Cooking is a form of self-discovery for me. Every time I prepare a dish, even if it is something that I have made innumerable number of times, I try to find a piece of me within the dish, a memory, a friend, a conversation, anything that allows me to form a personal bond with the food I am making.
Over time, this is how I realized that cooking or food is not just a passion I have, it allows me to explore my personality in deeper ways than I thought possible. It allows me to reflect on the goods and bads in me, people and relationships in my life etc… It allows me to cherish what I have and gives me the strength to let go of the negatives. In short, food allows me to experience and understand ‘the real me’.
Ever since the inception of this blog, food has become more than just cooking and eating. It has fuelled my love for travel. Today, I take time to research, read and understand the history behind a dish, the region that a particular food comes from, the cultural practices of the land where the dish originated, the farmers who bring us the food…..in short; I seek the story behind each dish or recipe.
It is the same with today’s dish…Bhuna Murgh.
The term ‘Bhuna’ refers to a cooking technique in which a medley of spices are roasted and gently fried in oil along with the protein or vegetable and then cooked in its own juices. Traditionally, the technique was used for preparing meats but today, it has extended to all kinds of ingredients. The slow frying of the spices brings out the oils which flavours the whole dish.
There is a small town called Bhuna in the state of Haryana (North India) but not sure if the dish could have originated there. If any of you know more on this, do write and let me know.
Often a dry dish, it is traditionally prepared in metal pans with lots of stirring involved which really draws out the flavour from the spices. My version is a slightly quicker one more suitable to present day households. I used the Indian pressure cooker to flash cook the chicken till 70% done and then opened it and cooked on slow heat for the gravy to thicken up and coat the pieces well. Alternately, you can use the slow cooking method alone.
Instead of boneless chicken pieces, I have used chicken wings for this recipe – a cut that is so much more affordable and has a lot more flavour in my opinion.
So here’s the recipe for Bhuna Murgh – chicken wings marinated in a medley of flavourful spices and then cooked in its own juices with a bit of tangy yoghurt and plenty of aromatics; rich, dark and delicious!
Recipe adapted from Bong Kitchens
1. Bhuna spice blend:
• 6-7 whole dry red chillies
• 3 tbsp whole coriander seeds
• 6 cloves
• 2 tsp cumin seeds
• 2 black cardamom pods, cracked open
• 1 tsp black peppercorns
• 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
• 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
• 1 inch cinnamon stick
2. 1 kg, chicken wings – trimmed, cleaned and drained
3. Vegetable oil
4. Salt, to season
5. 1 cup red onion, finely chopped
6. 5 garlic cloves, freshly grated
7. 2 inch ginger, freshly grated
8. 2 bay leaves
9. ¾ th cup plain beaten yoghurt
10. Chopped coriander/cilantro leaves, for garnish
1. To prepare the spice blend, dry roast the whole spices on low heat till you get the aroma (remember, if it smells acrid, it is burnt). Spread on a parchment paper to cool; do not leave the spices in the pan to cool as it continues to roast in the residual heat. Pound in a mortar and pestle or grinder and then add the powdered spices to complete the blend.
2. Clean the chicken wings and pat dry. Take half of the prepared spice blend and add to the wings along with 1 tbsp oil and salt to season. Rub well into the chicken pieces and leave for at least 1 hour or longer if time allows.
3. Mix the remaining spice blend into yoghurt, beat well and keep aside.
4. Place the pressure cooker or a wide, deep pan on medium heat and add 3-4 tbsp oil; brown or sear the chicken wings in batches and keep aside.
5. If necessary, add 1-2 tbsp oil, add the bay leaves and then sauté the chopped onions along with garlic and ginger till light brown.
6. Turn to low heat and add the beaten yoghurt mixed with the spice blend; stir continuously to avoid the curds from splitting and cook on low heat till you notice oil clearing and the mixture turning deeper in colour.
7. Add the chicken wings, season with salt if necessary and cook for 1 whistle. If using a pan, add the wings and cook till 75% done.
8. Open the lid and cook uncovered till the gravy thickens up and coats the chicken pieces well.
9. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
10. Serve hot.