In his writings about the kingdom of Avadh, the famous Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta fondly remembers Murgh Masallam as one the most popular dishes created in the royal kitchens. Murgh Masallam literally means “whole chicken”. Back in those ancient times, the Nawabs of Lucknow and their guests had large, healthy appetites, and this dish involved serving each guest an entire chicken stuffed with spices, herbs and whole boiled eggs!
In our present times filled with concerns about health, calories and diets, serving a full chicken would be a complete overkill – so we are going to modify the recipe to use regular chicken pieces.
Here are the ingredients that you will require for this legendary Avadhi recipe:
Chicken: 500 grams
Mustard Oil: 5 tablespoon
Onions: 3, small
Yogurt (Dahi): 2 tablespoon
Green Chillies: 2
Ginger (Adrak) Paste: 1 teaspoon
Garlic (Lasun) Paste: 1 teaspoon
Onion Paste: 1 tablespoon
Cloves (Laung): 3
Green Cardamom (Elaichi): 2
Bay Leaves (Tej Patta): 2
Cinnamon (Dalchini): 1 one-inch stick
Nutmeg (Jaiphal) Powder: 1 teaspoon
Turmeric (Haldi) Powder: 1 teaspoon
Cumin (Jeera) Powder: 2 teaspoon
Red Chilli Powder: 1 teaspoon
Garam Masala Powder: 1 teaspoon
Coriander (Dhania) Leaves: 1 small bunch
Salt: To taste
The ingredients mentioned above are for serving five persons. Please adjust the quantities if you require less or more.
Wash and cut the chicken into conventional pieces.
Coarsely grind the cinnamon stick.
In a bowl, mix the cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon and nutmeg powder along with one teaspoon of the cumin seeds. Add a little water and mix well.
Next, add the ginger paste, garlic paste and onion paste. Then add the turmeric powder, red chilli powder and garam masala powder. Mix well.
In a separate bowl, add the yogurt and then add the spice mixture from the first bowl. Add one tablespoon of Mustard Oil along with salt. Mix well.
Now add the chicken pieces, ensuring that each piece gets well-coated with the yogurt and spice mixture. Let the chicken marinate for at least one hour.
Coarsely chop the coriander leaves.
Heat the remaining Mustard Oil in a pan on a Medium flame till it reaches its smoking point. Add the remaining cumin seeds along with the bay leaves and green chillies. Sauté for around a minute.
Next, add the onions and sauté till they turn light brown and acquire a translucent quality. Turn the flame to High and stir fry.
Add the marinated chicken pieces and continue cooking till the chicken is done.
Add around 100 millilitres of water and cover the pan. Let the contents cook till all the water evaporates or soaks into the chicken pieces.
At this final stage, some Avadhi chefs (known as Khansamas) would add soaked almonds and other dry fruits and nuts to add a traditional Persian touch to the recipe.
Transfer the contents to a large serving dish. Garnish with the chopped coriander leaves.
Your royal Murgh Masallam is now ready to be served. It is best eaten with Naan or Roti. Relish the flavours – feel like a Nawab!