Simplicity is the key to brilliance, it reveals the true and inner beauty of life, of food in this case. Dhonepata murgi is another winter favorite in our homes, with just five ingredients and no spices at all , if you count turmeric as spice, then yes it contains only that.
Sometimes I think we as Indians uses too much spices in almost every dishes, painting them red and orange with same set of masalas that includes turmeric- red chillies- coriander- cumin -garam masala which ends up taste similar in all respects with regional variations at places, thus camouflaging the real flavour of the dish rather than enhancing it. The role of ingredients should be to enhance the flavour of the food and not to conceal it, or to make it obscure.
In respect to that Bengali cuisine, which is again very different from the main stream Indian cuisine uses few ingredients at times and most of them are seasonal hence it helps to bring out the true flavour of the dish. You will hardly find those red-orange color curries in Bengali cuisine and that is the reason it holds a special place in my heart.
Like this dhonepata murgi. Its counterpart dhaniya murg which has its root in North Indian kitchen has again that same set of spices that makes the flavours obscure and taste way different than this simple dhonepata murgi.
Eating seasonally for better nutrition and for better world has been in practice for long times in Bengali kitchen and even now in the days of advanced food technology when you can afford to have everything year round, this still in practice in many homes, including ours.
Winter is not lifeless here, we waited the whole year for winters to arrive as it will also bring forth the seasonal bounties, fresh greens like spinach which taste so good in winters, turnip greens, fresh green peas, fresh cilantro and plenty of root vegetables which are my favorites. And perhaps that is the reason why this dhonepata murgi is prepared specially during winters when markets are flooded with abundance of fresh cilantro, the desi varieties with small leaves, which smells so good, so real and far far better than the grassy hybrid ones which has unusually big leaves.
I usually prepare this dhonepata murgi or dhaniya murgh with bone-in pieces. For boneless chicken, keeping the recipe very much same I skewer the pieces and roast it in the oven as hariyali murgh kebab.
This dhonepata chicken of mine contains just few ingredients, fresh coriander leaves, ginger, green chillies and black pepper and any further addition to this, in my humble opinion will ruin the true flavour of the dish. I know it would be difficult for you not to use your beloved spice box this time, but believe me this will definitely surprise you with its flavour and finger licking goodness.
- Chicken, curry cut medium : 500 gm (use chicken with bones)
- Onion, medium : 1 chopped finely
- Fresh cilantro / coriander leaves, desi variety : 1 bunch (lightly packed)
- Ginger roots : 2 inch piece
- Black pepper corns : 10 -12 (depending upon the heat tolerance)
- Green chillies, chopped : 2 tbsp
- Green chillies, whole : 2-3
- Garlic cloves : 5-6
- Cinnamon sticks : a small one
- Turmeric powder ; 1 tsp
- Lime : 1
- Salt as per taste
- Sugar : 2 tsp
- Mustard oil : ¼ cup + (It taste better with mustard oil)
- Wash the chicken throughly, rub salt and turmeric over it and leave on counter for 30 minutes.
- Wash the coriander / cilantro leaves , roughly chop them including tender stalks. Do not throw the harder ones, use them in soup.
- Peel and scrape the ginger roots. Chop them roughly.
- Now In your chutney jar of the food processor, process cilantro leaves, chopped ginger, chopped green chillies, pinch of salt and one tablespoon lime juice.
- Addition of lime juice while processing the cilantro leaves will helps to maintain the green color of the chutney.
- Do not blend it too fine and smooth.
- Heat mustard oil in a kadhai, temper it with whole cloves of garlic, black peppercorns and cinnamon sticks.
- Add the chopped onion and fry till it become soft and translucent, Do not brown the onions.
- Add the chicken pieces and saute till the chicken starts absorbing brownish hues. Do it in medium low heat. Take care not to burn the chicken.
- Add half of the coriander chutney mix and keep sautéing on low medium heat till it starts oozing out oil.
- Throw in whole green chillies, slit them half if you want to make it hot.
- Cover with a tight lid, lower the heat to minimum and let it cook till done.
- The chicken will release enough water, so no need to add extra water.
- Because extra water will spoil the taste. So use tender chicken for the recipe.
- Insert a fork into the fattiest part of the chicken pieces to check if it is ready or not. If it still oozes out reddish or brownish juices, then cover and cook further till done.
- Once done, check for salt, stir in the remaining coriander paste, add sugar and give a nice stir.
- Drizzle some lemon juice over it, depending upon the tanginess you prefer. We prefer it hint of lime, but not sour.
- Drizzle some hot mustard oil over it. It simply heightens the flavour. You can use melted ghee too.
- Serve immediately with plain steamed rice or with roti / paratha.
- This dish does not reheat that well. The freshness is lost when reheated.