In antiquity, when our great grandmothers were reigning supreme in their kitchens, chicken was considered pedestrian – very low in the culinary rung of princely paatha’r mangsho, ilish, cheetol, pabda and rui maach and golda chingri.
It still is, in certain Bengali homes which are untouched by gym-sweating, muscle-trotting show offs! Chicken Curry was almost looked down upon on special occasions in Bengali homes. It was either made to appease some non-Bengali guests or because the festivities were at the month-end, which meant the Bengali had spent all his salary eating like a King and could not afford the more expensive goat meat or fish.
But come of age it did, this Kosha Chicken. One-seventh of the same snooty Bengalis succumbed to the ease and charm of slow cooked or bhuna or kosha chicken. And now they wallow in it.
However, “slow cooked” doesn’t mean you overcook the chicken. It takes a little amount of practice and patience and in some cases both to master this art! My Mother makes her Kosha Murgi in a thick kodai/karhai. Which is what you will need for this recipe – a thick-bottom pan if you don’t have an Indian wok.
1 medium size chicken about 1 kg, cut into regular pieces, giblets removed, I used drumsticks and thighs today
1 large red onion, cut into thin slivers
1 large ripe and plump tomato
2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
1 tablespoon green chili paste (go easy on it if kids are eating)
Few sprigs of finely chopped coriander for garnish
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
Half teaspoon garam masala powder
2 + 2 green and black cardamoms
1 small stick of cinnamon
2 bay leaves
3-4 tablespoons mustard oil (you can use Canola or vegetable oil)
Heat oil in a pan, and add the bay leaf, cardamoms, cinnamon and cloves in no particular order. Sauté for 10 seconds, till the whole spices are fragrant. Next to go in are the onions.
Tip: If you want the onions to caramelize quickly, add a pinch of sugar in the hot oil, let it melt and then add the onions and see them get a gorgeous color instantly!
Mix the wet masala with the chicken. I add the ginger-garlic-chili paste later so that my chicken gets the desired color on it. The wet paste has moisture in it and adding it before I add the chicken does not allow the chicken to color well.
Add the rest of the dry spices – turmeric, coriander, cumin and red chili powders.
Cover again cook for 5-7 minutes, then add salt. Cover. The salt helps release moisture from the tomato and chicken. You will see a puddle of gravy in the chicken by now. Chicken does not take much time to cook, check at this time if your chicken is done.
Now cook the chicken on high for the next five minutes, stirring it gently. When all the extra gravy has dried up, turn the heat off. Season with a pinch of garam masala powder (I grind together cloves, cinnamon, black and green cardamoms for my Bengali gorom moshla).
Garnish the Kosha Murgi with finely chopped fresh coriander. Serve with ruti/roti/chapati/phulka or naan.