Friday 27 December 2013


India, a land of contrasts. Every time I think I have a handle on this extraordinary country, it throws me a curveball. From the first step off a long flight, the smell of wood smoke, chill and the hints of dust in the air... the cheerful faces of relatives, even at the unearthly hour of 3 AM...  the sparkling lights of Christmas time (any excuse for a holiday, here) and of course, the hot food at my aunts, that she prepared for me, even though she works full time.

I loved the feeling of being home with my aunt  Jessie. I've already spoken about my aunt, in this post here, but I have to reiterate, that she's an amazingly simple, elegant, down to earth person, who happens to be a super cook to boot. Lucky uncle and my cousin Jas.

The next morning brought back to me why I miss India so much. As Adz and I, bleary eyed, straggled our way downstairs - jet lagged and exhausted - the aroma of fresh, hot chai floated up and into our grateful insides. Along with sizzling, hot, buttered rotis and a crisp fried masala egg... well, to be honest, that's my idea of heaven. 

I've been documenting my everyday adventures here on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, so don't forget to head over and ogle the beauty of my chais and chapathis :)  

As it turned out, my aunt decided to take the day off, and along with another of my aunts, Aunt Justine and my cousin Jas, we decided to hang out in Bangalore, refreshing my memories of choking traffic and the sheer chaos of riding on roads without rules. I was mentally compiling a list of ten things about traffic and driving in India, and I will definitely share that with you all soon... trust me, it will make for exciting reading.

Meanwhile, when we got back from our meanderings, my aunt Jessie had been cooking all morning. On our way back from the airport, the driver of our car noticed that the vegetable trucks had just started unloading vendors loaded down with fresh greens and vegetables. A quick word to my uncle, and we stopped right there by the roadside, and off they went to grab some bargain fresh fenugreek, cilantro and spinach.

(Note: apparently, as the day gets on, prices go up significantly, so it does pay to be out at 4.30 AM)

Coming back home, we had a veritable feast spread out in front of us. Earlier in the morning, Aunt Justine had carefully picked through the fenugreek leaves, and Aunt Jessie sauteed them up with potatoes and light spices to make for a fresh, earthy green side vegetable.

Aunt Jessie had also made this divine Chicken Mughlai. At first taste, I was pretty sure she'd slaved over the stove all morning. She laughed and was coy... my aunt needed to be persuaded a little more. And as we sat and ate Jas and I were chatting about everything, at which point Jas complained that I seem to get all of aunt's specialties whenever I come down. She was grumbling about the fact that my aunt hadn't made this Mughlai in ages, to which my aunt grinned back, and told us the whole story.

Which was, that she'd made this dish a few times, and then lost the recipe. She said she'd hunted all over for it, but she just couldn't find it anywhere, at which point she gave it up as a gone cause. And then, the week before I was due to arrive, she was dusting under the cloth that covers the fridge, and lo! what should float out, but this very, selfsame recipe. Woohoo! Lucky me... indeed.

Once I got the recipe off my aunt, I was honestly gobsmacked at how easy it was to make. But, then, my aunt Jessie is known for her quick and easy recipes, that nevertheless taste like you've spent hours cooking away. As she puts it, its not like she has hours to stand over a stove, seeing as she gets back in the evening and dinner has to be on the table in a couple of hours.

I made this recipe on Christmas day at our home in Mangalore. To be honest, it was more or less to prove to mom that, yes, I could cook too, haha. Mom was impressed, and the even harder food critic, my sister, couldn't believe how good it was.

And I was really, really chuffed at how brilliant it turned out... well, not as fantastic as my aunt Jessie's... but there's always a magic ingredient in there, cliched as it may sound... love :) Thanks Aunt Jessie, I love cooking with you (PS - She made me say this in exchange for the recipe, haha)

(Printable Recipe)

1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
4 - 5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon mild cayenne pepper (Kashmiri chilli powder)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (cut into two pieces)
2 tablespoons unscented oil or ghee
1 medium onion, finely diced
1/4 cup unsalted cashew nuts
1/2 cup boiling water
Salt to taste
Fresh cilantro to garnish


Whisk together the yogurt, ginger, garlic, chilli powder and garam masala. Marinate the chicken in this mixture for at least four hours, ideally overnight.

Heat the oil or ghee in a heavy based pot, and add the onions. Fry on a gentle heat for about 7 - 10 minutes, until the onions are soft, but not coloured.

Add the chicken, marinade and all. Season with a little salt, and fry for a few minutes. Lower the heat, and simmer for about 15 - 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, soak the cashew nuts in the boiling water for a few minutes. Blend to a fine paste, adding a little more water, and sieving if necessary, for a smooth paste. 

Stir in the cashew paste into the chicken. Season to taste.

Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro, and serve with pulaos, rotis or naan.


  1. This is most definitely one of those recipes that I not only want to make but, actually, I can't wait to make. So simple but so gorgeous. I am deeply grateful to your Aunt Jessie. Have a very happy and healthy 2014.

    1. Thanks Phil, my aunt Jessie does guard her recipes carefully, but some well chosen words of flattery can release them :) Hope you have a fabulous 2014 too, can't wait!

  2. Sounds wonderful and it has been printed so that we can enjoy it too! Please send my thanks to your Aunt Jessie.

    1. Hey Janice, I definitely will :) Happy New Year to you, and thank you for all your support. Couldn't do this without you :)

  3. Sounds great. My 7 yr old daughter has just started eating curry (currently relegated to Korma). I think with some gental spicing this could be phase two

  4. Have it marinating now for cooking tomorrow. Can't wait! We're less than a week back from Mangalore ourselves so will be a good reminder of the lovely food we were eating so recently! My husband will flip if I make the indad you posted today. Love your blog!

  5. Well, I got around to making this dish this weekend and it was lovely (as well as easy - always a bonus). This is definitely a recipe that deserves to become a regular visitor to the kitchen. I'm even more deeply grateful to your Aunt Jessie.

  6. I made this over the weekend, and it's delicious. One question for you, though - how do you get that beautiful yellow colour in your pictures? Though mine tasted delicious, the colour turned out more like a cream/tan colour.

    1. Hiya, my curry was a cream/ tan coloured one too. Its the sun reflecting off in my photographs that makes it look so yellow :) However, if you do want your curries to look golden, you can always add either saffron or turmeric. In this case, I would recommend a pinch of saffron, as the flavour would work better with the richness of this dish. To incorporate saffron, dissolve a few strands in a couple tablespoons of warm milk. Stir in with the cashew paste. If using turmeric, add 1/2 a teaspoon to the marinade. Hope this helps!

    2. Ah, thanks Michelle! I was wondering why mine didn't look quite like yours. Like I said, though, it tasted absolutey delicious! Thanks for sharing this recipe with us. This is something that will be a regular part of my diet, I think! :D

  7. Michelle, I accidentally stumbled upon your site having goggled for the famous Mughlai Chicken recipe. this threw me back in time as I had a very similar recipe from Balbir Singh's book of Indian cookery. the only difference was the use of Khoya or milk mawa to make it more rich. I do not have the book anymore, but remembered ingredients and as mentioned, similar to your recipe. Having scoured quite a few sites, this was the closest to that. thank you for posting the same. Being a Canadian & an ardent cook myself I follow quite a few sites of other bloggers from there like Mona from Toronto who handles ZAIQA. You surely have some interesting information. keep it up. Though I do not blog, should you be interested in Indian recipes which I found in the lesser known areas of Mumbai, I would gladly share them with you. do let me know. thanks once again for wonderful recipes.

    1. Hi there, thank you so much for your kind words. I love this simple recipe and it really does take me straight to the dhabas of Delhi. And yes, I would LOVE to have your recipes. If I ever use them, they will be fully credited to you :) Please send them to me at my email address: thetiffinbox@yahoo.com. And thanks for stopping by and leaving such a nice note.


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