Friday, July 25, 2014

Chicken Badami/Murg Badami

Chicken Badami is a special gravy dish made on auspicious days by people living in the North West frontier. Mughals introduced the dish to India centuries ago, but Sindhis settled in Bangalore had their own sweet ways of making this dish.
I first tasted Murg Badami at the West End Hotel in Bangalore when my relative Dr Prakash Kamath hosted me dinner there in 1981. It was very rich and creamy. I was totally bowled by the expertise of the chef of West End, a class hotel which can not be compared with other hotels in Bangalore. That Murg Badami had its own special taste, but the mind blowing Murg Badami was made by the owners of Roomalee, a sidewalk restaurant on Church Street Bangalore that was very popular in the Eighties for their fantastic Roomalee Rotis, Murg Kesari and Murg Badami. Other favourite Sindhi Restaurant was Casbah on Brigade Road 2nd cross. Casbah had excellent soft naan and Butter Chicken apart from other delicacies. I was introduced to Casbah by BN Radhakrishna, younger brother of Dr BN Jagadeesh, the famous dental surgeon. A special ice cream sundae at the over priced Lake View Cream Carlour on MG Road completed the dinner those days! 

I must give credit to my childhood friend Kulyadi Diwakar Pai, a connoisseur of good living. He first introduced us friends to Roomalee Restaurant when he and other friends came to Bangalore in the early Eighties to watch cricket test matches. Diwakar's favoutite order used to be Roomalee Rotis with Murg Badami and Murg Kesari(A baked chicken starter). That was by all standards, one of the finest dinners one could have those days.

Both Casbah and Roomalee closed down long ago but the taste of good food lingered on my taste buds. I was reminiscing over that murg badami recently when I met Diwakar at a party. Then I told him, I am trying to formulate the recipe for that lovely dish myself. He couldn't believe me, but he wished me luck!

After intensive research, I came to a  conclusion that I can make the dish almost exactly like the chefs cum owners of Roomalee Restaurant prepared it. North Indian gravy based dishes mostly have baked chicken with some common ingredients like ginger garlic, onions, tomatoes, kasoori methi and a few spices. I am against using whole spices in curries, as they are big turn downs when relishing the dish. If you bite a whole green cardamom or a clove, your taste buds go for a toss and everything tastes spicy, making you lose interest in eating. So, I prefer to use garam masala powder(Everest brand is preferred) which is easier to use and the flavour is blended into the dish homogeneously. Kashmiri chilli powder adds to taste and substance, and due to its deep red colour, it eliminates the use of red food colour. I avoid food colours to the maximum because they are supposed to be carcinogenic. Unlike other Chicken Badami recipes, heavy use of brown onion paste, the sweetness of onions blended with pure spices and tanginess of tomato puree makes this dish awesome. Almond paste adds to the smoothness and richness of the gravy. Then of course the aroma of butter/cream and optional saffron add to the flavours. We didn't add saffron, however.

Try and prepare this dish at home. I recommend you all to try the Tandoori Chicken Tikka recipe if you can spare couple of hours more to make this dish. Purity of ingredients, concern for your family's well being and cheerful faces of your family members and guests will make you forget the stress of cooking and you will go for this dish whenever you want to celebrate some happy occasion.

Ingredients:
Tandoori Chicken Tikka - 1 full cut into 21 pieces(about 1.5KG without skin)
Ghee - 20 Ml
Refined oil - 20 Ml
Brown onion paste - 4 Tablespoons(400Gm onions sliced, browned with little oil and salt, then ground into a paste)
Garlic paste - 2 Teaspoons
Ginger paste - 1 Teaspoon
Salt - To taste(I added 1 Teaspoonful)
Sugar - 2 Teaspoons
Kasoori Methi - 2 Teaspoons
Turmeric Powder(Optional) - 1/2 Teaspoon
Cumin powder - 1 Teaspoon
Coriander powder - 1 Teaspoon
Tomato Puree - 100 Ml
Kashmiri Chilli powder - 8-10 Teaspoons
Black/White Pepper powder - 1/2 Teaspoon
Almonds - 50 Gm
Hot Water - 2 cups
Garam Masala powder(Optional) - 1 Teaspoon
Saffron(Optional) - A pinch soaked in a tablespoonful of hot water.
Butter/Whole Cream - QS
Coriander Leaves(Optional) - A handful chopped

Method:
If you are making Tandoori Chicken at home, you need not add turmeric powder or garam masala powder to the gravy.
Reserve the excess marinade you obtain from tandoori chicken and also the collected juices from the baked chicken.
Blanch whole almonds in a cup of hot water for an hour.
Peel them, soak them further for 30 mins in warm water.
Chop 4-6 almonds and reserve for garnishing.
Grind the remaining almonds into a smooth paste, adding very little water. 
Reserve almond milk(water used to clean the mixer after grinding the almonds).
You can either use just ghee or oil and ghee 50:50.
Heat oil/ghee in a thick bottomed pan.
Add the brown onion paste along with garlic and ginger paste.
Add little salt, sugar and a teaspoonful of kasoori methi.
Fry well on high flame, taking care not to char the pastes, till oil separates on the sides and the mass is dark brown.
Add cumin, coriander, black pepper powders, optional turmeric powder and fry well till raw smell disappears.
Now add the tomato puree and fry well till oil separates.
Add the kashmiri chilli powder and fry for 1-2 mins.
Mix in the almond paste and fry till raw smell disappears and the masalas are well blended into the pastes.
Add the reserved marinade and the reserved almond milk.
Fry till the mass is almost dry.
Now add the juices collected from the baked chicken and add a cup or more of hot water to dilute the gravy.
The gravy should be as thick as dosa batter.
Add salt to taste, remaining kasoori methi, optional garam masala powder and bring to a boil.
Cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Now drop the tandoori chicken pieces carefully, coat the pieces with the gravy, taking care not to break the pieces.
Cover and simmer for another 5 minutes, add the optional saffron and switch off the flame.
In a serving bowl, arrange the chicken pieces topped with the hot gravy.
Top with whole cream or butter according to taste, sprinkle optional chopped coriander leaves and garnish with chopped blanched almonds.
Serve with roti of your choice but Roomali Rotis taste too good with this dish.

Tandoori Chicken/Chicken Tikka

Back in the year 1967, a Hindi cinema by name 'Ram Aur Shyam' was released. Dilip Kumar was in double role. I was a movie buff, and I too went and watched it. A particular scene attracted my attention. It was a scene in which Dilip Kumar greedily eats tandoori chicken and then pops entire boiled eggs into his mouth, all the while making faces at Pran! That was the first time in my life, I saw Tandoori Chicken. I was a pure vegetarian then, and I was wondering how the chicken was so red in colour! I told my friends, "They must've cooked the chicken along with its blood"!

Time has taught me many things. I started eating chicken in 1973 at Hotel Woodside in Mangalore. When my brother first came from England to get married in April 1977, he hosted a pre-wedding party at Menaka Bar, Woodside. There he ordered Tandoori Chicken and Butter Chicken apart from other dishes. I had the taste of Tandoori Chicken for the first time. Later, I differentiated between Chicken Tikka that was boneless and Tandoori chicken that was with bones. In Bangalore I've tasted chicken tikka and tandoori at many restaurants. However, somewhere along the line, eating out in Mangalore took a different turn and fast food joints like 'Chicken Tikka' opened. They called Tandoori Chicken as Chicken Tikka. Now I don't know whether that's exactly what it is called by the Punjabis who are pioneers in making this baked dish but I too am more or less comfortable with the term Chicken Tikka for Tandoori Chicken. Let's leave that aside and move on!

Tandoori chicken is a prime Indian non-veg dish on the menu at global level. An Eighties British comedy TV serial called 'Tandoori Nights' features two rival restaurants in London. Coincidentally, Zohra Sehgal, the evergreen actor who passed away recently, and the veteran actor Saeed Jaffrey have acted in it.  Punjabi dhabas make the best Tandoori Chicken obviously. I have tasted fantastic dhaba food in Delhi, Chandigarh and Amritsar. Chicken Tikka in a small dhaba in Amritsar was not spicy at all, but was very tasty and was perfectly baked. Another good tandoori chicken I tasted was at Taj Restaurant near KR Market(City Market) Bangalore. Chicken is well marinated in spiced yoghurt and then baked in a tandoor or clay oven on charcoal fire to perfection.
Home baked tandoori Chicken is more like grilled chicken but if you take care to follow the steps I have given here below, you will achieve almost the same taste and texture as you get in restaurants. Purity of spices and hygiene that you maintain are the plus point. Otherwise, price difference between home made and restaurant bought tandoori Chicken is very narrow.

Anyway, I made this wonderful Punjabi starter cum accompaniment at home, marinating chicken slightly more than necessary. Marination for 3-4 hours makes the end product awesome, delicious, soft and spongy and what not! Just try this method.

Ingredients:
Fleshy Broiler Chicken without skin - 1.5 KG cut into 4-6 big portions.
Lemon - 1
Salt - To taste
Ginger Garlic Paste - 2 Teaspoons
Turmeric powder - 1/4 Teaspoon
Red Chilli Powder - 1/2 Teaspoon
Kashmiri Chilli Powder - 1 Teaspoon
Garam masala Powder - 1 Teaspoon
Thick Curd - 100 Ml
Oil/Ghee - For basting

Method:
Clean wash and pat dry the chicken pieces.
Make gashes on the chicken pieces, apply lemon juice and some salt, keep aside for 30 mins.
Combine the other ingredients except ghee/oil and apply the paste thoroughly on all the chicken pieces.
Cover with cellophane cling film/aluminum foil and marinate in the fridge for 3-4 hours.
Pre heat Oven at 180C in grill setting for 10 minutes.
Line the baking tray with aluminum foil, apply ghee/oil over the foil and arrange all the marinated chicken pieces evenly.
Keep for baking and set the timer to 70 minutes.
At the end of 30 Minutes, you will see a pool of juices from the chicken collected in the baking tray surrounding the chicken pieces.
Carefully collect the juices by pulling the tray out and draining it.
Baste the half baked chicken surface with ghee/oil and bake for another 10 mins.
Flip the pieces and baste the other side.
Bake for 15 mins.
Flip the pieces once again and allow them to brown.
At the end of 60-70 mins, all the pieces must have baked perfectly.
Remove from the oven and arrange on a platter.
Serve with shredded onion carrot and cabbage salad, lemon wedges, preferably with curd mint chutney dip.
You can also sprinkle chaat masala on the baked chicken pieces.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tomato Chicken Curry

Dhaba style cooking is very simple using minimum ingredients, but the taste and flavour are truly lip smacking good. We have been cooking many simple dhaba style curries at home, both veg and non veg.

Recently, my wife Meena was watching a cookery show called 'Oggarane Dabbi' on Zee Kannada channel. One chicken curry made by the host Chandrappa attracted her attention. It was simple looking dish that resembled Punjabi dhaba style chicken curry to a great extent. She immediately noted down the recipe and made this for our relatives from abroad. Within no time they finished almost everything, leaving a few small pieces of chicken and a couple of spoonfuls of the gravy for me. Then I decided, whenever Meena makes such dhaba style curry, I should eat first with the guests!

Tomato Chicken Curry with Tawa Butter Kulchas
Try this and you will definitely go for a bigger quantity and prepare this again and again. Highly recommended to newly wed couple who have just settled down in life with new kitchen setup. This requires mostly spice powders and ready to use ginger garlic paste available easily in local stores. Absolutely no grinding involved, so you can smile wide like a Punjabi and shout "Oye! Balle Balle, this Tomato Chicken Curry smells good from our kitchen to LA!"
Ingredients:
Chicken pieces without skin - 750 Gms
Ghee - 4 Tsp(20 Ml)
Onions - 3 medium minced/grated(Around 150 Gms)
Kasuri Methi - 1 Tsp
Ginger Garlic Paste - 1 Tsp
Tomatoes - 4 Medium finely chopped(Around 200 Gms)
Red Chilli Powder - 1 Tsp(Adjust according to taste)
Coriander Powder - 1 Tsp
Black/White Pepper Powder - 1/2 Tsp
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 Tsp
Garam Masala Powder - 1/2 Tsp
Salt - To taste(We added 3/4 Tsp)
Coriander Leaves - A handful chopped

Method:
Heat ghee in a thick bottom pan.
Fry minced onion till golden.
Add kasuri methi, little salt, pepper powder, turmeric powder and ginger garlic paste and fry well.
Add chopped tomatoes, chilli powder, coriander powder and garam masala powder.
Fry till oil leaves the sides.
Now add the chicken pieces and fry on high flame till chicken pieces turn opaque.
Add 1/2 cup water and salt to taste, bring to a boil.
Cover and allow to simmer for 15-20 mins or till done.
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve with rotis or ghee rice and a lemon wedge.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Misal Paav - South Indian Style

In Marati, 'Misal' means Mixture. The ever popular Maharastrian street food Misal Paav is a globally popular snack that is also eaten by many for lunch or dinner like Paav Bhaaji. Recently, Meena thought, we have been making various beans and lentils curry with sambar masala for quite some time. Why not try and give this Misal South Indian touch?

She had excellent sambar powder in stock, from Panchmal's shop in Car Street Mangalore and also Huli powder(Mysore sambar powder) brought by her friend Nirmala Urs. Using them, Meena made a delicious Misal or mixed sprouts curry and we had it like they serve Misal Paav in Maharastra.

Needless to say that the combo snack was easy to make and a super hit in its first edition!


Ingredients:
Mixed Sprouts(Moong/Chowra/Daalmot/Peas/Chana) - 200Gms
Oil/ghee - 3-4 Tsp
Garlic(Optional) - 6 flakes chopped fine
Onions - 100 Gms chopped fine
Tomatoes - 100 Gms chopped
Huli Powder(Mysore Sambar Powder) - 2 Tsp
Madras Sambar Powder - 1-2 Tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 Tsp
Green chillies - 3 Slit(Optional)
Grated Coconut - A handful
Coriander leaves - A handful chopped
Lemon wedges, Chopped onions, Farsan Mixture - To garnish.
Paav Bun - 8
Butter - 1 Tbsp

Method:
Heat oil/ghee in a pan.
Fry chopped garlic and onions till golden.
Add tomatoes and optional green chillies and fry till oil leaves the sides.
Add turmeric powder, sambar powders and fry for 1 min.
Add the mixed sprouts, little water and salt to taste.
Cover and cook on slow fire till almost done.
Add the grated coconut and cook further for 5 mins.
Garnish with chopped onions, farsan Mixture and coriander leaves
Serve hot with sliced paav bun roasted with butter, and a lemon wedge.


Note:
Any left over Misal can very well be relished with pooris, aapams, idlis, dosas or chapatis.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pomfret Spicy Green Masala


This is an improved version over Prawn Spicy Green Masala. We used the same green masala paste as we used for prawns. Needless to say this tastes heavenly and finger licking good! Can be served as a starter or as accompaniment.

Ingredients:
Whole White Pomfrets - 400Gms
Lemon - 1+1/2
Salt and pepper
Ginger Garlic paste - 1 Tsp
Shallots - A handful cleaned and chopped
Onion - 1 small cleaned and chopped
Ginger - 1" piece chopped
Garlic - 6 flakes peeled
Green Chillies - 4 cleaned and chopped
Coriander Greens - A handful
Mint leaves - A handful
Green Tomato - 1 small chopped(Reduce lemon squeeze by half if you add this)
Turmeric powder - 1/4 Tsp
Cumin powder - 1/2 Tsp
Oil - 10-15Ml

Method:
Clean wash and drain the pomfrets.
Put gashes on both the sides and marinate with salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and 1/2 lemon squeezed, for 30 mins in the fridge.
Clean, wash and grind the greens with chillies, ginger, garlic, onions and optional green tomato to a fine paste.
Heat oil in a shallow pan, fry ginger garlic paste, followed by the green masala paste till oil leaves the sides.
Add juice of lemon, turmeric powder, cumin powder, about 1/2 tsp pepper and salt to taste.
Place the pomfrets one by one, cover with the masala on both sides and cook for 5-10 mins on slow heat, changing side after 5 min.
Transfer to a platter and serve with lemon wedges and onion slices.

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