That we Bengalis adore our Mughlai food is a restrained understatement for sure. We have a soul connection with it.
Not one to succumb to stereotypes, I would be shying away from reality if I did not accept that we just need a excuse, who cares if it is downright inconsequential and trivial, to yet again gorge on Biryani.
We can end up in animated (read just-short-of-violent) conversations on what constitutes the perfect Biryani masala. We can indulge in hours of feverish debate on the fine line between pulaos and biryanis. And are perfectly contented to remain polarised on which restaurant serves the best Biryani in Kolkata – Shiraz or Shabir, Aminia or Arsalan. Or a little-known one tucked away in a secluded street-corner that nevertheless commands a diehard following.
But you would be mistaken if you concluded by now that the affair stopped just with Biryanis.
We love our Kaalias and Qormas just as much as we relish our dalnas and jhols. A great rezaala is enough to elevate sagging spirits and a delectable Chicken Chaap is a guaranteed shortcut to food heaven.
And when Mughlai food is such religion, it does need a dare to publish a recipe. I gave it a patient thought and decided to go ahead. With my version of Chicken Chaap. That my friends and family alike love.
The next time you are in mood for some sinful decadent food, do pamper yourself silly with this recipe and let me know how it goes.
Chicken Chaap (Chicken in Rich Aromatic Gravy)
- 5 chicken whole legs
- 3/4 cup hung curd
- 2 tsps garlic paste
- 1/2 tbsp ginger paste
- 2 tsps red chilli powder
- 2 tsps black pepper powder
- 7 - 8 whole black pepper corns
- 1/2 cup poppy seed paste
- 1/4 cup cashew paste
- few strands saffron dissolved in a little warm milk
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
- 2.5 tbsps mustard oil
- 3 tbsps ghee
- 2 tsps sugar
- salt to taste
- 1/2 tsp kewra water
- Carefully make 3-4 deep slit marks on both sides of the chicken legs with a sharp knife.
- Marinate the chicken legs with ginger-garlic paste, red chili powder, hung curd and salt for 4-5 hours, best if you can leave it to rest overnight. (This step is key to the success of this dish. A tiny bit of patience massaging the chicken with the spice mix for that extra couple of minutes and letting the chicken rest overnight raises the dish to a divine high !!!)
- Add the cashew paste, poppy seeds paste, black pepper powder, red chili powder and 1 tbsp mustard oil in a bowl, mix well.
- Massage the marinated chicken patiently with the above paste, taking care to coat the chicken well on both sides.(Remember to rub the spice paste into the slits as well) Allow the chicken legs to rest for at least an hour in the refrigerator.
- Heat the remaining oil and 1.5 tbsp ghee in a pan, temper with the black peppercorn. After a minute or so, remove any extra marinade from the chicken and gently place them in the pan, reserving the leftover marinade for later use.
- Fry the chicken legs over a medium flame, turning the chicken legs every 3-4 minutes. We wouldn't want the chicken to turn brown as yet. I reckon this step to take about 10-15 minutes.
- Once the chicken legs start taking a tinge of brown, add the leftover marinade, sprinkle in the sugar and continue to cook over a low flame till the gravy is no longer runny and a thin film of oil starts to float on the top. (If the gravy has dried up by now and chicken is still not perfectly cooked, splash some warm water as and when needed.)
- Add the saffron infused milk and ghee, give it a hearty mix, ensuring that all the chicken legs have got coated with the masala. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
- Finish with 2-3 drops of kewra water and nutmeg powder. Serve hot with parathas.