It is a time-stops-still Sunday afternoon.
Lunch has just concluded, Maas lip-smacking chicken curry accompanied with steaming hot rice. And now, satiated and smiles of contentment nestled on our lips, we sit under the shade of the gnarled guava tree, home to the resident lokkhi pecha and the pandemonium of parrots.
Bapi is back to the morning daily, determined on out-challenging the crossword. A cup of tea, tea leaves stewed in milk and sweetened generously, rests patiently by his side.
Maa hums a tune, one from Tagores treasure trove, but I struggle to pin point the specific one.
Dada furiously ransacks the shed, battling the veils of cobweb and clouds of dust that send him into paroxysms of sneezing, desperately looking for Bapis old cycle pump, he does need the miracle of the pump to resuscitate the deflated football that lies lifeless on the rickety table.
Bapi finally looks up. The crossword, that triumphant smile tells me, has been outwitted.
He takes a long sip from the cup beside him.
You know, Bapi continues, wistful nostalgia in his voice now, Chachi used to make this sublime kathal bichi diye murgi that I adored. Those were days when Maa did not allow chicken in the house, so Chachi would send word that my favourite curry was cooking and lunch would be at her place.
Why don’t you try making the curry one of these weeks ?
And now should I get some singara from the corner shop ? Bapi looks at me asking for an affirmation.
Maa tries the kathal bichi diye murgi the next Sunday. Delicious, Bapi is quick to praise, just a couple of little tweaks is all that is needed.
Maa attempts the curry again in a couple of weeks and then again.
Perfect, Bapi applauds one Sunday, this is indeed Chachis trademark kathal bichi diye murgi.
Decades have flown by.
The sight of jackfruit seeds at the local vegetable seller is all that it takes to rekindle those fond memories.
I return home incredibly excited.
Maa, do you remember that amazing kathal bichi diye murgi you would cook years back ? And how Dada and I would bicker aimlessly over who had been doled out more jackfruit seeds ?
Peals of laughter.
And then melancholy silence.
Chachis recipe, one that your Bapi cherished, isn’t it ? Maa asks once she finds her voice back
And Maa cooks Chachis delectable kathal bichi diye murgi for lunch. I return to the merry days of yore.
Kathal bichi diye murgi. Succulent chicken. Earthy jackfruit seeds. Caramelised fried onion paste. A glug of coconut milk. This is food heaven for me !!
Kathal Bichi diye Murgi
- 600 g chicken curry cut pieces
- 15-20 jackfruit seeds
- 1/3 cup fried onion paste
- 1 cup thick coconut milk
- 2 tbsp onion paste
- 1/2 tsp garlic paste
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 2 tsp green chili paste
- 1 tsp turemeric powder
- 2 bay leaves
- 2-3 green cardamom
- 2.5 tbsps oil
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- salt to taste
- Marinate the chicken with onion paste, garlic paste, ginger paste, green chili paste and a little salt, for 3-4 hours.
- Peel the jackfruit seeds, pressure cook them, 3-4 whistles I would reckon. Allow to cool down on its own. Cut the jackfruit seeds longitudinally into halves.
- Heat 1/2 tbsp oil, fry the jackfruit seeds till light brown. Keep aside on a kitchen towel to soak the excess oil.
- Heat the remaining oil in a deep bottomed pan. Throw in the crushed green cardamom and bay leaves, allow the spices to splutter.
- Now add the marinated chicken, turmeric powder, sugar and salt, cook over a low flame till the chicken pieces are lightly browned.
- Stir in the fried onion paste, gently pour the coconut milk and 1/2 a cup of warm water. Give it all a hearty mix. Continue to cook over a low flame till the chicken is almost done.
- Add the jackfruit seeds and simmer for another 5-7 minutes.
- Adjust seasonings, finish with a dollop of ghee. Serve hot with rice.