It has been just a day since my In-Laws have left and I am all ready to welcome my second set of relatives, just for dinner though. At first, the thought of cooking an elaborate meal really pulled my spirits down as I am quite exhausted and tired of three weeks' continuous cooking. However, I came across this wonderful recipe on one of my google pursuits and immediately my spirits touched the sky and then there was no sitting back. With just an overview of the recipe, I knew it is a winner and sure it is! Although it took me more time and effort to make it, I was happy at the end of it all. After all, it is the only star of the evening to be served with Bengali Mishti Pulao, to balance the spiciness of the chicken, and so it had to be special. The guests are yet to taste it, at the time of writing this recipe, and I am not sure how well they like it but I love it and this I am saying not because I cooked it, but because I really think it is superb and very rich in flavors and high on taste.
For the marinade
1 kg chicken washed and cut (the original recipe was for 1/2 kg; I simply doubled it)
3-4 heaped tbsp yogurt
1 tsp spicy chilli powder (can reduce the qty as per tolerance)
1 tsp salt
For the spice paste
1 1/2 inch piece ginger
8-10 fat garlic cloves
4 tsp poppy seeds (I would recommend soaking them first for 1/2 hour)
2 green chillies (I used only 1)
3 dry red chillies (again as per tolerance)
For the spice powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
4 green cardamoms
2" piece cinnamon
Rest of the ingredients
2 big onions finely sliced
1 big tomato chopped
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder (optional, but helps to enhance the color)
2 pieces mace, 2-3 cloves, 6-8 black peppercorns, and 1" piece cinammon roughly thrashed in a mortar
3-4 tbsp oil
Start with marinating the chicken. Wash and drain the water completely and mix all ingredients listed under marinade. Cover and keep aside. I did this first thing in the morning and kept covered in the refrigerator until used.
Next, prepare the spice paste. Put all the ingredients in a grinder (one you use for your chutneys) and make a smooth paste. The original recipe did not mention soaking the poppy seeds which I followed and got a coarse paste as a result. I would recommend soaking it first to get a smooth paste and not getting to chew poppy seeds directly.
Now, dry roast all the ingredients under spice powder and let it cool. Transfer to a dry grinder and make a fine powder. Make sure to skin the cardamom pods and discard the cover. Keep the powder aside till further use.
Time for the assembly. Take a big kadhai or wok, preferably with a handle, and heat the oil. Put the crushed whole spices and let the aroma arise. Now add the sliced onions and just a pinch of salt and fry until golden. Add the turmeric powder and chilli powder and fry till oil separates and the mixture turns a beautiful golden red. Add the tomatoes and fry till mushy. You can also add a dash of salt to quicken the process. Keep it covered on a medium flame and let it cook. Once done, oil should again appear on the sides.
Now add the chicken along with the marinade and start the frying process until all the spices are well mixed and no water remains and its oil on all sides. This process took me a good 1/2 hour as my chicken and yogurt let out a lot of water. I cooked it covered on medium high flame and stirring every 5 minutes. However, be alert not to burn the spices.
Once the chicken and the masalas are well coated, add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of warm water (keep it ready while frying) and bring it to a boil. Cover and cook on high flame until oil starts floating on top and chicken is nice and tender. Let the gravy reduce a bit and thicken. Now add the spice powder and mix well. Check the seasoning and adjust accordingly. Cover and cook on a medium flame undisturbed for the next 10 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl with a good fitting lid. Keep covered until serving time. For serving with indian breads, you can thicken the gravy a bit more.