Mughlai dishes are milder than normal Indian curries and feature heavy use of fragrant spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, along with rich nut pastes and heavy cream.

This chicken curry is a recipe that I have perfected through trial and error. The first time I made it, I used different spices and while I liked the way it turned out, it didn't quite taste like the curries that I used to eat in Delhi. So I trialled it a few more times, varying the spice mixes, and marinades, and I think I finally nailed it. This recipe may look long and complicated, but it really is quite simple to make once you have assembled all the elements in place. The chicken marinates overnight, and everything else is a breeze to put together.

And the taste... oh, the taste is just unbelievable! Its incredibly rich and creamy, redolent with the fragrance of spices, and delicately spiced, with the cashews and raisins adding an unexpected depth to the taste of this curry. Of all Indian styles, this one is probably my most favoured way of cooking, even if the curry is usually too rich for everyday eating. I make quite a bit of it, and it freezes very well too (see notes on freezing at the bottom of the recipe)

So, Mowgli or no Mowgli, this recipe will rock your socks... or should that be, leave you hanging from a tree? Hehe. I hope you enjoy this delicious dish, and if you feel up to it (and I promise not to tease you) why don't you let me know what your nickname growing up was? Come on now, I told you mine :)


(Printable Recipe)

1 kilo chicken, cut into bite sized pieces


¼ cup plain yoghurt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala (homemade is lovely!)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon hot chilli powder (cayenne)
5 cloves garlic, grated to a paste
1 inch piece of ginger, grated to a paste
Salt to taste (around 1 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon vegetable or any unflavoured oil


Ground Spice Mix:

¼ teaspoon ground mace
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed fine
1 black cardamom pod, seeds removed and crushed fine
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon ground cumin

Whole Spices:

5 whole cloves
5 whole green cardamom pods
2 inch stick of cinnamon or cassia bark
1 star anise

The rest of the sauce:

2 small onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, chopped
1 green chilly, chopped (optional)
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon oil or ghee + an extra tablespoon
Around 25 g (¼ cup) blanched almonds
Around 25 g (¼ cup) unsalted cashew nuts
½ cup milk + 2 tablespoons extra
A generous pinch of saffron
½ cup heavy cream (optional)

To garnish:

A generous handful of raisins
A generous handful of unsalted cashew nuts
Large handful of fresh coriander (cilantro) chopped


Whisk together the ingredients for the marinade. Rub into the chicken pieces and marinate for at least 4 hours, overnight if possible.

Mix together all the spices for the ground spice mix in a small bowl.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan. Add the onion and fry for about 5 - 6 minutes, until soft and just beginning to colour. Add the chopped ginger, garlic and green chilly (if using) and fry for an additional minute. Transfer to a blender and blend to a smooth paste. Keep aside.

Place a heavy pan on medium high heat, and add the marinated chicken pieces, reserving any leftover marinade. Fry the pieces, in a couple of batches, if necessary, until the chicken is brown all over and sealed. Transfer the chicken to a bowl and keep aside.

Add a tablespoon of oil to the same pan, and add the whole spices. Stir and fry for a minute, until fragrant. Add the onion paste to the pan, along with the ground spices, and any remaining marinade from the chicken pieces.

Fry together, stirring often, until the masala comes together in a sticky mass, about 5 - 7 minutes.

Add the stock to the pan, and simmer for about ten minutes.

Taste and season with a little salt.

Add the fried chicken pieces into the sauce, and stir till the chicken is coated in the sauce. Simmer for about 10 minutes on a low heat.

Meanwhile, soak the almond and cashews in the ½ cup milk for about 10 - 15 minutes, then blend to a fine paste.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk, and stir in the saffron.

Stir in the nut paste and the slaked saffron into the chicken and its sauce.

Simmer, covered for another 10 minutes. The chicken should be cooked all the way through at this point. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a little more salt at this stage.

Simmer uncovered for a few more minutes, until the sauce is thick and creamy. Stir in the heavy cream and heat for another couple of minutes.

Take off the heat and stir in the raisins, cashew nuts and fresh coriander to garnish. Serve with roti, naan, rice or pulao.

Notes: When freezing the dish, make sure you don't add the cream or any of the garnishes to it. Thaw, and add the cream, cashews and raisins while reheating, ideally on the hob, rather than in a microwave. Sprinkle over the fresh coriander to serve.


  1. Haaa, that's a cute story and I love that Kay subs Mowgli for Mughlai! :-)

  2. OMG this sounds incredibly tasty. I love all the spices in this dish and since it doesn't have any curry in it I can make this for my hubby!

    Cute story by the way. First rule though, if you have a personal story to tell that you are embarrassed about don't tell your spouse - they'll never let you forrget it.

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. I'm looking forward to trying it.

  3. Hi M,
    Can I just ask if you use boneless chicken for this recipe? thx

  4. LOL, thanks guys. Now that I have advertised it over the internet though, I have no escape :)

    AZA (Miroslav), I used bone-in chicken thighs. The thighs were really big, so I cut them into two pieces each, and so one piece was boneless and the other had a bone in it. I had twelve pieces in total. Both pieces tasted pretty good. I like using bone-in chicken because I feel it has more flavour, but you could easily substitute boneless thighs for this recipe. I wouldn't use breast meat though, as I think it dries out too much because it gets cooked twice, essentially, if you see what I mean?

  5. That looks so deliciously yummy!! I love mughlai dishes -- it's so regal and we feast on it only during special occasion :)

  6. This is exactly my kind of dish. Sounds delicious. For a while as a teenager I was called Dougal (as in the Magic Roundabout) presumably because I had a weakness for sweet things, looked long-haired and shaggy and lived in a strange world of my own.

  7. This sounds amazing! We love Indian flavors at our house. I just wish I had more access to the ingredients!

  8. It sounds wonderful- the recipe not the nickname LOL although it could be worse, don;t you think :-)

  9. Lovely story - great photos!! and great curry - I'm making this tonight - it looks just too good to pass up!
    Mary x

  10. Great story and an even greater recipe. Thanks.

  11. Too too funny! My cousin's nickname is also Mowgli! She inherited my mom's side of the family's colouring of black hair, dk brown eyes and very olive skin (I did NOT get that gorgeous olive skin). My best friend is also a Michelle and I have a wide variety of nicknames that I call her. lol. We are known collectively as Mellibean and Shellibean ;-)

  12. Wow, I love Mughlai Food. I try this surely.

    Cosmetic Surgery India

  13. The recipe looks incredible! Making me hungry :)

  14. This looks delicious. Will try it tomorrow and get back to you! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  15. Your Mowgli curry is looking sumptiously delicious. I was searching some mild flavoured chicken recipes and now i zeroed in on this authentic mughlai classic recipe. Thanks for sharing the recipe and its background history synopsis !

  16. very tasty food worldwide :)


I love hearing back from my friends and readers. Please let me know how you liked this post, and if you would consider making this recipe, or have already made it. Please take a moment to post pictures on my Facebook page, if you do happen to take a couple :)

Please note, that due to the enormous amount of spam comments I've been getting, I am re-enabling comment moderation. Your comment will be visible on approval. Apologies in advance.