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Mughlai Chicken

by . Featured in FEAST
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Introduction

I feel very strongly that you should use the moister brown meat, from the thigh, for this, but if you prefer breast meat, and it's a common preference, that's your choice. I can't pretend to understand it though.

There is a long list of ingredients below - and I am not going to pretend this is the sort of food you can bang out in a moment. One ease-making factor to be borne in mind: not only can it be made in advance, it needs to be; only if you let it steep in the pan, in a cold place in the kitchen, overnight, does it have the full depth and resonance of flavour.

I feel very strongly that you should use the moister brown meat, from the thigh, for this, but if you prefer breast meat, and it's a common preference, that's your choice. I can't pretend to understand it though.

There is a long list of ingredients below - and I am not going to pretend this is the sort of food you can bang out in a moment. One ease-making factor to be borne in mind: not only can it be made in advance, it needs to be; only if you let it steep in the pan, in a cold place in the kitchen, overnight, does it have the full depth and resonance of flavour.

Mughlai Chicken
Photo by James Merrell

Ingredients

Serves: 8-10

Metric Cups
  • 2½ centimetres piece of fresh root ginger (peeled)
  • 4 cloves garlic (peeled)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon dried chilli
  • 4 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 125 millilitres water
  • 5 cardamom pods (bruised)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (broken in half)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1½ kilograms boneless, skinless chicken thighs (each cut in 2)
  • 2 onions
  • 250 millilitres greek yoghurt
  • 250 millilitres chicken stock
  • 125 millilitres double cream
  • 100 grams golden sultanas
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 75 grams flaked almonds (toasted)
  • 1 inch piece of fresh gingerroot (peeled)
  • 4 cloves garlic (peeled)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon dried chile
  • 4 tablespoons almond meal
  • ½ cup water
  • 5 cardamom pods (bruised)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (broken in half)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (each cut in 2)
  • 2 onions
  • 1 cup greek yoghurt
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon superfine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup slivered almonds (toasted)

Method

  1. Put the ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander and chilli into a food processor, and blend to a paste. Add the ground almonds and water, then blend again, and set aside. Traditionally, this would be done with a pestle and mortar, and there's nothing to stop you using those, or a little spice grinder.
  2. Put the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and cloves into a small bowl. (Obviously, you don't have to do this, but it saves flitting from cupboard to cupboard looking for the right spices while the oil's spluttering away later.)
  3. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the chicken pieces - in batches so they fry rather than stew - and cook them just long enough to seal on both sides, then remove to a dish.
  4. Tip in the bowlful of spices and turn them in the oil. Peel and finely chop the onions, add to the pan of spices, and cook until softened and lightly browned, but keep the heat gentle and stir frequently, to avoid them catching. Pour in the blended paste, and cook everything until it begins to colour. Add the yogurt, 125ml / half at a time, stirring it in to make a sauce; then stir in the stock, cream and sultanas.
  5. Put the browned chicken back into the pan, along with any juices that have collected under them, and sprinkle over the garam masala, sugar and salt. Cover and cook on a gentle heat for 20 minutes, testing to make sure the chicken meat is cooked through.
  6. It's at this stage, that I like to take the pan off the heat and leave it to cool before reheating the next day. So, either now, or when you've reheated it, pour into a serving dish and scatter with the toasted flaked almonds.
  1. Put the ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander and chilli into a food processor, and blend to a paste. Add the almond meal and water, then blend again, and set aside. Traditionally, this would be done with a pestle and mortar, and there's nothing to stop you using those, or a little spice grinder.
  2. Put the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and cloves into a small bowl. (Obviously, you don't have to do this, but it saves flitting from cupboard to cupboard looking for the right spices while the oil's spluttering away later.)
  3. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the chicken pieces - in batches so they fry rather than stew - and cook them just long enough to seal on both sides, then remove to a dish.
  4. Tip in the bowlful of spices and turn them in the oil. Peel and finely chop the onions, add to the pan of spices, and cook until softened and lightly browned, but keep the heat gentle and stir frequently, to avoid them catching. Pour in the blended paste, and cook everything until it begins to colour. Add the yogurt, 125ml / half at a time, stirring it in to make a sauce; then stir in the stock, cream and sultanas.
  5. Put the browned chicken back into the pan, along with any juices that have collected under them, and sprinkle over the garam masala, sugar and salt. Cover and cook on a gentle heat for 20 minutes, testing to make sure the chicken meat is cooked through.
  6. It's at this stage, that I like to take the pan off the heat and leave it to cool before reheating the next day. So, either now, or when you've reheated it, pour into a serving dish and scatter with the toasted slivered almonds.

Additional Information

For gluten free: most garam masalas are gluten free but please check packaging.

Many recipes I came across indicated evaporated milk rather than cream, which makes sense if you're cooking in a hot climate. You could keep this in mind should you open a tub of cream and find it spoiled, but in that case don't bother with the spoonful of sugar.

I love the paleness of golden sultanas, their mellowness and how they merge into the curry later, but the usual brown ones are just fine.

To toast nuts, simply shake them about in a hot dry pan until scorched in parts.

For gluten free: most garam masalas are gluten free but please check packaging.

Many recipes I came across indicated evaporated milk rather than cream, which makes sense if you're cooking in a hot climate. You could keep this in mind should you open a tub of cream and find it spoiled, but in that case don't bother with the spoonful of sugar.

I love the paleness of golden sultanas, their mellowness and how they merge into the curry later, but the usual brown ones are just fine.

To toast nuts, simply shake them about in a hot dry pan until scorched in parts.

Tell us what you think

What 5 Others have said

  • fantastic flavour, but mine is very pale and the sauce quite thin.

    Posted by itsmejayne on 7th October 2014
  • Delicious, well balanced and mild curry. We loved it :-) really easy too !! Once again, thank you so much Nigella !!

    Posted by joa112 on 23rd February 2014
  • A really tasty receipe for a cold winters evening, gentle balance of heat, spices and creaminess.

    Posted by sarah sweetland on 6th May 2012
  • Yummy! Didn't have the caradamom cream or yogurt just used sour cream, can't wait to get those ingredients and try again. The whole family loved it (also cut back on the chilli)

    Posted by kirstenk on 13th September 2011
  • This is a great meal anytime. The bay leaves are a nice touch I had never tried before. For those who must use chicken breast, I would suggest marinating in a slight salt brine solution for at least 12 hours before. This will add moisture to the chicken breast but you'll miss the great flavor that comes from the dark meat. With a large pot of basmati saffron rice. your taste buds will be thanking you.

    Posted by msmythers on 14th August 2011
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