Friday, 17 March 2017

If You Make One Thing This Week...Mughlai White Chicken Korma

During the Mughal era, the Emperors, known for their opulent and sybaritic ways, would throw grand all white banquets on full moon nights. The terraces of the Agra Fort were bedecked with white carpets, cushions and flowers. All the guests would be dressed in white and the food served was also all white in colour! Imagine the Nawaabs, Maharajahs, and their entourages, all dressed in white and dripping in jewels, arriving from far and wide, bearing lavish gifts for the Emperor! They would recline on divans bedecked with silk carpets and brocade cushions, whilst turbaned servants served course after course of exquisitely spiced saffron lamb,smothered in a rich buffalo milk yoghurt, rich, nut studded  kormas,  a variety of birds, turnips, giant bunches of white grapes,sweet melons, sweetmeats and fried pastries, dripping with honey and clotted cream, sweet sherbets, perfumed with attar of rose or jasmine.. Each dish would be  lavishly garnished with gold or silver leaf.  What a sumptuous sight it must have been! Oh, I am certain that a heavily adorned elephant or two made an appearance as well!

Ever since I cooked this korma for the first time,way back in the 1990's, I have been intrigued with the idea of an all white party, so, when my Daughter got engaged almost five years ago, my younger Daughter and I decided to do just that! We chose white flowers and decor items, all serve ware was white and the food was all in varying shades of white... Whilst it was not a full on dinner party, more of a finger food and canap├ęs kind of evening, we served white pastries, white sweets, white desserts, white savouries, and even white juices and mocktails! However, we did not demand that the guests all wear white clothing!

Anyway, looking at her engagement pictures a few weeks ago made me want to recreate an all white meal again. This time it was lunch on a rather gloomy Friday afternoon.....the table was decked out in white and gold, and I served a starter sweet dish called Sojee, which is made with semolina. I added an Indian fudge like sweetmeat called Barfee to it to make it even more decadent! The main course was this sumptuous white chicken Korma that I served with plain boiled Basmati rice to mop up that deliciously creamy sauce. For dessert I served milky balls of  Rasgullahs in Ras Malai. Instead of a salad with greens, I chose to serve some rose scented pickled white radish and onion slices. The acidity of the pickle worked really well with the richness of the korma. Even though there were no silken carpets, or jewels in sight, this meal made us feel like royalty!

The Korma recipe has been adapted from a classic book by Camellia Panjabi.

For the Sojee you will need:

1/3 cup ghee
1 cup semolina
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 cups full fat milk
1/2 cup powdered milk (klim)
1 egg
1 teaspoon rose water
150 grams barfee, crumbled  *optional
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup ground almonds
flaked almonds to garnish

Edible gold leaf, optional

In a heavy based pan, place the ghee over a low heat. Add the semolina and cook, whilst stirring, until a very pale gold in colour. Whisk the cardamom, milk, powdered milk, egg, rose water and barfee together. I place the ingredients in a measuring jug and use a stick blender (immersion blender) for this. Add this mixture to the semolina, stir well, then cover and steam over low heat until most of the moisture has been absorbed. Add the sugar and steam for a further 10 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the ground almonds. Grease a large mould (or some individual ones) with cooking spray. Fill with the sojee, making sure that it is well compacted, and set aside for 5 minutes. Unmould and garnish with flaked almonds and some gold leaf if desired.A silicone mould works best for this. Alternatively, you could simply pile the sojee onto a platter and serve.

* Barfee is available at Indian sweet shops or some restaurants.

For The Chicken Korma You Will Need:

3 teaspoon white poppy seeds*
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of ghee
1 large onion, finely chopped
120 grams raw cashew nut
2 tablespoons char magaz seeds, optional*
3 bay leaves
3 cardamom pods
5 whole green chillies
1 cup thick Greek yoghurt
3 teaspoons minced ginger
3 teaspoons minced garlic
2 cloves
1 kg boneless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon garam masala powder
salt to taste
125 ml whipping cream
Edible gold leaf to garnish, optional

Soak the poppy seeds in 1/2 cup of water for about 1/2 an hour. Drain off the water and using a pestle and mortar, grind the poppy seeds to a fine paste.

In a large heavy based pan, over low heat, melt the 1/4 cup of ghee. Add the onions, cashews, char magaz, if using, and the bay leaves. Cook until onions are softened, and cashews are very lightly coloured. Add the cardamom pods, three of the chillies,and the poppy seed paste. Cook for a minute or two, stirring constantly. Add a cup of water, and cook for about ten minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Discard the bay leaves. Place in a blender,together with the yoghurt and 1/2 cup of water, and whizz to a smooth paste.

Place the remaining tablespoon of ghee into the pan, add the ginger,garlic, whole chillies, and the cloves. stir fry for a few seconds, Then add the chicken breast pieces. Cook over low heat until the chicken is almost cooked through. Add the yoghurt mixture and stir constantly, until mixture come to a boil. To avoid curdling, it is very important to stir continuously.

Add the remaining spices, and salt to taste. add 1 cup of boiling water. Cook, over low heat, until the chicken pieces are tender. Just before serving, add the cream, and heat through. Plate up, garnish with gold leaf, and present to you guests!

NOTE: Known as khus-khus, white poppy seeds are available at  Indian grocery stores. Char magaz seeds are the seeds of (four) different types of melon and squash.(literally translated, char magaz means four seeds) Available at specialist Indian grocers,they are worth seeking out for this recipe.

Serve with some plain boiled Basmati rice, that is garnished with a few fried cashew pieces and some fried poppadoms.

Pickled Onion And Radish:

1 large onion, thinly sliced into rings
4-5 small white radishes, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon rose water

Place onion rings in a sieve. add a teaspoon of salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Rinse and drain the onions and place in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Chill until ready to serve.