Why do you love food ? Because it satisfies you, it gives you pleasure, sheer unadulterated pleasure.
But why do you remember food ? Why do you want to go back to the comfort of dal-chawal even when sushi lures you? Why does cooking and eating a certain something open a floodgate of memories ? Why do dome food remind you of homecoming as no other ?
While some food like alu posto and musuri'r dal remind me of home, a home where I was brought up, there are others which remind me of a home , I made for myself.
Like the Dhone Pata Chicken ( chicken cooked with corriander leaves). This is a chicken dish we would cook almost twice every week, when we first set up home a decade back. So if I was not making my trademark egg curry and dal, D was making this Dhone Pata Chicken. It was very different from any of the bengali chicken dishes my Ma used to make, yet it was hard core Bengali, with its fragrant paanch phoron and dry red chillis. Cooked in a pressure cooker with lots and lots of fresh green corriander leaves, it would fill up the corners of our home with a fragrance that I can never forget.
When I crossed oceans and continents, survived canceled flights and delayed landings into a new country, I remember this dhone pata chicken that I had sitting cross legged on bare, polished wood floor, scraping clean the white china plate kindly given by some good hearted chinese colleague of D's.
For a while after that this was an often cooked chicken dish at our home not only for ourselves but for anyone who cared to drop by. Over the years as I have picked up new cooking skills and new recipes, this dish has been pushed aside, in favor of Chicken casserole or Chicken Korma.Dhone Pata Chicken just never got made because I had something else bookmarked.
To wrap up the year and to welcome the new, I wanted to cook something to remind me where I stand, of what is important to me, to reinstate my faith in what I already have. And what could be better than the fragrance of paanch phoron mingled with fresh corriander to remind me Home is the most important pace to be, bookmarks can always wait.
This lovely dish is light and subtly spiced, no heavy spices or creamy richness mars the dominant flavors of corriander. It is comfort personified in a bowl with some white rice. In the initial days when we cooked this, there was no blender or processor used, everything was just plain chopped. I have made pastes and purees here but you can replace all that by plain simple chopping or coarse pounding using a mortar-pestle
Chicken with Corriander -- DhonePata Chicken
I used 2-3lb of a whole small Chicken cut in small pieces. This was good for 4-5 people.Note: I usually buy whole chicken skinned. So when I say 2-3lb chicken I mean the weight of the chicken with bones et al
Marinate the chicken pieces with
1 tbsp of lime juice,
1 tsp of Mustard Oil
3/4 tbsp of ginger paste,
1 tsp of garlic paste,
and little turmeric for an hour or two. Note: For a little more spice add a little cumin and corriander powder to the marinade.
In a blender make a paste of
3 cloves of garlic,
1 tbsp of chopped ginger(1 & 1/2" ginger peeled and chopped),
3-4 green chilli,
1/3 cup of chopped coriander leaves,
1 tbsp of water
Heat about 5-6 tbsp of oil in a Kadhai or saute pan
Add about 1 tsp and little more of Paanch Phoron and 2 cracked dry red chili
When you get the fragrance of the spices add about 1 cup of chopped red onion(sliced in half moon shape). I went ahead and also added about 3 shallots chopped in quarters but that is optional and you can just add some more regular onion. Fry the onion with about 1/2 tsp of sugar till onion is pink and translucent, turning little brown on the edges
Add the ginger-garlic-coriander leaves paste to above and fry for a minute or so
Add finely chopped 1 plump red tomato or just puree the tomato and add to above.Saute till the raw smell from the tomato is gone
Add about 1 tsp of coriander powder and almost 1 tsp of cumin powder. Some Kashmiri Mirch or Paprika gives a nice color so add about 1/2 tsp of that. With a sprinkle of water, fry the masala till it is nicely incorporated with everyting else and the whole thing looks like a brown mess with oil seeping from the edges
Add the chicken pieces and with about 1/4 tsp of turmeric saute the chicken till they turn a nice yellow color. Around 10 minutes.
Add 2 cups of chopped green fresh coriander leaves(stalks and all),
salt to taste
and about 1cup of water.
Cover the lid and let the chicken cook. If you want more jhol/gravy then add little more water.
Note: I usually make this chicken in the pressure cooker. After adding the coriander leaves, salt and water in the last step, I let the gravy simmer. Once it starts simmering, I close the pressure cooker lid. My pressure cooker is a Futura brand which doesn't whistle and I have to time it. I usually cook it for approx. 3 minutes at full pressure. The chicken pieces become fall apart soft this way.
Every time you lift the lid this beautiful fragrance will engulf you, so for your own pleasure do that. Else just let the chicken cook. Once it is done garnish with some more fresh coriander leaves and serve with hot white rice. The gravy is usually light and soupy and tastes best with rice or just by itself
Wish you all a Magnificent Year Ahead