I have warm memories growing up of my mother preparing this sort of curry in some shape or form almost every Sunday. Back when we were younger and less adventurous, this was our non-veg meal of choice. Sometimes they would be potatoes, sometimes we would have it with bread, and sometimes we would have it for dinner. It’s the best meal for a lazy Sunday afternoon, one where all you want to do is eat, drink a few beers, binge on Netflix, and then fall asleep in front of the TV. Too bad I don’t have time for that in college because if I did, I’d assure you that not a lot of work would be getting done!
Enjoy this as next Sunday’s salan (gravy)!
Recipe: Classic Murgh Masala
My take on a traditional North Indian chicken curry.
- 1 large white onion
- 1 Serrano pepper, use Thai or bird’s-eye peppers for more heat
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, adjust to personal preferences
- 6 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 6 cloves
- 2, inch-long, flat cinnamon sticks (desi cinnamon)
- 6-9 whole black peppercorns
- 4 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 14 oz crushed tomatoes
- salt, to taste
- 1.5 pounds boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2-3 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon dried fenugreek (kasuri methi) leaves, optional
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems, finely chopped
- lime wedges, for garnish
Place the onion, Serrano pepper, garlic, and ginger into a blender or food processor and grind until the mixture resembles a fine, but not liquidy, paste
Heat the oil in a, large heavy-bottom pot, such as a dutch oven or a Moroccan tagine, over medium-high heat. Once hot add the cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and peppercorns. Allow the whole spices to sizzle in the oil for minute before adding the blended onion, serrano pepper, and ginger-garlic mixture. Saute this wet masala mixture over medium-high heat for about 8-10 minutes, till the onions are starting to brown.
Add the bay leaves, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and salt to the wet masala and cook out these spices for a minute before adding the crushed tomatoes to free any browned bits sticking to the pan. Continue cooking this mixture, stirring continuously and adding about 1/2 cup of water in intervals, for about another 10 minutes over high heat, till an oily sheen begins to appear on the surface.
Add the chicken pieces and mix vigourously to coat the pieces in the masala. Brown the chicken over high heat for another 10 minutes. Then add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of water (enough to create a sauce) and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the curry over low heat for another 20 minutes, till the chicken has cooked through and the sauce has thickened slightly. Adjust the seasoning at this stage if needed.
Add the dried fenugreek leaves, if using, and cook for another five minutes. Garnish the curry with fresh cilantro leaves and serve with steamed rice or crusty baguette slices to mop up all of the delicious juices. Finish with a squeeze of lime juice on top.