Indian food sometimes has a bad reputation as being complicated and I know of many who are perplexed by its list of ingredients and strong, complex flavours. Despite growing up eating traditional South Indian food, I could not tell the difference between cumin or fennel and the gazillion types of lentils and pulses when I first started cooking! If you’ve stepped into an indian grocery store and walked out even more confused than after you’d googled what imli or bengal gram looks like, you are not alone. I still need to look up how the various lentils and some spices look like before I head out shopping. To make matters worse, the names of indian spices and lentils have different names in different indian dialect groups.For instance, ‘Asofoetida’ is ‘hing’ in Hindi but ‘perungayam’ in Tamil. Thank goodness for internet search engines, hey?
But this dish- Murg Roganjosh is neither intimidating nor very spicy. But do not take my word for it. Try it to believe it. This dish and the Chettinad Pepper Chicken Masala have become our favourite indian chicken dishes and they feature regularly in our dinners. The aroma and the luscious red gravy of this dish is enough to make you come back for seconds. It is so good!
Murg Rogan Josh hails from Kashmir, a northeastern mountainous region in India. Its cuisine is quite different from any other region of India as for centuries it has been influenced by Central Asia, Tibet and present day Pakistan. In fact, its traditional cooks claim to have descended from Samarkand, Central Asia. In the first millennium, Kashmir served as an important centre for Hinduism and thus evolved the Hindu Pandit style of cooking which does away with onions and garlic, replacing them with aniseed, ginger powders and asofoetida which emits a flavour similar to onion and garlic when heated in oil. Their preferred meat is lamb while goat and kid (mutton) are favoured in most parts of mainland India. Hence, the popularity and prevalence of lamb rogan josh in most indian restaurants.
Though traditionally fresh ginger and garlic are not used for this dish, I have taken a few creative liberties and replaced ground ginger with ginger-garlic paste and aniseed powder with fennel powder as not everyone has ginger and aniseed powder. Of course, if you do have these powders or you’re a purist/traditionalist, use them instead. Also, if you do not have kashmiri chilli powder just use the ‘normal’ chilli powder but please not cayenne or paprika.And likewise for kashmiri garam masala, use any garam masala you have. Just note that if you use the generic chilli powder, you would not get the rich scarlet colour. But if I were you, I’d get kashmiri chilli powder instead of the generic one the next time I need to replenish my spices as it has better flavour and colour and when used sparingly is actually not that spicy.
The first time I made this dish, I was completely taken in by how the yogurt dries out and coats the chicken and when I added the kashmiri chilli powder, it was a revelation! The beautiful red hue of the kashmiri chilli powder transforms the sauce immediately and the aroma of the chicken once you add the aniseed/fennel powder and kashmiri garam masala is phenomenal! The creamy yoghurt balances the rich and spicy chilli and spice powders so well. I have never come across an Indian dish where so few ingredients are needed to create such an aromatic, rich masala. It is to die for!
Chicken in Rich Scarlet Sauce (Murg Roganjosh)
- 800g skinless, bone-in chicken thighs (about 6 medium thighs)
- 250 ml natural yoghurt
- 4 green cardamom pods
- 2 black cardamom pods
- 2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (equal parts garlic + ginger )
- 1 tsp salt
- 2-3 tbsp cooking oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cinnamon sticks, each 1 inch long
- 4 cloves
- 1/4 tsp asofoetida
- 1 or 1 1/2 tsp kashmiri red chilli powder
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 1/2 tsp aniseed/fennel powder
- 1 tsp kashmiri garam masala
- 1 cup/ 250 ml warm water
- Marinate chicken with yoghurt, green and black cardamoms, ginger-garlic paste and salt overnight or for at least 4 hours.
- Bring marinated chicken to room temperature at least 40-60 minutes before cooking.
- In a heavy-based large sauté pan/pot, over a medium high flame, heat oil and add bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cloves and asofoetida and sauté for a few seconds till they are aromatic.
- Add the marinated chicken and yoghurt marinate with cardamom pods into oil. Stir the chicken pieces constantly but gently without breaking up the chicken, until the yoghurt dries out and the oil separates out.
- Reduce flame to medium and continue to stir chicken pieces until they cook thoroughly and start to brown.
- Once all chicken have started to brown, mix the kashmiri chilli powder into a paste with 2 tbsp of water and add to chicken. Stir to evenly coat all chicken pieces with chilli powder.
- Increase the heat to medium high and add aniseed/fennel powder and kashmiri garam masala together with 1 cup/ 250ml warm water. Stir quickly to evenly coat masala on chicken.
- Reduce heat to low and cook for about 10-20 minutes or until sauce thickens to your desired consistency. The dish is done once the reddish oil separates out.
Perfect with plain rice or roti but great with the tomato kale rice pilaf. The sweet and savoury flavour from the tomato and kale balance the rich gravy of the murg rogan josh. I’ve replaced kale with chard leaves and it works well too. The rice pilaf is good enough to be eaten on its own if you add an extra hardy vegetable like cauliflower or broccoli. If you have some extra time, fry up some pappadums and open a jar of sweet mango indian pickle to go with your rice and chicken dishes. You’re now ready to have an indian feast all within the comfort of your home. I assure you that there wouldn’t be any scary curry disasters with this walk-in-the-park Murg Rogan Josh.
For garnish Directions I microwave my rice for 15-16 minutes and let it stand for 2 minutes. Then, I use a fork to fluff up the grains from the side of the bowl and let the rice sit out for about 5 minutes before I dish it out.
Tomato and Kale Rice Pilaf
I microwave my rice for 15-16 minutes and let it stand for 2 minutes. Then, I use a fork to fluff up the grains from the side of the bowl and let the rice sit out for about 5 minutes before I dish it out.