The fifth morning of lockdown.
We are getting used to blissful time-stop-still mornings – sublime calm, glorious birdsong, MS Subbulakshmi wafting in from floors above, only to be punctuated by innocent giggles of kids or the raucous shrill of a pressure-cooker whistle.
S has started grumbling (albeit, mildly) over the lunches and dinners sans fish, the freezer unfortunately is empty, the wet markets have long been shut and the e-marts that do deliver fish are yet to re-establish their supply lines.
It’s not all gloom and doom though.
The vegetable shop continues to have fresh produce on offer.
The grocery store is reasonably well stocked.
And S even got country fowl (yes you heard it right, not the usual poultry ones which he is far from being a fan of) from his usual store yesterday.
Disaster strikes this morning though when I halve the raw papaya that S had got home last evening, only to reveal orange – white speckled guts, the papaya is eminently past the phase when it is perfect for cooking, however not ripe enough yet to savour as fruit.
SOS call to Maa.
Really don’t know what to do with this papaya Maa. And it would be criminal to waste food. That too in turbulent times as these.
You got some chicken yesterday, did you not tell me last evening ?
Yes we did, I acknowledge.
Make a Jeere Morich diye Murgir Jhol. It tastes even more delicious when cooked with about-to-ripen papayas.
Oh yes, I now remember, recollecting the light summery chicken stew Maa would prepare when we would have abundance of papaya in the backyard and despite Manikkakas discerning eye on which papaya had started to ripen, there would still be those unlucky few that when cut open would reveal a blemish of crimson-orange.
And that was lunch.
Maas Jeere-Morich diye Murgir Jhol. And piping hot rice. The sweetness of the papaya perfectly balanced by the tart of green mangoes and the heat of black pepper.
Jeere-Morich diye Murgir Jhol. Light summer chicken curry. Chunks of papaya. The tart of green mangoes. The earthy comfort of cumin. The wicked fury of pepper. No onions. No garlic.
This is comfort food at its best !!!
Jeere Morich diye Murgir Jhol
- 500 g country chicken curry cut pieces
- 1 small sized green papaya peeled and cut into medium cubes
- 1 small sized green mango peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup yogurt whipped
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 tbsp black peppercorns
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp black pepper powder freshly ground
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 2 tbsp mustard oil
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- salt to taste
- Soak the cumin seeds, 1.5 tbsp black peppercorns and 2 bay leaves in warm water for 15 odd minutes. Drain from water, grind to a smooth paste with very little water. Keep aside.
- Make a paste of the turmeric powder and coriander powder with very little water. Keep aside.
- Heat oil in a Kadhai. Throw in the remaining black peppercorns and bay leaves, allow the spices to splutter.
- Add the chicken pieces, sear over high heat for 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in the turmeric-coriander paste and yogurt, continue to cook over a medium flame till oil starts getting released from the masala.
- Add the papaya cubes, green mango slices and a sprinkle of salt . Give it all a hearty stir.
- Now add the cumin and black peppercorn paste, cook for a further 5 minutes or so. Add 1.5 cups of warm water, bring to a gentle simmer and cook over a medium flame till the chicken and papaya are tender.
- Add the sugar and freshly ground black pepper powder. Adjust seasonings. Serve hot.