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 :)
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 :)
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
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)
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.