Thursday, 15 August 2013

Kashmiri Chicken Curry

During the long summer school holidays in Pakistan, as we roamed around the beautiful Northern areas of Pakistan for summer vacations – Muzaffarabad – The capital of Pakistan’s side of Kashmir would be one of the stops. Hotels were less in number in that area back then so the government guest houses were the place to stay on such trips. Regardless of which part of northern areas one went, the government guest houses would have one thing in common – A Kashmiri cook or Khansama as it’s called in Pakistan. Those trips were the reason for my delicious encounters with Kashmiri chicken curry. The curry was eaten with equally divine steaming hot wood oven cooked tandoori rotis. One could smell pine trees in the rotis. For most of us who have had Kashmiri cooks at home, we have eaten Kashmiri chicken curry at homes many times. I learnt to make it from our Kashmiri cook as well. 

I have often wondered why Kashmiri men were such good cooks. I haven’t quite found the answer yet. The same Kashmiris from Mirpur who had gone to UK as labor in 1960-70s to fuel UK’s textile revolution have ended up establishing UK’s most famous desi food restaurants and Pakistani food franchises. I must also acknowledge that we Punjabis are utterly grateful to the Kashmiris for introducing us to the most amazing Shabdegh – Slow cooked sweet & savory lamb & turnip curry. This dish is cooked in a clay pot sealed with dough over low heat all night long.  In the morning the meat is falling off the bone and melts in the mouth!

This post is to remember the beauty of our Kashmir, the smell of pine trees, the long summer holidays on road and the divine curry that makes me smile every time i think about it. 

Here is my version of Kashmiri Chicken Curry. I love to serve it with Naan, chappati - Home made flat bread or Rice pulao.  

*Cooking Utensil – Pressure cooker.

Chicken – 8-10 medium sized pieces – 1 kg
Onions – 3 large - chopped
Tomatoes – 1 cup fresh puree
Ginger/Garlic – 1 tsp heaped.
Potatoes – 3 medium sized – medium diced
Oil – 4 tbsp
Cinnamon – 3 1 inch sticks
Black Cardamom – 2-3 whole
Cloves – 5-6 whole
Cumin seeds– 1 tsp heaped – lightly crushed in pestle mortar (I dry roast my cumin seeds)
Coriander seeds– 1 tsp heaped – lightly crushed in pestle mortar (I dry roast my coriander seeds)
Chili powder – ½ tsp
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Turmeric – ¼ tsp
Salt – 1 tsp – adjust to taste if needed more.
Water - 3 cups.
Roasted Cumin seeds – ½ tsp crushed for dusting on curry
Fresh Coriander – chopped handful for garnish.

  1. On medium heat, warm the oil in a pressure cooker and gently fry the onions. A pressure cooker saves time in breaking down the onions in to a paste. Once the onions are gently browned, add a cup of water and give it a pressure for 5 mins. 
  2. The same can be done without a pressure cooker as well but it will take more than 30 mins. The water is added in intervals to break down the onions. Then it is dried, onions are mashed up and then the process is repeated again till the caramelized onion paste is formed.
  3. Going back to the pressure cooking: Once the pressure is done, add whole cloves, cinnamon & cardamom to the water and onions mixture. Dry the water completely and mash the onions till it becomes a paste.
  4. Now add chicken, tomato paste, ginger/garlic paste, dried coriander seeds, dried cumin seeds, salt, chili powder, coriander powder & turmeric to the onion paste.
  5. Cook on medium heat for 5-8 mins till the chicken changes its color and the liquid from tomato puree dries up. The oil should separate from the gravy.
  6. Now add diced potatoes and cook further for 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Don’t let the onion paste burn.
  7. Add 2 cups of water to the mixture. Mix and let it boil on a high heat. Once boiled, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer(cover the pan) and cook for 25 mins till potatoes are thoroughly cooked, curry has thickened and the oil starts floating on the top of the curry. If the curry has thickened too much for your taste then add ½ cup of hot water and let it simmer for 2-3 mins.
  8. I love to add a dusting of roasted & crushed cumin seeds on the curry along with fresh chopped coriander leaves before serving.
* If you don't have a pressure cooker then let the onions and garlic ginger cook in oil, as it changes color add a bit of water and make a paste of it in liquidizer. Pour it back in the cooking pan and dry the water till oil comes out on the sides and follow the step # 3 on wards.