I got an SMS from K in the middle of work on Friday. A few of our friends had suddenly decided to drop in at night. I guess the idea was that we'd order pizza, Chinese, biryani, beer or other standard informal meet stuff and chat late into night on life and beyond.
We watched horror films the last time we met over pasta at the place of another couple from this group. What's your take on horror films? I don't find them scary. I get bored. Watching them is the most horrifying part. Human savagery ...The Pianist, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Blood Diamond, The Last King of Scotland, The Full Metal Jacket, The Killing Fields ... now that's scary.
Anyway I had other plans. No horror films. No ordering food. I suddenly felt like cooking even though it was after a work day.
The menu was my Renaissance Paneer, which I embellished with fresh chopped basil, and kosha chicken.
Kosha mangsho is a slow cooked Bengali mutton dish which is quite legendary and popular. Though it's been recently pointed out to me that it is an Oriya dish. Frankly I won't argue with that as Oriyas (those from Orissa in Eastern India) are supposed to be great cooks.
I wanted to make kosha mangsho for the gang as it was quite popular the last time I made it for some other guests. The problem though was that this we were a group of thirty somethings this time with our aches and pains and red meat taboos. So I decided to make it with chicken. This was a challenge as chicken doesn't taste as good as mutton. Plus 'kosha' means slow cooking over a long period and involves drying the dish. How do you do this with a flimsy meat like chicken? But then what's life without a challenge? I had never cooked chicken for six before and this added to the fun.
The end result was quite good. I couldn't dry it as much as I wanted as chicken breaks if you cook it too much. But I think the result was quite satisfactory and works well if you can't see red when it comes to meat. Here's how I made my kosha murgi (Bengali for chicken) for six.
- 1.5 kg boneless chicken cut into 4 inch pieces (in retrospect a kilo was enough for six as we had a paneer dish too). We used boneless because one of us had just become a non vegetarian and wasn't comfortable with bones. Otherwise on the bone is good too
- Marinated for half and hour (I didn't have any more time) with 2 table spoons of curd, 3 tea spoons each of red chilly powder, dhania (coriander) powder, jeera (cummin) powder, garam masala powder and 1 tea spoon each of sugar and turmeric powder.
- 2 tea spoons salt
- 3/4 dry red chillies + bay leaves/ tez patta
- 3 table spoons ginger paste. 1 table spoon garlic paste
- 1 table spoon whole garam masala
- 2 table spoons ghee/ or white oil. I would recommend ghee for guests. You could even use no oil if you use onion paste and are cooking for family
- 2 table spoons ketchup or two ground tomatoes (we ran out of tomatoes, hence ketchup)
- Paste of 4 onions/ shallots (ground in a mixer). Lots of onions is at the heart of kosha
- A large pressure cooker/ pan
- Heat the ghee
- Add the whole garam masala and bay leaves and red chilly. You will get a lovely aroma and the ghee will turn slightly yellowish
- Add the onion paste and stir till it becomes brown. You can skip the ghee and start with the paste if there are no guests and you want an oil free dish
- Once the onion browns, add ginger and garlic paste. Stir till this becomes brown
- Add tomato paste/ pulp stir till colour becomes dark
- Add the marinated chicken + salt and stir till the skin of the chicken, or the meat if you have removed the skin, darkens
- Add half a cup of water, chicken emits water/ juices when cooked so don't add too much
- Pressure cook it for two whistles and put it on simmer for another 5 minutes (chicken is a delicate meat and breaks when over cooked)
- Open the lid of the pressure cook when it cools.
- You will see that there is quite quite a bit of gravy. Now, kosha needs to be dry so put the vessel on a high flame and don't cover it
- Let the gravy boil (bubble) and thicken as much as possible. Check that the chicken doesn't disintegrate. Stir occasionally so that the chicken doesn't stick to the pan
- Garnish with chopped coriander/ cilantro and whole green chillies and put some powdered garam masala on top
- Best had with roti, paratha or pulao. There is too little gravy to have it with plain steamed rice
The next day, 6th June, was my father's twenty sixth death anniversary. So my friends unknowingly saw it in. I am sure he would be smiling somewhere - cooking for friends was his thing. My cooking was a coincidence as I hadn't thought of this angle when I decided to cook up that evening. This sort of supernatural stuff is just the sort of thing which the rest of the group would have loved. Pity they didn't know