Thawing with Murgh Masala

Mallika Basu - Thawing with Murgh Masala

Posted 11th February 2009


I’ve only just thawed following the rogue snowstorms in London.

It has not been pleasant for the East Indian in me. I normally get cold opening the fridge door and handling ice buckets.

Imagine my horror at having to make it to work in six inches of snow?

This was nothing compared to the tremor felt by the Mayor of London. He declared profoundly, “There’s just too much snow!”

As the snow turned to slippery ice, the local government street cleaning service casually informed me that Spring would arrive before their next supply of grit and salt. And that if I was so worried about slipping, I should buy some salt and save my frozen street myself.

To think a large slice of my income funds these people…

I had to cheer myself up. First, I acquired a hideously expensive, impractically large, black leather Italian designer tote.  Second, I cooked Murgh Masala for a cosy night in.

Murgh Masala is basically the generic Hindi name for chicken curry. Cooked in a myriad different ways, it always hits a spot. I’d bookmarked a great version of it by Maninas that uses readily available fridge and cupboard ingredients. I gave this a go in the comfort of central heating.

Bring on the next Arctic blast.

PS= This recipe was made for chicken on the bone.

PPS= I only needed to add one green chilli to set my belly on fire, but please add more if you are a) brave, b) unimpressed by the potency of your stash.

PPPS= Maninas stresses the importance of frying the onions properly. I whack the flame up high and stir viciously for 15 minutes to brown them quickly without burning them.

Feeds 4-6:

  • 6 large chicken thighs and drumsticks (850gm)
  • 3 medium onions
  • 200gm tinned tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 1-3 green finger chillies
  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 2 black cardamoms
  • 2 green cardamoms
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • Half tsp chilli powder
  • One tbsp whole cumin
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • Salt to taste

Slice the onions finely and saute in a large pot with the oil over a high flame. If you stir viciously they should go the perfect shade of pale gold in about 15 minutes.

In between stirring, puree or finely mince the ginger and garlic. Add this to the onions along with the chopped green chilli and fry for another five minutes. If at any stage the ingredients start getting stuck to the bottom of the pot, just add a bit of hot water and scrape off.

Next, chuck in the cinnamon and cardamoms stirring for two minutes and then mix in the turmeric and chilli powders.

Now add the chicken and fry for a few minutes until it goes white all over. Add in the tomatoes, half a cup of hot water and leave to cook on a medium flame stirring every five minutes. The gravy will turn pulpy and dark red while the chicken softens in all those beatiful spices.

In about 30 minutes, the chicken on the drumsticks will start separating from the bone. Open a piece to make sure it is cooked through. If it is, stick the cumin seeds under a medium grill for 10 seconds until you can smell it. Then grind it and stir in the roasted cumin powder and chopped fresh coriander into the curry to finish.

Maninas makes an important point here. The curry will taste much better if you leave it for a few hours and preferably overnight. That goes for most curries. I made enough to feed a friend and then my sister the next day. And boy, is this one recipe that’s going to be a firm favourite in my home.

Serve with hot, freshly made Basmatic rice. It doesn’t need anything else.

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