Tuesday, July 28, 2015

An All Weather 'Murg Yakhni' Inspired Chicken Stew



This is a stew like no like no other. Mildly spiced but mighty flavorful, it will make you go bonkers. Promise. Light enough for those summer(y) dinners; yet cozy enough to warm you on a cold winter night.

Its my "All Weather Stew"!



But first thing first, I have to clarify that it is not a Chicken Yakhni recipe. Chicken Yakhni or Murg Yakhni is a mildly spiced, yogurt based, delicate Kashmiri chicken dish. It is made without onions, garlic and tomatoes. Ginger and fennel powder are the main flavor enhancers and the yogurt gives it a creamy texture. The authentic Yakhni is a long drawn process involving four distinct process:

1. Prepare the chicken - discard skin, separate flesh and bones.
2. Prepare Spice Potli - put fennel seed, cinnamon stick, cloves, black and green cardamom, whole peppercorn, bay leaf in the center of a large-ish cheesecloth; gather edges and tie it with a string.
3. Make the Shorba - make a stock with the chicken bones. The longer the stock cooks, the better the flavor.
4. Make the Yakhni - cook the chicken flesh with the Spice Potli and the Shorba.

My good friend, Sarani of Cocoawind makes a simplified yet delicious version of this Yakhni. I have made her recipe multiple times for my guests and got rave reviews. And that's how the idea of this stew was born.




What makes this stew so different are the unusual spices. Unlike a traditional Yakhni, my stew has onions. I do not add any garlic. Garlic has a strong presence and will overpower the delicate aroma of traditional "Yakhni spice trio" of ginger, fennel and asafoetida. In Indian cooking, asafoetida is synonymous to vegetarian dishes. Using it for a chicken or a goat meat dish was very new to me. But once I tried, I was hooked. Its so refreshingly different and delicious.

Asafoetida powder, also known as Hing, is a crucial ingredient in Indian vegetarian cooking. A dried and powdered resin from a tree, asafoetida has a unique smell and flavor. It is called for often in Indian cooking, primarily with legumes and vegetables. While on its own, the smell may strike you as overpowering and somewhat unpleasant, in cooking it mellows out and produces a flavor similar to onion and garlic. I recently found a very well written article that introduces asafoetida to the western world. An interesting read. You can find it here.




As I told before, this is a stew that tastes nothing like the ones you have tasted before. It is so aromatic and perfumes your home with irresistible deliciousness as you cook. It draws your family magnetically to the dinner table. Loaded with vegetables, lean protein and go-for-you spices, it is a complete nutritious dinner option for your entire family.

We love having it with rice. But it can be served with bread, crepes and even egg noodles.  My "All Weather 'Murg Yakhni' Inspired Chicken Stew" is completely Sid approved and features regularly at our dinner table. Hope it will be the same for you. 


Recipe Snapshot: 'Murg Yakhni' Inspired Chicken Stew 

Serves: 6 serving
(1 serving = 2 cup)

What I used:
Chicken - 2 to 3 lb (1 whole chicken cut into small chunks)

Onion - 2 medium sized, diced 

Potatoes - 2 large ones, cut into big chunks

Carrots - 3 big ones, cut into big chunks   \or an 8 oz packet of baby carrots

Cauliflower - 1 medium sized head, cut into chunky florets

Ginger  - a 2" nob, grated

Whole Garam Masala - 2 sticks of cinnamon, 
8-10 cloves, 
8-10 whole peppercorns, 
5-6 green cardamoms and  
2-3 black cardamoms
1 bay leaf

Ground Ginger Powder - 2 tsp
Fennel Powder - 2 tsp
Asafoetida/ Hing - 1 tsp
Kashmiri Red Chili Powder - 1 tsp

Yogurt - 1/2 cup
Flour - 1 tablespoon

Salt to taste

Olive Oil - 3 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons

Water

What I did:
1. Thoroughly clean and wash the chicken pieces and pat dry completely. 

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil, over medium high heat, in a pan and sear the chicken pieces in batches. 2 minutes per side should be enough. We do not want the chicken to cook completely, just seal in the juices. Keep aside.

3. In a big soup pot, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and temper it with the "Whole Garam Masala - cinnamon, clove whole black peppercorn, green and black cardamon and bay leaf.

4. Once the whole garam masala stops spluttering, add the diced onions and fry till lightly golden. About 2 minutes should do it.

5. Add the grated ginger and saute them together till the raw flavor of ginger is gone. Another minute or two.

6. Add the chopped veggies and give every thing a very good mix.

7. Next add the dry masala - ground ginger, asafoetida (Hing), fennel powder, red chili powder and the salt and mix well and cook till the rawness of the spices are gone. A minute or so will do.

8. Add enough water to completely submerge the vegetables. Bring it to a boil and then decrease the heat to a gentle simmer. 

9. Add the pan seared chicken pieces. The pieces should be completely submerged in the liquid. Add more water if necessary.

10. Cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes or till the chicken is cooked and the veggies are tender. 

11. While the chicken is cooking, beat half a cup of yogurt with a tablespoon of flour, till it is smooth and without any lumps. The flour will prevent the yogurt from curdling and it will also help thicken the stew. 

12. Once the chicken is completely cooked, switch off the flame.

13. Add the flour+yogurt mixture and mix well.

14. Bring it to a gentle simmer over low heat. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. The flour would be cooked and the stew thickened by then.

15. Serve it over steamed rice /quinoa/couscous/ bulgur wheat/ egg noodles or pilaf of any kind or even with a piece of crusty bread or delicate crepes. 

Diabetic Platter:
Loaded with vegetables, lean protein and go-for-you spices, it is a complete and nutritious dinner option for your entire family. We already know about the amazing anti-inflammatory and digestive properties of ginger. Another key spice in this stew is asafoetida, which too had a array of health benefits and medical properties.

Asafoetida is an antiepileptic, antimicrobial, laxative, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, antispasmodic, and anti-flatulent agent.

Asafoetida helps reduce flatulence, digestive disorders, prevents constipation and is an excellent laxative. A pinch of asafoetida can be taken with butter milk to reduce flatulence and cleanse the digestive system.

Granules of asafoetida can be dissolved in water and taken for relieving migraines and headaches. Asafoetida is also a natural remedy for colic in babies by placing a small amount of warm asafoetida on the baby’s stomach.

Asafoetida also acts as an anti-coagulant and helps lower blood pressure.

Asafoetida is favorable for women’s health as it helps counter leucorrhoea, dysmenorrhea, excessive and painful menstruation, and has positive benefits in treating candida infection.

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