Just like any other cuisine, Pakistani food has its own cooking style. Meat, vegetables, legumes etc are prepared in a certain way. Roti/chapatti and rice are always a part of the main meal. Meat is mostly cooked with gravy. We have our own list of must have spices and condiments. No kitchen cabinets be without them!
Since this post is about chicken I would explain how (and why) we cook meat in a distinctive way. Most curries have onions as base which give thickness and of course flavour to the dish. First you heat ample amount of oil, add sliced onions and cook/fry till they get all golden and crisp. Caramelising onions to achieve this colour is very very important if you need to give colour to the gravy. Then put meat in the pot and pan roast it, stirring regularly till it gets a nice golden brown colour on the surface. This is done on medium high flame. It will brown the surface and seal all the juices inside the meat. If you keep the heat low or very high you’ll get dry and rubbery meat. You know you are done browning when the oil gets separated and onions are kinda dissolved. Even if you add water or any stock to the pot, the oil layer will remain be separated. And yes we like to see a thin layer of oil on top of the gravy!
See those oil pockets? Thats what I am talking about.
ingredients: ( serves 4-6)
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup butter
1 big onion, finely chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp finely grated ginger root
1 kg chicken thighs or boneless chicken
1 tbsp white cumin seeds (zeera in Urdu)
1/3 cup tomato puree
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg powder ( jaifal in Urdu)
1 tsp garam masala ( this is a special blend of spices, available anywhere in the world)
fresh coriander for garnish
steamed basmati rice or naan to serve
Combine oil and butter in a heavy wok or pan. Put on medium flame and add chopped onions. Keep on stirring at regular intervals till onions become light golden. Add garlic and ginger and stir for 10 seconds. Put chicken in the wok/pan and bring the flame to medium high. Stir the chicken well to coat all sides and cook till slightly golden and oil gets separated. This can take 5-7 minutes, if using boneless chicken it would take less than 5 minutes. Reduce flame to medium again. Add cumin seeds, mix for seconds. Now add tomato puree, salt, red chilli powder and coriander powder, mix well. Add coconut milk, cover and let it cook on low medium flame for 4-5 minutes. Add cumin powder, nutmeg and garam masala powder; cover and put on simmer for a minute. Switch off flame but do not lift the lid for a couple of minutes, let the spices do their job.
Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with rice/naan and salad.