I own a truly fascinating cookbook, by Smita and Sanjeev Chandra, entitled Cuisines of India. Besides having an eye-catching dust-cover, it really is a good read. The chapters are divided into broad, historical summaries, coupled with a discussion of the cuisine developement of the parties involved. There are political maps included as well! Every single recipe in the book also includes an interesting tale as its introduction, and because of all this, one could definitely spend hours just reading, as I did when I first acquired my copy, and not enter the kitchen at all!
My favorite recounts are those of Fanny Eden and her brushings with Ranjit Singh- that colourful Sikh leader who made himself king of Punjab in 1801. I still find myself truly laughing at loud when I read one of the Punjabi/Punju recipes that includes one of these! Here, for your amusement, is the one which heads a very good recipe that I just tried, taken from chapter 4, Decline of the Moghul Empire: Flowering of Regional Cuisines:
The table was covered with gold bottles and cups and some specimens of Sikh cookery- spiced balls of meat, or rather essence of meat, of very strong composition, pomegranite seeds, etc…The composition he calls wine is like burning fire, much stronger than brandy, and his great delight when he sets in to be gay is to make people drink it…I got on very well for some time, pretending to drink it and passing it to his cup-bearer. But he grew suspicious, put it up to his one eye, looked well into the cup, shook his head and gave it me back again. The next time he put his finger into the cup to see how much was gone. I made Major Wade explain to him that ladies did not drink so much in England, upon which he watched till George’s [her brother, governor general of India] head was turned away and passed a cup to me under his arm, thinking George was the horrid tyrant who prevented me.
Poor Fanny… 😀 In other exerpts from her journal we find her suffering through other banquets and dishes that, heaven forbid, were made to look like precious metals…
This recipe, though simple to prepare, is quite delicious! I have no idea how authentic it is; I’d like to hear feedback from anyone who might know! I made a couple additions to keep a theme going and make use of things I had handy: I sprinkled two finely-sliced green onions and a pinch of shredded mint-leaves over the top at the end of cooking. Either way, it is a very green, very vitamin-infused sauce that complements chicken deliciously well. It is sugested by the authors to serve it with rice and bhindi ki sabzi (sabzi-fied okra?!)
Dhaniye aur Kaju wale Murgh
8 skinless chicken thighs, bone in, washed and drained (I cleaved each into three pieces, bone included)
For the marinade:
1/4 C raw cashews, ground
1 t ground coriander seeds
3/4 t ground cumin seeds
1/2 t ground chiles
1/4-1/2 t ground black pepper
1/2 t garam masala
1/2 t turmeric
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2″ piece of ginger, sliced
1 C coriander leaves and stems, washed, drained, chopped
1 hot green chile, seeded and sliced (I used 3)
1 C plain yoghurt, not low-fat
salt to taste
1)Make a paste of the garlic, ginger, coriander leaves and green chiles.
2)Combine this with the rest of the marinade ingredients and mix with the chicken pieces well in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
2 T or so of oil
1/2 t cumin seeds
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly-sliced
1/4 C raw cashews, whole
1 T lemon (or lime) juice
1/2 C coriander leaves, chopped
2 green onions, finely-sliced(my addition)
4-5 mint leaves, finely shredded (stack, roll into a little log and slice thinly- my addition)
1)Heat oil in a cooking vessel over med-high heat and add the cumin seeds; after a few seconds add the onions and whole cashews; fry stirring fairly constantly until the onions are golden and just beginning to brown.
2)Strain these, using a slotted spoon, from the oil and set aside. Add the chicken and its marinade to the pan, stir well, cover and allow it to come to a boil. Reduce heat to med-low and cook for 40 min, stirring occasionally to avoid catching, until tender.
3)Add the reserved onions, cashews and lemon juice and cook 5 minutes more. Check for salt.
4)Sprinkle coriander leaves, green onions, and mint leaves over the top and serve hot with rice.
My deepest gratitude to Musical and her Kitchen for her assistance in translating the title of this dish for me! 🙂