February 11, 2008
No holiday in Kolkata is complete without a last minute souvenir dash around New Market.
I was lost. In a beige linen “frock”. With sales staff yelling “shishter, shishter!!” after me.
Normally I would declare: “I am not your sister.”
Post seven weeks of non-stop quality food? I am in Zen Zone.
“No, I don’t need an embellished, polyester loin cloth” I manage. With a smile. In Bengali.
At which point they realise I am Indian, grunt with disgust at my wannabee look and find some real gora to heckle.
So I am back from the land of Avian Influenza. Chicken is strictly off the menu there. And so are eggs, obviously. Which has left all Bengalis (mother included), baffled about how to bind their beloved chops.
Word Health crisis aside, It has been a fantastic break. Most notable in my protruding one-pack and 4000 photographs. But also in a whole new collection of recipes.
So here’s the first. My ode to the humble bird: chicken bharta, a highly-moreish shredded chicken curry. This dish is a staple at lazy Kolkata lunches under whirring fans at part sports complex, part social hub and complete remnant of the Raj – The Saturday Club.
Cook this. Eat it. Dream of your next extended break.
Just like I will.
This recipe feeds 2:
In a shallow frying pan, bring the oil to heat over a high flame.
When hot add the bay leaf and, as it sizzle up, the onion, ginger and garlic. Fry them for about five minutes until they turn a light golden brown in colour.
Next add all the powders, apart from the garam masala. If you add the garam masala now, your dish will turn bitter. Fry the whole lot for about two minutes and then add in the chicken.
Mix the masalas with the chicken well. Lower the flame to a medium heat, add enough water to submerge the onion mixture and cover the pan. Stir the chicken from time to time for about 20 minutes. At the end of time, stir in the tomato pieces.
Now you need to turn the chicken pieces into bharta or mash. Just take each piece onto a plate and with two forks shred it, discarding the bone.
If the chicken is cooked well, the meat should just fall off. If it doesn’t, just stick it back in the pan and cook for longer.
To finish, stir the shredded chicken back into the frying pan along with the garam masala and some salt. The dish should be moist but without a curry. Garnish with a quartered boiled egg and the fresh coriander.
This is superb with just about anything. But my special recommendation would be team this with pitta bread or some readymade naan for a super simple and satisfying supper.