Monday, April 30, 2012

Spicy braised chicken (murgh musallam)

I hadn't realised quite what a cloud I had been under until I handed in the last file of the huge translation job I have been working on throughout April. All of a sudden I have time again! So I decided to celebrate by making a rather elaborate braised chicken from my book of the moment, Food of the Grand Trunk Road. I simplified a little (the version in the book has even more ingredients than the one here), and replaced two poussin with a single chicken. I also toned down the heat a lot to placate Carmela, indicated by the 'optional' chillis and chilli powder, a term which has always struck me as ridiculous in a recipe, but I couldn't think of an alternative.

1 chicken

For the marinade
2 tsps minced ginger
1 tsp mined garlic
4 tbsps vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chilli powder (optional)
juice of 1 lemon

For the stuffing
2 eggs
100g chicken mince
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
10 g ground almonds
1 finely chopped green chilli (optional)
1tsp chilli powder (optional)
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp salt

For the sauce
vegetable oil
2 onions
4 tbsps of whipped cream (or use yoghurt)
3 bay leaves
4 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick

2 tsps minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chilli powder (optional)
1 tin of peeled tomatoes
50 g ground almonds
500 ml water
a few drops of kewra water (or rose water)
2 tbsps chopped fresh coriander
pinch of saffron strands
1/4 tsp ground mace


  1. Make a few slashes in the chicken. Mix the marinade ingredients together, rub all over the chicken and leave to marinade for a couple of hours or overnight.
  2. Steam the eggs for 10 minutes until they are hardboiled. Cool and peel.
  3. Mix the mince and the rest of the stuffing ingredients together, and wrap the eggs in the mince mixture. Insert the stuffed eggs into the chicken's cavity.
  4. Set the oven to 200oC.
  5. Heat a little oil in a large, ovenproof saucepan or casserole and brown the chicken all over. Set aside.
  6. Roughly chop the onions, fry in vegetable oil until golden. Allow to cool a little, then transfer to a food processor and whizz with the whipped cream.
  7. Strain the tomatoes, chop finely in a food processor, and set aside.
  8. Put a little more oil in the pan, add the bay leaves, cardamom and cinnamon and heat gently for 1 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic, fry gently for another minute or so, then add the salt, tomatoes and onion and cream mixture, and cook gently for 5 minutes.
  9. Add the almonds and water, bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
  10. Return the chicken to the pan, gently simmer for 5 minutes, spooning the sauce over it, then cover the pot and transfer to the oven.
  11. Cook for 2 hours, until the chicken is really tender, turning the chicken every 45 minutes or so (so it spends 1/3 of the time on its back, and 1/3 on each of the breast sides).
  12. Remove the pot from the oven, remove the chicken to a serving dish, and continue cooking the sauce on top of the stove until it has reduced by about half.
  13. Add the fresh coriander, saffron and mace, and cook for another 2 minutes.
  14. Remove the eggs from inside the chicken and cut in half, lengthwise. Carve the chicken, and pour the sauce over the top.

Scotch eggs
I love finding connections between different cuisines, and as I wrapped the hardboiled egg in mince I couldn't help thinking "Scotch eggs." Nobody seems to know the origin of these, and whether they are even Scottish, but it strikes me as perfectly possible that they are an Anglo-Indian concoction, like mulligatawny soup.

...and haggis spice
When Sammy walked into the kitchen while this dish was cooking, his first comment was, "It smells like haggis in here," which I thought was pretty perceptive, as mace - which features heavily in this dish - is also the key spice in haggis.

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