There are some things I wish my mama had taught me how to cook – Murgh Chholay is one of them. Well, why didn’t she you may ask? As far as I know my mama has never made murgh chholay. You see, we are from Karachi, a boisterous city by the sea, whose 15 million inhabitants hail from all over Pakistan and pre partition India. Murgh Chholay is a very Lahori dish and one that I had only had in restaurants until I moved to Canada and concluded that if I wanted good murgh chholay on a regular basis then I better figure out how to make them. Folks, I think I have it now. Thanks to the combination of a little googling and a few past attempts I seem to have figured out how to get the subtle back of the mouth heat of this dish without losing the flavour of the ingredients. Phew. All that mediocrity was getting to be exhausting!
Turns out the problem I was having was that I was using similar ratios of spices for the murgh chholay that I would with a regular chicken curry and what that meant was that it would always end up tasting a little – well boring, for lack of better word. You see the chickpeas really soak up flavour and so you need to create a strong spice base otherwise there just is not enough to go around. So don’t be shy about the chilli powder and the green chillies at the end. Just remember when we cook the green chillies a lot of the aggressive heat of the chillies cooks out anyway.
Spring is a tease. Every now and then you get a nice, sunny, warm, bring out the water table and sand box kinda day (can you tell I am a mom??) and then you get a whole bunch of cold-wet-cold-wet-overcast-humid-wet-cold. Pfft.
Don’t worry, I did resist the urge to drown my sorrows in sugar and butter. Not just because I was out of butter. So here is another dish, with considerable less fat and sugar, which I find pretty comforting. It is a version of chicken curry called kalia (kul-ya) that I had not had until I got married. It is very different from traditional chicken curries in that there is no yogurt or tomatoes and of the ‘garam masala’ quartet (cloves, whole black pepper, cardamom, and cinnamon) this one only features one. This makes for a light very clean tasting curry which we all enjoy and trust me pleasing a household of adults and a toddler with the same dish is no easy task!
As a quick note I only use boneless chicken breast meat in most of my chicken dishes because my FIL has a heart condition and should eat minimally fatty foods. This curry still turns out pretty well, but would be far more delicious if you used half a skinless chicken cut into pieces.
You know that whole a rose by any other name stuff? Yeah well that’s how my husband, my mother in law and now even my two year old feel about Chicken Curry. It matters little which variation on the theme it is, the traditional spicy rich korma curry, the plain Jane chicken curry, the tomato-y chicken curry, or kalya a turmeric heavy curry, as far as they are considered it is the food of champions. This is why after spending my childhood successfully avoiding eating it for the most part I finally had to figure it out and I must say I have found a few versions I really like. Here is just one of them.
I like this one particularly much because I am a fan of all things tomato, plus even with the reduced red chillies (I only put in half a teaspoon when cooking for Zara) it still manages to be very flavourful. Also, for a dish with depth it does not take long or require for me to be standing at the stove anxiously the entire time. This recipe is an amalgamation of ones I have found on the internet and tips from one of my aunts. Did I ever tell you that my family is populated by amazing cooks? You would think it would mean I have some kind of natural talent… Anyhow, luckily for us, what I lack there I make up for with good note taking.