This chicken dish is a classic of Mughlai cuisine, the cuisine of the region surrounding New Delhi and its hinterland. This was the cuisine of the Mughal royals, the muslim rulers who ruled from Delhi and were of Persian (Uzhbeki) descent. The cuisine of their courts was rich and a fusion on Indian and Persian themes. It is the main cuisine seen in Indian restaurants around the world and is butchered by the addition of unsavory amounts of cream and nuts. These dishes are meant to be rich and eaten at special occasions, but they are exquisitely delicate and balanced. This particular version of chicken patiala is adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s awesome book “Flavors of India”. I have adapted it to my taste, mostly by reducing the amounts of poppy seed used. I have made it with the amount the original recipe calls for in the past and found it too gummy. The dish also calls was melon seeds (pepitas). I used almonds instead, simply because I did not have pepitas (I think pepitas would be better). Finally, I switched the raisins for cranberries, because I taught their sweet-tart taste would better offset the richness of the dish. Enjoy, but only once in a while.
4 tbs ghee/clarified butter (can use any cooking oil or butter, but ghee is better)
2 lb bone skinless chicken thighs cut to bite size pieces
1 potato, cubed into 1″ pieces (optional, use if you want to stretch your dish a bit farther)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (the original recipe does not call for this)
1 medium onion, finely chopped in the food processor
4 plum tomatoes, finely chopped (the original recipe asks for 2 large tomatoes)
2 tbs. poppy seeds + 2 tbs. almonds (optional), ground finely in a coffee grinder (the original recipe calls for 6 tbs of poppy seeds and 7 tbs of melon seeds).
2/3 cup full fat yoghurt
1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder (use Hungarian sweet paprika as a substitute)
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp garam masala
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup half and half (can use milk)
2 tbs blanched slivered almonds
2 tbs. raisins or sweetened cranberries
cilantro for garnish if desired
1. Make a paste of the crushed poppy seed and almonds with a small amount of water and set aside.
2. Heat 4 tbs. of ghee in a large heavy bottom pan (Dutch oven is perfect for this)
3. Add onions and garlic and saute until onions are lightly browned.
4. Add the tomatoes, lower the heat and cook until tomatoes are broken down and release the fat. This caramelizes the onion and tomato paste and is absolutely key to that Indian food flavor that one might crave if one craved Indian food.
5. Now add the almond and poppy seed paste and saute for a few minutes
6. Add the yoghurt a tbs at a time, until fully incorporated.
7. Add all the spices and salt, except garam masala.
8. Now add the chicken and potato (if using) pieces and mix to combine thoroughly. Stir and saute for a few minutes.
9. Add the water, cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 15-20 min.
10. Add the garam masala, half and half (single cream), raisins and almonds and simmer on low heat.
11. Garnish with cilantro if using. Eat.