Meet my new found love – Afghan style chicken or quorma e lawand. Not sure which one will suit this dish but I can certainly assure you that this chicken recipe is going to be a treasure trove in your repositories of recipes to cherish.
Frontier cuisine is my weakness and here in India , you will get the very best of it, if you seek hard. Some 500 year old history of intermingling of races, when borders were fluid, continual exchanges of food, culture and trade happened which eventually had influenced the cuisine of India to a greater extent, in the long run. No wonder, Afghan food are nothing but reminiscent of that cultural reciprocity with strong presence of native flavours. Frequent uses of plums or aloo bokhara, apricots and walnuts in their dishes signifies that.
With time everything digress from their origin, and so does Afghan Cuisine. Here in Delhi, Afghan chicken recipes becomes synonym to cream and that baffles me. I had never been to that country, nor I had come across anyone from that region, but whatever little bit of glimpses of Afghan food and culture I had through food shows and books written on that region, never ever come acrossed the fact that cream is central to Afghan food.
While cleaning out my junks from the bookshelves, I had come acrossed a hand scribbled note of mine on Afghan style chicken gravy, roughly jotted down from an International food show shot at the home of an elderly Afghan couple. I forgot the name of the show but clearly remembered the one unique ingredient that he had added in the chicken is – cilantro-walnut paste.
Those days pesto was not much in craze, and probably that would be the reason why that recipe intrigued me a lot and I had noted it down.
Cilantro – walnut paste is central to most of the Middle East and West Asia recipes, specially as a base of gravy in chicken and meat dishes. A similar Georgian dish is also quite popular. And so as the marinade of yogurt-garlic -lime.
Thick or hung yogurt (with water drained out of it) is first whipped together with pinch of salt, minced garlic and then drizzled with enough lime juice to make it slight tangy. This is then added to the chicken with pinch of turmeric and red chilies (actually the cook uses red pepper flakes in the show) and left to marinate in the mixture for overnight or longer. While cooking the dish in deep vessel, the cook had first smoked the chicken with the marinades with the help of charcoals. Later it the dish was cooked in dum style.
A coarse paste of freshly chopped cilantro and walnut has been used as base for the gravy, sprinkled with white and black pepper and pinch of nutmeg that beautifully heightens the flavour to an another level. Saffron water imparts a beautiful color to the dish and so the light sprinkling of dried mint that gives a depth to the flaovour. If you don’t have access to dried mint, please do not substitute it with kasoori methi. The crispy fried onions are integral to this dish and lends a beautiful flavour to the chicken.
This dish was served with Afghani naan in the show. We had it with Afghani sheermal and that elevates the whole experience of relishing such a wonderful and beautiful dish to another level.
Sheermal has a beautiful journey through out its history and each region has its own way of making it. Will reserve that post on sheermal for another time.
- 3 Chicken whole leg
- 3/4 cup Thick / hung yogurt, with water drained out
- 2 tsp Red chillie powder
- 1 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp Garlic minced
- 2 tbsp Lime juice
- Salt as per taste
- 3/4 cup Cilantro / coriander leaves
- 15-20 Walnut or you can use almonds (but no cashew)
- 5-6 Garlic cloves , medium size
- 1/2 tsp Black pepper powder
- 1 tsp White pepper powder
- 1/4 tsp Nutmeg powder
- Salt as per taste
- Saffron soaked in 2tbsp warm milk : a small pinch
- Ghee for cooking
- 1 cup Brown onion (Thinly sliced caramelized onions, see note)
Wash and clean the chicken. With sharp knife, make gashes in the fattier part of the leg.
whip the yogurt with salt till smooth and creamy. Stir in rest of the ingredients listed under for marination. Mix everything well and marinate the chicken in this mixture for overnight or longer.
Wash and clean the cilantro leaves, roughly chop them and blend them in mixer with chop walnuts (I have used walnuts, you can use almonds too, but no cashews) and cloves of garlic. Make a coarse paste with little water. We do not need smooth and fine paste for it.
In a wide and deep bottom pan or karahi warm the ghee (approximately 3-4 tbsp in solid taste). You can use oil too. Place the chicken along with the marinade and fry on medium high till the chicken pieces shows golden brown color. Take care not to burn the ghee or chicken.
Once done, add the cilantro-walnut- garlic paste and give everything a nice mix.
Add rest of the ingredients listed under for gravy, except saffron, cook on medium heat for a while till everything looks fried well.
Stir in half of the sliced brown onions, saffron. Add half cup warm water. Cover with a tight lid and steam or dum cook till done.
Before serving stir in rest of the browned onions and serve hot with naan, paratha or sheermal
How to brown the onions
Thinly slice the onions (you will need around 2 big onions) and fry them in oil with pinch of salt and sugar till caramelizes nicely. It will take around 15 minutes to get the desired look