food talk
Nuts about chicken

The peanut is considered the poor manís dry fruit. Pushpesh Pant on how it can be teamed with chicken for a sumptuous dish

You may have come across the Awadhi/ Deccani /Dehalavi rendering of the black pepper-laced murg kali mirch or encountered with joy, more rarely, the coriander-flavoured Kashmiri murg dhaniwal or even the Parsi delight murgi jardalu that acquires a delicate sweet and sour taste from dried apricots but tell us honestly how would you react if the host served you mungphali murg?

They say, you pay peanuts and you will only get monkeys to work for you. This poor nut has somehow in India got such a plebeian reputation that it is associated with abject poverty. And chicken has always been the flesh preferred by nawabs and their ilk. How then can the twain meet? Almonds yes, pistachios even more natural an ally, but peanuts? You must be nuts!

How conveniently we forget that a large section of our population cooks its daily meals in peanut oil. We remain ignorant that elsewhere peanuts are treated on a par with cashew, hazel and pine nuts. Salted and dry roasted, these are nibbled in affluent west with whisky, beer and other drinks. We have recently been introduced to wasabi-flavoured nose tingling avatar but that is another kind of fusion. Let us not beat around the proverbial bush- mungphali and murg make for a deadly (in the best sense of the word) combination.

It was Francis, young (then) friend from Hyderabad who had first tickled our palate with chicken draped in crunchy peanuts but what has proved truly peerless is the Caribbean recipe we accidentally stumbled upon a few days back. It retains strong evidence of its East Indian connection. Sir Vidiya may not approve but we must confess we were totally bowled over. It is different and faintly familiar at the same time. You can thicken the gravy if you like and used the murg mini tikka as a cocktail snack. Needless to add the dish pairs equally well with rice or roti.

Go ahead and enjoy at the earliest. By the way, respecting the mindless prejudice against mungphali we have used the nobler synonym chiniya badam. This is how the vendor in the local train selling paper cones of peanuts called out: mungphali ko chiniya badam kahate hain.

Murg chiniya badam

Blend peanut butter with a cup of warm water. Mix all other ingredients in a bowl ó except onions, tomatoes and oil ó to make a marinade. Place the chicken pieces in it and massage gently with hands to ensure that murg is well coated. Let it rest for two hours. Heat oil or butter in a pan, add onions and fry for about three minutes on medium flame then add chicken and cook for about seven minutes stirring regularly. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking for five minutes more. Stir in the peanut butter blended with water slowly. Cook for another 20 minutes uncovered. Add a little water if the dish dries out. Garnish with fresh coriander if desired.