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I often felt that when he wasn't in his dishdasha, his ways where much more casual, his questions more unassuming and random. Perhaps that's why when my ex boss asked me what my favorite last meal would be, I wasn't surprised. Or it was because he had recently learned about me being a food blogger, I'm not sure.
Without the usual 'what would be the best answer to this' approach - I unhesitatingly answered roasted chicken. I knew immediately I have disappointed him with the answer. It wasn't a fancy lobster dish like his, it wasn't even a unique Indian recipe, it was just roasted chicken.
A real home cook would know the warmth and comfort roasted chicken brings. And why would someone have anything but warm and comforting on deathbed? Having said that, roast chicken is probably a generalization in my mind of chicken cooked whole. I grew up on tandoori chicken on the grill and steamed whole chicken stuffed with eggs or coriander leaves like this one.
The chicken is spiced generously with base of yogurt, onion and tomatoes which cling on the meat as the chicken cooks in the masala and it's own stock. The light browning of the chicken and then the reduction almost caramelizes the tomatoes leading to deep and intense flavors. You can easy turn this into a roast chicken recipe which I often do when I don't want to be around the stove.
We added the leftovers to ginger and soy dressed soba noodles, asparagus and sweet peas which turned out to be one good lunch.
Steamed Masala Whole Chicken - Murgh Musallam
1 small whole chicken, 900g
2 tbsp ginger garlic and chilly paste
3 tomatoes, ripe, pureed
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 red onions, fried until golden brown and crisp
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 cardamom pod
1 tbsp poppy seeds, optional
2 -3 dried red chilies/1 tsp red chilly powder or as desired
1 tsp black pepper powder
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 cup yogurt
2 tbsp ghee or any vegetable oil
Marinate the whole chicken 2 tbsp ginger garlic and chilly paste overnight.
Lightly roast the almonds, poppy seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, cardamom pod, cumin seeds and red chilies in a dry pan. Grind to a paste along with the fried red onions. Mix this paste with the yogurt and the remaining spices.
Grind the tomatoes into a puree. And mix in the tomato paste. Cook this mixture until its halved. Let is cool and mix it with the yogurt mixture.
Slather the mixture all over the chicken and stuff some of it into the cavity.
Heat ghee in a wok or deep saucepan and add the chicken. Let it lightly brown on all side.
Reduce the heat and add about 1/4 cup water, cover the cook the chicken until its tender.
There is a lot of moisture in the marinate and yogurt to keep the chicken from sticking to the bottom but every 5 minutes keep a check on the chicken and splash more water if required.
If you want more gravy add more water. I wanted this to be on dry side so once the chicken was cooked, I uncovered the chicken and let the sauce cook until all the moisture evaporated and the remaining sauce was slathered back on the chicken.
Serve with Mattar Pulao (recipe below) and boiled eggs.
You can cook this in a pressure cooker which cooks faster of course. Also, you can bake it in the oven instead of steaming.
My mom adds about 1 tbsp of tandoori powder leaving out all other spices except the cumin powder which tastes great as well
Throw in some curry leaves while it steams to add a different flavor profile.
Mattar Pulao - Rice with peas
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups water
1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
3-4 whole black pepper
1 tej patta
1 tbsp ghee
Salt to taste
If possible soak the rice in water for couple of hours. This creates fluffier rice and shortens the cooking time.
Heat ghee in a deep saucepan, and add the whole spices.
Once they splutter (making sure not to burn them!), add the peas and saute them for few seconds.
Add the rice followed by water and bring it to a boil.
Cover and cook till the rice is done.