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.

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