We had Chicken Curry for dinner… In a very Bengali way… chicken with potatoes, cooked and marinated with mustard oil, garnished with fresh cilantro from the back yard! The kind is usually termed as the Robibar er Murgir Jhol (Sunday Chicken Curry) as it is laden with memories and almost a tradition to have an elaborate meal with the family on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
There, it says it all! Only it does not have to be Sunday to love this. The word elaborate holds a different meaning for me. It is not that the meal back home on the Sunday afternoons were ornamented. It was just the other way round – few and simple; hot steaming white rice, the chicken/mutton curry and usually a sweet chutney to complete the meal. It was elaborate because of the time we spent, the little details of conversations we shared. It was more than food.
This is my second time in this week that I made the curry. The first time I made it, my little one surprised us beyond words and sat for her meal for more than an hour to polish off three chicken drumsticks. She is 6, and a very picky and slow eater and this is the first time ever that I actually saw her eat a chicken curry with all her heart. It could be one of her phases, but I am not complaining. Two days later I made it again and I met with the same response from her.
Here I have to write what my dear friend (a very close friend from my school years) had to say when I shared the photograph in my FB account. I was surprised that the feelings could be so similar and thrilled how a simple comfort food can arouse such nostalgia.
“Soma, your post makes me very homesick and miss Robibar er Murgir Jhol!! I thought this only happened in our house on Sundays; never realised other Bongs did too!!! The potatoes were the best bit of this dish followed by the jhol; the Murgi only added to the flavour. This is probably the only Indian dish my boys truly enjoy, especially the potatoes; Rajiv always wants two, just like I did as a child! I miss those days and those weekly rituals!! ” (quoted with permission)
The memories for this recipe are very precious to me. It brings back a lot and more than my words can express. Every time I make this, I take a trip back home and so much is going on in my mind, yet I can think of nothing specific to mention. I just see my maa with the long end of her saree tucked in her waist, occasionally loosening it to wipe her face, adjusting the pressure cooker while her thin gold bracelet would touch the cooker and softly jingle, or serving us food or her marinating and making the fresh pastes with the kitchen smelling of spices and mustard oil. I spent my day lingering in-front of the television or peeking in the kitchen waiting for lunch time. It was just another Sunday afternoon, but so special to me. And it makes me homesick. It is a recipe which holds a lofty place in my heart.
I have posted the mutton/goat curry (similar version as this one and we had that too on Sunday afternoons) before as -
Mangshor Jhol - Bengali Mutton Curry. The term Jhol in Bengali is a generally used for a soupy curry made with meat/fish/egg or vegetables where the sauce can be easily ladled over some hot steaming rice or where any bread may be dunked in to easily soak in the flavorsome sauce.
This was a very unplanned post. I had posted the photograph of this Chicken Curry – straight off from the stove, in the eCurry Face Book Page . The requests for the recipe to be posted astounded me! So here it is with very mundane photographs which I managed to take right before I was serving dinner with the kids less than a foot away from me, impatiently waiting for meal to be served.
Robibar er Murgi-r Jhol: Sunday afternoon Chicken Curry
Ingredients: (serves 4-6)
2.5 – 3 lbs chicken: skinned but with bones (I have used 6-7 medium sized drumsticks)
- 2 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 3/4 tablespoon red chili powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3-4 tablespoon yogurt
- 1/2 tablespoon mustard oil
- 2 tablespoon grated/finely chopped onion
For the sauce/gravy/jhol:
- 6-7 tablespoon oil (do not cringe on this) – I have used pure virgin mustard oil, but you can use any oil if you do not want to use mustard oil
- 4 small green cardamom
- 2 cloves
- 2″ stick cinnamon
- about 8 peppercorn
- 1 tejpatta/Indian bay leaf
- 2- 2.5 cups (chopped/thinly sliced into half moon) red onions
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1.5 tablespoon garlic paste
- 2.5 inch knob of fresh ginger, grated or made into a paste
- 1 cup fresh grated/ finely chopped tomatoes, or 1.5 tablespoon tomato paste combined with 1/2 cup water
- 4 large potatoes, peeled and divided into 4 each (or more if they are larger) – you may use as many potatoes as you want
- 1 tablespoon red chili powder (or more or less to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 2 hot green chili peppers
- 2-4 cups of water (adjust to how soupy you want it to be)
- lemon juice and fresh coriander/cilantro to garnish and finish off
Notes: I have used Kashmiri Red Chili Powder here and also Tomato Paste (instead of fresh tomato). Both contributed to the red hue. If you are using any other kind, you might not have the curry colored this way, but it will still taste the same. Back home dry red chilli peppers were soaked and made into a paste and contributed to the lovely color.
The amount of oil seems to be a lot here, but please do not compromise on this. Along with the potatoes and a pot full of soupy sauce, it makes a pretty good amount and serves quite a few. So if that oil is divided between six servings, the oil is not really that much for a meal. And you do not have this everyday. If you are still thinking, you can remove the thin layer of oil it forms on the top after it is cooked.
Wash chicken well and pat dry. If the chicken are cut into bigger pieces (I have used drumsticks), make multiple slits into the flesh. Combine lemon juice, salt, turmeric and red chili powder and chicken in a zip lock bag (or in a non reactive bowl) and toss and rub well for the ingredients to stick to the chicken pieces. Allow it to sit for about 30 minutes. Add the yogurt, 1/2 tablespoon oil and the chopped/grated onion to the marinating chicken and rub them in well; allow to marinate for an hour or more.
Lightly crush/smash the peppercorn, clove, cardamom and cinnamon.
Peel and slice the potatoes. Sprinkle half teaspoon turmeric and some salt on them. Add 1/2 tablespoon oil in a pan , heat and add fry the potatoes until they start browning (golden brown) in spots. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add another tablespoon of oil in the same pan and allow it to heat up. Shake off the marinade from the chicken pieces and add them to the pan in a single layer. Cook on all sides until the chicken whitens and just starts to brown. It will take approximately 4-5 minutes. Remove and you can place it back in the marinade or in a different bowl.
Add the rest of the oil in the pan. Allow it to heat up and add the peppercorn, bay leaf, clove, cinnamon and cardamom. When they sizzle add the sliced/chopped onions and the teaspoon of sugar. Cook the onions until they start turning golden brown. Add the ginger paste/grated, garlic paste, salt, turmeric powder, red chili powder and the tomatoes. Toss and stir well; cook for 2 minutes. Add the chicken, the marinade and the coriander powder and cook while occasionally stirring. This is the part that will take time, about 15 – 20 minutes. The chicken will be half cooked during this process and the spice mix will be cooked through (getting rid of the raw taste and smell). This process of slowly braising is called “Bhuna” in Hindi and “Koshano” in Bengali. Once you see the the oil separating from the sides of the pan and kind of rising up in bubbles on the top, you will know it is done.
Now if you are using a pressure cooker, transfer everything in the pan to the pressure cooker. Add the potatoes, green chili pepper and the water and close it. Cook for about 10-12 minutes. The potatoes should be cooked and the chicken should actually be falling off the bones. The cooking time will need to be adjusted as all cookers are different. My pressure cooker only hisses and I never time it. I just know when it is cooked. Call it the “gut feeling”. It might be bit of an experiment to get it right, but you will have to find the perfect time for it.
If you are not using a pressure cooker, add the water, green chili pepper and the potatoes in the same pan. Give it a good stir, cover it with a tight fitting lid and cook until potatoes are tender and the chicken is falling off the bones.
Drizzle some lemon/lime juice and garnish with fresh cilantro just before serving. Keep the chicken curry covered until just ready to serve. It will keep the meat tender and prevent them for drying out.
Serve with hot steamed rice or Naan or even Poori. The Sunday afternoon lunch consisted of rice and the chicken and some sweet chutney to end the meal. But if this is served as a dinner, it is mostly served with some sort of bread or pulao.
Preparation Time: 2 hours or overnight (Included marinating time)
Cooking Time: 1.5 hours
Difficulty level : Moderate