Murgh Dakshini (Chicken Curry from the Southern Coast of India)

India’s language, religion, customs and food differ from place to place within the country, but nevertheless possess a commonality. India is the only country in the world to have so many religions and beliefs. The food culture of India is an amalgamation of these diverse subcultures spread all over the Indian subcontinent and traditions that are several millennia old. Despite this diversity, some unifying threads emerge. Varied uses of spices are an integral part of food preparation, and are used to enhance the flavor of a dish and create unique flavors and aromas. Cuisine across India has also been influenced by various cultural groups that entered India throughout history, such as the Persian, Mughal and European Colonists. In this blog I again try to illustrate a simple Chicken curry inspired from the southern coast of India – Kerala, also referred to as Chicken Malabari. I have slightly tweaked the recipe with the addition of Hing – also known as Asafoetida (a spice well known for its digestive aid and a flavour enhancer.) and boiled eggs. 

 

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Serves 4

Cooking time 45 Mins

 

Ingredients 

1 Kg Chicken Breast diced

4 Medium Onions (finely chopped)

3 Fresh Tomatoes (finely chopped)

1 Tbsp Ginger Paste

2 Tbsp Garlic Paste

2 Sprigs of curry leaves

2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh Coriander

3 Fresh Green Chillies (finely chopped)

1 Tsp Mustard seeds

1/4 Tsp Hing Powder (Asafoetida)

1 Tbsp Kashmiri Red Chilli powder

1/2 Tbsp Turmeric Powder

1/2 Tbsp Coriander Powder

1/2 Tbsp Cumin Powder

1/4 Tsp Finely crushed Black pepper

1/4 Tsp Fennel Powder

300 ml Coconut Milk (Unsweetened)

1 Tbsp Desiccated Coconut (pan roasted)

1 Tbsp Fresh Lemon juice

200 ml vegetable oil

Salt to taste

4 boiled eggs

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Method

1. Heat oil in a cooking pot. Add hing and mustard seeds, once the seeds crackle add the curry leaves.

2. Add the chopped onions and cook until golden in colour. Now add the ginger-garlic paste and cook for further 5 mins.

3. At this stage lower the heat and add the dry spices. Stir for 30 seconds and add 1/4 cup of warm water and cook for further 5-7 mins.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes, mix well and cook on high heat for 5 mins. Now add 1 cup of warm water and cook further for 8-10 mins on medium heat until tomatoes are cooked and incorporated.

5. Add the chicken and salt. Stir until the masala evenly coats the chicken. Reduce the heat, cover the pot with a lid and cook for 10-15 mins until the chicken is tender and cooked through.

6. Remove the lid after 10 mins and increase the heat. Add the chopped green chillies, coconut milk and cook for further 5 mins until the gravy slightly thickens.  Add the boiled eggs and chopped coriander, continue cooking for further 2 minutes. Finish with lemon juice.

7. Transfer into a serving bowl and garnish with desiccated coconut and coriander leaves. Serve hot with appam or malabari paratha and perfectly paired with a glass of 2010 Mandala Sauvignon Blanc .

I have added a small video that guides you through the steps.

 

Dahi aur Khade Masale ka Murgh (Chicken cooked with yoghurt and whole spices)

The Mughals and Persians from western Asia brought their rich artistic and gastronomic culture of eating meat to India. This influence lasted for more than 400 years and is now part of the fabric of Indian culinary culture.The splendor of the Mughal rule is reflected in the Mughlai Cuisine of India which is the richest and the most lavish in the country.

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Punjab has bequeathed the institution of Dhaba to the world. The Dhaba moves wherever a Punjabi goes would be the correct thing to state about its origin. Dhabas were food stalls which were often run by single families and mushroomed all along the trunk road serving fresh regional cuisine. The dhabas mainly gained popularity in the Northwestern part of the country from Peshawar to Punjab. The dhabas were characterised by open kitchens, clay ovens also know as tandoor and used brass and copper utensils. Dhabas today have become very popular all over the country and many modern versions have evolved.

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I have selected one of the most popular dishes from their menu a simple chicken curry cooked with yoghurt and whole spices.

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Serves 6-8 people

Cooking time 40 mins

 

Ingredients

2 Baby chicken whole (approx 900 gms each)

Whole Spices 

3 bay leaves

1 stick cinnamon 5 cm

6 green cardamom

4 cloves

1/2 tbsp Cumin seeds

7-8 whole kashmiri red chillies

 

4 tbsp vegetable oil

4 tbsp desi ghee

4 medium onions

250 gms ginger and garlic paste (100 gms ginger & 150 gms garlic)

500 gms yoghurt

125 ml double cream

25gms or around 1 heaped tbsp kashmiri chilli powder

1/2 tbsp turmeric

1 tbsp cumin powder

1 tbsp coriander powder

1 tsp garam masala powder

Salt to taste

3 tbsp chopped coriander

 

Method

1.Clean chicken and trim any excess fat. Cut each chicken into approximately 18 pieces or you can ask your local butcher to do that for you.

2. In a pan heat oil and ghee. Once heated add all the whole spices. The idea here is to make sure that the spices release their flavour into the oil. Make sure not to burn the spices.

3. Add 4 finely chopped onion and saute until slightly brown, we don’t want the onions to be golden brown. Just a slight colour on them will do.

4. Now add the ginger and garlic paste and saute for 7-10 mins until the ginger and garlic paste is cooked.

5. At this stage add all the dry spices except the garam masala powder. Before you add the spices I would recommend to add 2 tbsp of hot water to the cooking pan, give a quick stir and then add the spices. This will prevent the dry spices from burning and help impart the best flavour possible,.

6. Saute for further 2 mins and add the chicken pieces, at this stage add the salt. Saute the chicken for 7-10 mins until evenly coated with the masala.

7. Lower the heat to minimum and add the yoghurt . Mix well and increase the heat. Saute for further 5 mins. Lower the heat back to minimum and cover the pan with a lid and cook for further 15 mins.

8. Remove lid and increase the heat. Saute on high heat for further 5-7 mins or until the gravy has slightly thickened. At this stage add the cream, chopped coriander and garam masala powder. Cook for further 5 mins.

9. The Chicken curry is now ready. Serve hot with chapatis or rice and finely sliced onions with a dash of  lemon on the side.

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I can say this with full assurance and confidence that is will be the best form of Chicken curry you have ever tasted. Simple yet gratifying and scrumptious.

Looking forward for your feedback once you have made it.

 

I have put together a short video below which demonstrates the various stages of cooking the above recipe.

Raan e Sikandari (Slow roasted leg of lamb served with a masaledaar gravy)

 

With Easter weekend round the corner I was keen to share this recipe. I would be wrong in saying that this a quick in and out recipe, however the end result is worth the effort. A succulent melt in the mouth Indian lamb roast that bursts with flavours accompanied by a creamy masaledar gravy.

 

1 whole leg of  lamb approx 2.5 kg serves 4-5 people

200 ml mustard oil

50 gms kashmiri chilli powder

Juice of 1 lemon

200 gms garlic paste

100 gms ginger paste

1 tbsp chopped green chilli

*1 raw papaya peeled and deseeded

*250 gms cashew nut and almond paste

8 onions sliced and fried until golden brown.

250 gms yoghurt

1 tbsp turmeric powder

2 tbsp cumin powder

1 tbsp coriander powder

1 tbsp kasoori methi powder (dried fenugreek)

2 tbsp garam masala

1 tsp elaichi powder (green cardamom)

1 tsp white pepper powder

1 tsp saunf powder (fennel seeds)

1 tsp nutmeg powder

1 gm saffron

1 tbsp rosewater

1 tbsp kewra (screwpine) water

 

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100ml double cream (for gravy)

2 tbsp flaked almond (garnish)

Few sprigs of coriander leaves (for garnish)

4 boiled eggs (for garnish)

 

Marinade 1

Make deep incisions on the leg. Add mustard oil, lemon juice, 1 tbsp salt, kashmiri chilli powder and ginger garlic paste. Rub into the leg and leave in the fridge covered for 4 hrs.

Marinade 2

Mix all the remaining ingredients in a bowl, add 1/2 tbsp of salt and rub the mix on the lamb.

Leave to marinate overnight.

Reserve some fried onions for garnish.

 

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The Process

Preheat the oven to 250 C. Add the lamb with the marinate in a roasting pan, add three cups of water to the pan, do not pour water over the lamb. This would assist in making the gravy and prevent the spices from burning.

Once the lamb is out of the fridge let it come to room temperature before roasting.

Seal the roasting pan with double aluminium foil and cook in the oven at 175 C for 4 hrs.

Keep checking after every one hour, if the water evaporates in the roasting pan add another cup of warm water as this is important for the gravy.

Transfer the lamb on a serving platter, spoon the gravy evenly and garnish with flaked almonds, fried onions, chopped coriander leaves and boiled eggs.

The roast lamb is best eaten with naan or paratha.

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Gravy

Transfer the lamb from the roasting pan. Remove excess fat or oil from the roasting pan. Add the remaining juices from the roasting pan to a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and add the double cream, stir until the gravy coats the back of your spoon. Once ready spoon the gravy evenly over the roast.

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*To make papaya paste peel the skin and deseed papaya, cut into dices and blend in a food processor along with oil and water.

*To make almond and cashew nut paste, boil both of them separately for 15 mins, de skin the almonds and blend both of them together in a food processor with water to make a smooth paste. The consistency of the paste should be more or less like a thick milkshake.

 I have added a brief video demonstrating the marination process with shoulders instead of legs. It does not cover the entire recipe but works as a guide.

If you have any questions on the recipe please free to leave a comment I will respond to you as soon I can.

Hope you enjoy the recipe.

 

 

 

The Great Indian Breakfast – “Nashta is served”

“Nashta” simply translates to Breakfast in India. However quite surprisingly the concept of breakfast has never been existing in India since ancient times. Simply considered as the first meal of the day, the dishes have varied from region to region from super lavish spreads to simple and light meals. In recent times the nashta has been commercialised, losing its authenticity, simply because people are now more health conscious  and Indian breakfast at large was considered to be  notoriously a very heavy meal. Saying that, the real Indian breakfast still has hasn’t lost it identity thanks to the corner shops at the “chowks” still serving lip smacking dishes all over the Indian subcontinent  and surprisingly the meals are served throughout the day and not just in the mornings. For the love of good hearty desi nashta I have put together some famous dishes from different states of the subcontinent which I am sure will make your mouth water.

 

Kashmir

This beautiful valley is known for its “Chai” , the Kashmiris are considered to be heavy tea drinker and the most famous breakfast tea is the noon chai or sheer chai which is a salted pink tea made with green tea leaves, milk and  flavoured with cardamom, cinnamon, pistachios. This tea derives its pink colour due to the addition of  bicarbonate of soda. The noon chai is usually consumed with traditional Kashmiri bread known as the “Kulcha” and ” baqerkhani” without them the Kashmiri breakfast is incomplete. The baqerkhani is more like a puff pastry, which is round, crispy and layered made with flour, semolina, butter, milk, sugar, ghee and cardamom. Once baked its topped with sesame seeds. Some other varieties of breads are tsot and tsochvoru which are small and round breads, topped with poppy and sesame seeds.

 

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Another most famous Kashmiri breakfast which very few have heard of is the Kashmiri Hareesa also known as the mutton halwa. It’s a century old winter dish made early in the morning. This dish is prepared with boneless meat of goat or lamb which is mixed with wheat and spices and is stirred for hours on slow heat. Once cooked the texture resembles haleem and is topped with fried onions ideally served with traditional baqerkhani.

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Punjab

Punjabis are well-known all over the world for their great cuisine. The “Parantha” which is considered the king of all Indian breakfast and is still consumed all over the world with delight was born in Punjab. Parantha is derived from the words “parat” which means a large tray and “atta” which means dough. Parantha is unleavened flat bread which is stuffed with different vegetables, spices or meat and fried in desi ghee or oil, served with dollops of homemade white butter, yoghurt or home-made pickles. The paratha is usually washed down with a glass of lassi which is made of yoghurt and water either sweet or salty. The paranthe waali galli in old delhi is an institution in itself, serving over 100 varieties of paranpthas. A few examples of the famous paranthas are aloo(potato) parantha, gobi(cauliflower)  parantha, mooli(radish)  parantha , methi(fenugreek)  parantha, paneer(cottage cheese)  parantha, ajjwain (carom seeds)  parantha and the Keema (mince lamb)  parantha.

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Another famous  Punjabi breakfast fare is the Chole Bhature. Consumed again all over the globe this epic dish cannot be left out of the breakfast selection. Bhaturas are crispy fried puffed bread served with spiced chickpeas which are soaked overnight, cooked with spices on a slow heat and served with onion salad and green chillies.

Bihar and West Bengal

The “Sattu” or the powdered gram is consumed heavily in this state in various forms. Sattu is prepared by roasting bengal gram and grinding it into a fine powder like texture. Sattu is considered to be high in fibres and is a great source of energy. Usually consumed for breakfast – the sattu parantha which is a regular parantha made wheat flour  stuffed with sattu flour, onions, chillies, ginger,garlic, nigella seeds, lemon juice, mustard oil and coriander leaves, this is usually pan-fried in Ghee and served with yoghurt and pickle.

The famous radha ballavi from West Bengal is another breakfast classic. Its my personal favourite. Deep fried Bengali flat bread stuffed with urad daal is served with “niramish aloor dum ” aka simple potato curry or “aloo torkari” which is a spicy potato curry and bengali cholaar daal .  My suggestion – if you haven’t tried this dish you haven’t lived.

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Gujrat

The most famous Gujarati breakfast is the match made in culinary heaven also known as the Gathia and Jalebi, typically consumed every Sunday. the salty gathia and sweet jalebi form a perfect combination. The gathia often called Pata Gathia or fafda ganthia is made of a gram flour dough, flavored with salt, pepper and carom seeds and is deep-fried in thin strips until crispy. The Jalebi is made by frying all-purpose flour batter in circular shapes and then soaked in sugar syrup usually flavored with saffron.

Theplas are another classic Gujarati dish consumed widely for breakfast. The theplas are spiced parathas with the addition of yoghurt, fresh methi (fenugreek) leaves and spices. Theplas are usually served with “chunda” which is a sweet and sour mango chutney.

Andhra Pradesh

One of the most popular non vegetarian breakfast fare is the Nihari. Legend has it that this meat stew originated in Old Delhi some 100 years ago by a local doctor to cure cold and fever somewhere next to Jama Masjid where after offering morning prayers people use to consume this stew for breakfast. The stew is cooked overnight to release maximum flavours from the bone marrow and creating really tender meat. This dish was mastered on a different level by the Hyderabadi Chefs. The Chefs added goat tongue to enhance the flavour along with goat shanks, spices and vegetables, slow cooked for 4-6 hrs. Its best eaten during winters accompanied with naan or layered kulcha.

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Another popular Andhra breakfast is the Pesara Attu Upma – a crepe made with moong daal (green gram lentil) flavoured with chillies and ginger, stuffed with upma (savory semolina porridge) served with karam podi (a spicy powder made with lentils and whole spices) and coconut chutney

Maharashtra

Now this next dish is  arguably one of the most popular breakfast dishes eaten all over India with different variations and recipes. Yes I am talking about “kandha batata poha” made with flattened rice flakes, potatoes and onions. This dish originated in Maharashtra and is a staple dish of the state. It’s a very healthy breakfast. Rice flakes are passed through running cold water to moisten them. The rice flakes are  then tempered with oil, mustard seeds, curry leaves, onions, green chillies, turmeric, sugar, salt and mixed together. Potatoes are diced and cooked separately and added to the poha. Poha is garnished with crushed peanuts, coriander, freshly dessicated coconut and a dash of fresh lime juice.

Goa

This famous tourist spot is well known for its fresh seafood and an amazing selection of meaty dishes with a rich portuguese influence. However it also offers a hearty breakfast dish on the menu. Known as the “Pao Tonak”  which is technically a stew made with dried assorted peas or legumes, potatoes, onions, tamarind, grated coconut and a special masala consisting of  coriander seeds, red chillies, fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper. The stew is served traditionally with local crusty bread also known as “pao”.

Tamil Nadu

The “Idli” is the most famous breakfast consumed not only in India but has made its presence felt around the globe and by far enjoys a cult status in the Indian culinary stage.  Tamil Nadu is said to be the birth place of “Idli”. Considered to be the  most humble breakfast dish – rice and fermented black lentils that are husked are formed into cakes by steaming. These cakes are then served with fresh coconut chutney and sambhar (spicy lentil soup) or milagai podi (coarse powder mixture of ground dry spices) adding sesame or coconut oil to it to form a paste. The recipe of Idli is supposed to be 1100 years old and in the 21st century this humble breakfast dish has had many variations to its name.

Kerala 

This beautiful state situated off the Malabar coast is also referred to as Gods own country, is not only rich in heritage and culture but also commands a great culinary history. Since I talk about Kerala I need to mention the ever glorious Idiyappam. A simple dish originating in Kerala and is a staple breakfast of the locals. Idiyappam also know as nool puttu is made with roasted rice flour which is formed into a dough by mixing warm water and then this dough is pressed through a Idiyappam press which releases this dough into noodle shape onto banana leaves  placed in a steamer. The recipes vary and some call for the addition of fresh grated coconut. The Iddiyappams are served with a number of side dishes. A few examples are – egg curry, vegetable stew, peas and egg kurma,  chicken mappas and chicken stew.

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Its been really difficult to choose a few selected dishes out of hundreds of dishes eaten every morning across the lengths and breadths of the Indian sub continent. However I shall continue this journey of spreading the love for Indian food in my upcoming blogs.

Happy Reading

Turban Street Cafe – Redefining Indian Street Food

I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.

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This blog is about  our journey that began with a small restaurant called The Red Turban, located in the suburbs of London. I still remember very distinctly,  I had just come out of  an interview with a top Michelin star restaurant and was overwhelmed to join such a prestigious organisation. That very afternoon when i reached home I received a call from Nishel asking me to see him at his restaurant. I wasn’t too sure but i knew he was planning to reopen his old restaurant and I was pretty much guessing that this meeting would revolve around this.  So here we are at the restaurant which was completely stripped down, apart from a sofa which was left behind where our conversation started building momentum. Nishel started explaining the whole concept to me, and he wanted me to be a part of it and build on it. The concept was simple, an Indian restaurant that would break all barriers, Nishel was clear about the fact that it had to be way beyond the chicken tikka masala and the kormas, It made sense to me and i thought that this would be once in a life time opportunity to create something unique and different. We both were on the same page and it instantly gave birth to The Red Turban. We were about to challenge the status quo, we were going to break all the rules and the risk factor was quiet high but i think somewhere down the line there was a belief that we would come out with flying colours.

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I started doing an extensive research on the dishes I wanted to put on the menu, the idea was to create a balanced menu which would show case unique recipes from every region of India. After a meticulous two month research the menus were finally devised . The menu featured exemplar chaats from the streets of Old Delhi, Chowpatty, Agra and Mathura. The Chowk ki tikki which is potato cakes stuffed with green peas served on a bed of spiced chickpeas, drizzled with tamarind chutney made with dates and elderflower and a fresh mint and watercress chutney became an instant favourite. Kebabs were the highlight of the menu – the Galawati kebab from Awadh, seekh kebab nizami, lazeez pasliyaan (lamb chops) , murgh pahadi tikka ( chicken tikka marinated with a fresh coriander, mint, basil and green chilli paste.) , paneer saunfiya tikka, tandoori bharwan mushrooms to name a few. For the main course we again had a challenge as we wanted to move away from the regular fare. Ambade ka gosht ( lamb cooked with sorrel leaves), Rajasthani Laal Maas , Patiala shahi murgh had become cult dishes on the menu. The vegetarian fare which included Dum aloo Benarasi, hare pyaaz aur soye ka paneer, malai kofta makhmali and daal Kandhari ( whole urad simmered over night on charcoal and finished off with fresh pomegranate juice. ) also made their presence felt. We were already on the map. I very strongly believed that the menu had to represent dishes that were authentic and served in a modern way. So the emphasis was more on the crockery and cutlery, rather than over done garnishes. I wanted my guests to feel India in every morsel they taste, it involved a lot of hard work. To achieve these standards, we were grinding spices in house on a regular basis. Practically nothing was outsourced, even the samosas and aloo tikki were made in house to specifications.

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Our final challenge was the desserts. Most of the Indian Restaurants in the UK have a box standard menu and it was boring. I wanted to create a balanced combination of flavours and technique that would create a wow factor. So after a month of research in my kitchen I decided to use the best ideas from the east and blend them with the techniques of the west. We had redefined Indian desserts – mango mousse and rasmalai trifle, Chocolate and gulab jamun terrine, masala chai tiramisu and the gaajar halwa panna cotta to name a few were creating ripples with our guests.
The Red Turban in the last 3 years had achieved immense success and accolades thanks to our loyal guests and staff who contributed a great deal towards it success and not to forget Nishel the driving force behind the Red Turban had an immeasurable contribution.

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It was time to move on to our next venture by creating the next Turban franchisee. After three months of research and brainstorming the Turban Street Cafe was devised. Bringing the the real Indian street food to the streets of London. Kati Rolls from the streets of Calcutta, Daulat ki chaat from Old Delhi, Tunday Kebab from Lucknow are just a few sneak peeks . We are going to give our guests the same taste and feel as they would get on the streets of India.

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In this day and age where Indian food has been reformed to the most sophisticated level, it has somehow lost its essence and authenticity. I am bringing a very simple and honest plate of food to my guests, inspired by age old traditions and simplicity, food that will touch your heart and soul and that I believe is limitless. At Turban street we are not just cooking, we are cooking with passion and emotions to create dishes that will bring smile on peoples faces. We are redefining Indian Street Food
Chef Ashish Bhatia

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