CHICKEN REZALA – A MUGHLAI TREAT

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Mughlai may be a word new to most outside the Indian Subcontinent but, you may be familiar with words like biriyani, korma, kofte, kebabs and pulao. These dishes originated way back during the Mughal era when India was ruled by the Mughal emperors and the Indian cuisine was heavily influenced by a strong Muslim cooking style. It also derives its flavours from Persian and Turkish cuisine and has a very distinctive aroma of ground and whole spices popular known in India as ‘Shahi Masala’, shahi meaning royal. Spices include Mace, Nutmeg, White pepper, Star anise, Fennel, which thankfully are now available in most super stores sparing you the trip to an Indian shop. It also uses different kinds of natural flavorings such as rose petal, saffron, kewra water which is a kind of sweet screwpine essence or an extract that’s distilled from pandanus flower.

The taste varies from being extremely mild to very spicy, like from a mild korma to say a vindaloo!! Just like its originators its rich and flamboyant with the use of dry fruits, nuts and cream, so if you are into calorie counting bid adios to your weekly treat for the whole month ???? !Saying that, its my all time favorite dishes to prepare purely because of how the cook has control over the spice content and the delicate use of flavours which you would perhaps not use in your everyday cooking, hence I refer to Mughlai cuisine a treat.

This particular recipe fills me with nostalgia and takes be back to my teenage days of high school and college in Kolkata, India. As a teen with limited money to spend one had to choose wisely when it came to eating out, and Chicken rezala with naan was perhaps one of the most affordable and filling treat for us all. We had a favorite joint called Nizam’s in an overly populated, narrow street of what was at that time the most happening places to go called New Market in Kolkata. The smell of kewra water and rose sweeping through the air and clanging of dishes and happy chatty faces relishing the flavours comes to mind every time I make this dish. Don’t get to perplexed seeing the ingredients list and the cooking time. It actually requires very less supervision and is mostly slow cooked. I guess my more affluent days has made the dish a bit more exotic as opposed to the watery stew of clarified butter and red chillies with a lone chicken leg piece floating in the broth !! However, the memory of the delicate smell still lingers.

Chicken Rezala – A Mughlai Treat

Prep Time: 15 minutes                                                           Yield: 4- 6

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

For The Marinade:

Whole Chicken cut into large pieces – 1 kg

      • Yogurt – 1 cup

     

      • Onion paste (you can fine grate the onion or use sliced onions) – 1 cup

     

      • Ginger, grated – 1 tsp

     

      • Garlic, minced – 1 tbsp

     

    • Salt to taste
For Tempering the Oil :
      • Dry red chillies – 3 to 4

     

      • Cinnamon stick – 2 inch stick

     

      • Black pepper corns – 1 tsp

     

      • Black cardamon – 2 pods

     

      • Green cardamon (optional) – 2 pods

     

      • Star anise – 1 flower

     

      • Cloves – 6 to 7

     

      • Bay leaves – 2

     

    • Ghee or butter (melted) – 3 – 4 tbsp
For the Gravy Sauce:
    • Cashew nuts – 10 to 12 pieces

 

    • Poppy seeds – 2 tbsp spoons, Alternative:Sunflower seeds – 2 tbsp

 

    • Kewra water – 1 tsp, Alternative:Saffron strands – a pinch Or Rose water essence – few drops

 

    • Mace powder or crushed mace – 1/4 tsp

 

    • Sugar – 1 tsp or as per taste

 

  • Salt to taste

Instructions

    1. Clean and pat dry the chicken pieces. If you do not wish to cut a whole chicken simply use the drumsticks and thigh pieces you get in the super market.

 

    1. Mix together the yogurt, onion paste, ginger, garlic and salt. Pour it over the chicken pieces and keep aside for at least a minimum hour. I have used both onion paste and few onion slices to give you an idea.v

 

    1. Next make a paste of cashew nuts and poppy seeds or cashew and sunflower seeds in a blender. Making a paste of poppy seeds can be a bit tricky if you do not have a good blender which grinds tiny seeds. If you really struggle with it then simply use 4 tbsp of cream with the cashew nuts. Cashew nut paste is what is more important in this recipe to give it a creamy texture. Leave aside to be used laterChashew-paste1

 

    1. Now take a large heavy bottomed pan and add the ghee to it. If you do not have ghee then use unsalted cooking butter and melt it in the pan. Make sure that the butter or ghee does not turn brown or burn so keep heat to medium.

 

    1. Next add all the whole spices listed under the tempering ingredients list i.e. Red chillies, cardamon, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon, star anise and black peppercorn. Let in splutter for few seconds till the spices emit a fragrance, about 40 to 50 secs. Make sure it does not burn either.Whole-Spice-fry

 

    1. Now simply add the marinated chicken pieces with the tempered spices and give it all a good mix. If you are using sliced onion put the onions in as well. Cover and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes. You can come back to it and check to see its not sticking to the bottom of the pan from time to time.Adding-chicken

 

    1. After about 20 minutes, add the cashew paste, the mace powder and sugar. If you think the gravy is getting too dry then add very little amount of stock or warm water to it. Check for the balance of salt and sugar and adjust accordingly.Adding-chicken

 

    1. Cover and cook for further 10 to 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the gravy reduced to a creamy texture. Finally add the kewra or rose water or saffron strands. Stir well and remove from heat.Adding-chicken

 

  1. This particular chicken dish goes best with Naan, although you can also have it with boiled basmati rice, parantha or chappati.Marinated-chicken

Ingredients

For The Marinade:
Whole Chicken cut into large pieces – 1 kg
Yogurt – 1 cup
Onion paste (you can fine grate the onion or use sliced onions) – 1 cup
Ginger, grated – 1 tsp
Garlic, minced – 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
For Tempering the Oil :
Dry red chillies – 3 to 4
Cinnamon stick – 2 inch stick
Black pepper corns – 1 tsp
Black cardamon – 2 pods
Green cardamon (optional) – 2 pods
Star anise – 1 flower
Cloves – 6 to 7
Bay leaves – 2
Ghee or butter (melted) – 3 – 4 tbsp
For the Gravy Sauce:
Cashew nuts – 10 to 12 pieces
Poppy seeds – 2 tbsp spoons, Alternative:Sunflower seeds – 2 tbsp
Kewra water – 1 tsp, Alternative:Saffron strands – a pinch Or Rose water essence – few drops
Mace powder or crushed mace – 1/4 tsp
Sugar – 1 tsp or as per taste
Salt to taste
* Click to ingredient to choose one

Directions

1
Clean and pat dry the chicken pieces. If you do not wish to cut a whole chicken simply use the drumsticks and thigh pieces you get in the super market.
2
Mix together the yogurt, onion paste, ginger, garlic and salt. Pour it over the chicken pieces and keep aside for at least a minimum hour. I have used both onion paste and few onion slices to give you an idea.
3
Next make a paste of cashew nuts and poppy seeds or cashew and sunflower seeds in a blender. Making a paste of poppy seeds can be a bit tricky if you do not have a good blender which grinds tiny seeds. If you really struggle with it then simply use 4 tbsp of cream with the cashew nuts. Cashew nut paste is what is more important in this recipe to give it a creamy texture. Leave aside to be used later
4
Now take a large heavy bottomed pan and add the ghee to it. If you do not have ghee then use unsalted cooking butter and melt it in the pan. Make sure that the butter or ghee does not turn brown or burn so keep heat to medium.
5
Next add all the whole spices listed under the tempering ingredients list i.e. Red chillies, cardamon, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon, star anise and black peppercorn. Let in splutter for few seconds till the spices emit a fragrance, about 40 to 50 secs. Make sure it does not burn either.
6
Now simply add the marinated chicken pieces with the tempered spices and give it all a good mix. If you are using sliced onion put the onions in as well. Cover and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes. You can come back to it and check to see its not sticking to the bottom of the pan from time to time.
7
Now simply add the marinated chicken pieces with the tempered spices and give it all a good mix. If you are using sliced onion put the onions in as well. Cover and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes. You can come back to it and check to see its not sticking to the bottom of the pan from time to time.
8
Cover and cook for further 10 to 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the gravy reduced to a creamy texture. Finally add the kewra or rose water or saffron strands. Stir well and remove from heat.
9
This particular chicken dish goes best with Naan, although you can also have it with boiled basmati rice, parantha or chappati.