Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Chicken Rezala -- a regal stew

September is close to an end. Pujo is upon us. And no has any time to breathe. I cannot believe that 8th grade and 3rd grade started in our home 3 weeks back. We are already done with "back to school" nights and summer seems to be a bygone affair.

This summer was special as my parents were here after almost 3 years. They are getting older and the visits less frequent. It is no longer easy for them to hop on a trans-atlantic flight and traverse continents. Both my girls goaded them into coming and once the flight part was put away, they were looking forward to their stay as much as us.
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We were lucky to do a lot of short trips around the home with them this summer. My father loves visiting places of interest and is comfortable with long walks, while my Mother has a bad knee which prevents her from walking more than a few yards at a stretch or standing for too long.



Thanks to my father, we re-discovered Philadelphia, surprisingly a city which we never thought of visiting unless it involved work or shows or passport office or such. But my Baba, wanted to visit Philadelphia this time and see the Liberty bell. So off we went on a Sunday morning. It was a gorgeous sunny day, one of those summer days when it is not too humid, and Philly treated us so well.

For me, the best part of Philly was the Reading Market. The covered market teeming with various food specialty shops, bakeries and people reminded us so much of New Market. I spent quiet sometime there, roaming around, not able to decide what to eat and then settled for guess what ? The Philly Cheese steak.


Another weekend we went to a beautiful sculpture garden, not too far from home. Again a place that we had always intended to visit but could never make it. The parents definitely enjoyed the sculpture garden with its unique pieces but the kids too had much fun.

Next up was the Dingman's water fall in the Delaware water gap area. Delaware water gap is beautiful with many natural jewels strewn across the area and Dingman's falls with its well constructed pathway was the ideal trail for my Ma. On our way back from the falls, we stopped by the Delaware river. The sky was overcast and soon a heavy shower rolled in. While everyone else ran back to the car, me, my Baba and Little Sis stood under the tree, breathing in the rain and gazing at the sheer curtain of rain falling on the Delaware river. It was a curious thing, how one person from each generation in our family stayed back in the rain and the other went back to the car like sensible beings.

This picture still takes me back to the day and I can hear the rain drumming on the river.



Next up was trip to the Great Wolf Lodge, a indoor water park, which had taken mythical proportions in our home by the dint of sheer marketing. I am glad we finally went and got it over with this summer.

In between we had guests, visits to the beach which is close by, movies and lots of cooking. Well honestly, my Ma was doing most of the cooking. One of the days, I made a Chicken Rezala for them. I usually make the Mutton Rezala as the goat meat packs in a lot of flavor to this otherwise light stew.



Rezala, is a very popular dish in Calcutta, a signature dish speaking volumes of Awadhi influence on Bengal's culinary history. It is a mildly spiced, yogurt-based stew with chunks of meat. To just call it a stew would be undermining this royal dish. It is not just any stew but a stew that is made regal by lightness of its gravy and the fragrance, which comes with use of Kewra and saffron. The best Rezala can be found in restaurants like Sabir's and Shiraz's in Kolkata. To have a plate of their rezala, the pale golden gravy with a thin layer of ghee floating on top and morsels of soft meat, and mopping it up with soft as mulmul roomali rotis is an experience that you would not want to miss.

I would like the add here Prtihs Sen's comments on Rezala here. She has a deeper knowledge on the subject than me and thinks the Rezala has its origin in the Afghani dish names Rasala.

"I would like to tell you my impressions about the Rezala. All muslim cuisine in Calcutta/Bengal is not Awadhi. It harks back many centuries -- from the 12th century onwards -- with the arrival of the Turks and Afghans in Bengal that established Muslim rule. and later ofcourse the Mughals. The Rezala I feel, the word probably originating from Rassala, is of Afghan origin, to be found only in two places in India actually -- Bengal and in the Rampur cuisine of central India, both very different recipes yet both Afghan strongholds at one time. Awadhi cuisine in Calcutta adapted it to fit into their offerings and while it is also found in Lucknow, its not a very popular dish there as it is in bengal. Awadhi rezalas add coconut milk or dessicated coconut." -- Pritha Sen



I can never compare my Rezala to those legendary ones, but mine is a good runner up, if not a close one. During the festive season, if you are not able to get a plate of iconic Sabir's Rezala, roll up your sleeves and make this one. You will not be disappointed.





Chicken Rezala

Serving size : This serves about 10-12 adults when served as a part of a complete meal
Time Taken: Prep :15 mins; Marination:minimun 3 hrs, max 8 hrs; Cooking Time: 30-40 mins
Level of Difficulty: Medium

What You Need

Chicken (skin off and bone in) ~ 5lb

Onion ~ 3 cups of chopped red onion
Garlic ~ 12 cloves
Ginger ~ 2" piece

Yogurt 1 cup for marinade + 2 or 3 cups for later

Grind to a Dry Spice powder

Cardamom ~ 4 big black + 10 green
Mace/Javetri ~ 1 tbsp
Clove ~ 10
Pepper Powder ~ 1 tbsp


For Gravy

Onion ~ 1/2 of a large thinly sliced

Cashew ~ 4 tbsp soaked and then made a paste

Kewra Water ~ 1 tsp (must for the fragrance)
Milk ~ 2 tbsp
Saffron ~ few strands

Salt ~ to taste
Oil ~ Cooking oil preferably Canola or Ghee
Ghee ~ 1 tbsp

Whole Spices for tempering

Bay Leaf ~ 2-3
Whole Red Chili ~ 10 -- Do not crack the red chili, use whole, this brings you the smell of the spice without excess heat. Depending on your spice level decrease this quantity
Black Peppercorn ~ 2 tsp whole
Cardamom ~ 2 Black + 4 green
Clove ~ 6
Cinnamon Stick ~ 2

How I Did It

Step 1

Grind to a dry powder the spices listed under "Grind to Dry Powder"

Step 2

Heat Oil

Fry the 3 cup of onion + 10 clove of garlic + 2" piece of ginger until onion is soft and browned at edges. You should not deep fry onion like a birista, instead onion should be soft and pink at end. The purpose of frying is to avoid the bitterness that often happens when a paste is made of raw onions. Too much frying will give a different taste to the dish.

Cool and make a paste.

Add to this 1 cup of yogurt and blend well


Step 3

In a big large mouthed bowl (or use an aluminum tray) add the washed and cleaned pieces of chicken.
Add the paste + yogurt from Step 2
Add the dry spice powder from Step 1
Add salt to taste
Mix well
Let it rest for 2-3 hours, overnight is better.

Step 4

Heat Oil + 1 tbsp Ghee in a heavy bottomed large pan. It is good to have a deep pan with enough surface area for the chicken to cook slowly in it. Since Chicken has very little fat, you might want to add more oil and ghee to get the royal taste.

When the oil is hot, add the sliced onions and fry until they start to brown. Remove the fried onion and keep aside.

Temper the Oil with all spices listed under Whole Spice. Add about 1/2 tsp of sugar.

Remove the meat pieces from the marinade, shaking off any excess liquid and add to the pan. Saute the meat pieces till the raw pink coloring is gone. A lot of water will be released at this point and it will smell heavenly.

Saute for about 15 minutes

In a bowl beat about 2-3 cups of yogurt + cashew paste. I also add a little sugar to the yogurt. Lower the heat and add this along with the remaining marinade to the pan. Mix everything nicely. Note: Use 3 cups for a lighter gravy, 2 cups for not too soupy one.

Add salt to taste.

Add a tsp of Kewra Water. The Kewra Water is important, DO NOT skip it, you can use Rose Water if you don't have Kewra Water.

Step 5

Now close the lid of the pan, lower the heat and cook. In between remove the lid and give a stir. You will need to stir in between and add water if necessary to avoid the meat from sticking to the bottom. Chicken cooks faster and you will be done in the next 30 minutes or so.

Add the fried onion on top and let the gravy simmer for a few more minutes.

In a small bowl heat 1-2 tbsp of milk. Add a few strands of saffron to the warm milk and mix. Once the meat is done and you can open the lid of the pan add the milk+saffron and close the lid again.

Let it sit for 30 minutes and then serve with Rice, Biryani or Naan.


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3 comments:

  1. Lovely post as usual. Just for the sake of discussion here I would like to tell you my impressions about the Rezala. All muslim cuisine in Calcutta/Bengal is not Awadhi. It harks back many centuries -- from the 12th century onwards -- with the arrival of the Turks and Afghans in Bengal that established Muslim rule. and later ofcourse the Mughals. The Rezala I feel, the word probably originating from Rassala, is of Afghan origin, to be found only in two places in India actually -- Bengal and in the Rampur cuisine of central India, both very different recipes yet both Afghan strongholds at one time. Awadhi cuisine in Calcutta adapted it to fit into their offerings and while it is also found in Lucknow, its not a very popular dish there as it is in bengal. Awadhi rezalas add coconut milk or dessicated coconut.I wrote all this coz I know you will be interested.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you PrithaDi. Love you for always being so generous with your knowledge. I am updating the post with your comment

      Delete
  2. Awesome!! I use Nutmeg(jaiphal) too along with Mace and Meetha (sweet) Attar/ittar along with kewra water (actually in restaurants like Arselan/Siraz/Aminia they give mainly meetha attar) which is must in Rezala. You'll love it. and yeah while cooking dissolve half teaspoon ginger garlic paste in milk and pour it, it'll increase the taste of the gravy.. Thanks a lot. your recipes are always best. Miss my home.. khuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuub sundor ei website ta. Bookmark kore rakhlam :)

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