Being on food groups on Facebook has one advantage - you never know when you might chance upon a recipe that you simply can't wait to try, or one that brings a flood of long forgotten memories with it. Yesterday I saw a post about Murg Musallam and the first thing I thought was 'this is something the brother loved when we were kids'. I don't have any specific memories of the dish itself but I remember hearing about it from him and I remember his excitement over a chicken cooked whole, his eyes big and round and filled with wonder. It wasn't something that was ever cooked in our house but since we had many Muslim neighbours we were not deprived :)
I waited patiently for the recipe to be shared once I had read it I knew I had to try it out. It sounded pretty straightforward and, with a couple of my own variations, I knew I would enjoy making it and eating it too. This is Imbesat's recipe for Murg Musallam that I used as my guide. I have made very minor changes to her recipe based on my personal taste and preference but on the whole the recipe is quite the same.
1 chicken, whole, without skin
3 boiled eggs
3 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup fried onions
2 handfuls garlic, peeled
2" piece fresh ginger
3-4 strands mace
2" cassia bark
5 cardamom pods
2 tbsp poppy seeds
For the gravy
Kashmiri chilli powder
freshly powdered pepper
3 Indian bay leaves
Rinse the chicken inside and out and then marinate with salt, curd and garlic paste for a couple of hours, or overnight if you have planned ahead.
In the mean time get the stuffing and the curry paste organised.
For the stuffing heat ghee in a small pan and fry the cashews and the raisins lightly. Boil two or three eggs, depending on how large the cavity in the chicken is. Peel and lightly fry the eggs. Slice a large onion finely and deep fry till it is a deep golden brown. Drain well. In a bowl mix the fried onions, cashews and raisins with a little salt, sugar and a generous slug of lemon juice.
To make the curry paste gather all the ingredients and grind them to a paste. I did it in two batches in the chutney grinder attachment of my food processor.
It takes around an hour to cook the chicken so depending on when you want to serve give yourself a little more than an hour before serving time. It's easier if you have someone to help you while stuffing and then trussing the chicken. The marinade makes it slippery and messy and therefore a little hard to handle!
I found that I couldn't stuff even two eggs into the chicken without them popping out at every chance making it impossible to truss. I was alone while cooking this. I took a chance and chopped one egg into large chunks and mixed it with the remaining stuffing. Then I pushed in as much of the stuffing, barring the other boiled eggs, into the cavity of the bird. Ideally I should have been able to plug the hole with a full egg but the hole was too big. I trussed the chicken as tightly as I could and pushed in a boiled egg later. Try to close the cavity as best as you can so the stuffing doesn't fall out while frying the chicken.
Heat a generous amount of ghee in a thick bottomed vessel. Place the trussed chicken in the hot ghee gently and let it brown on all sides. This should take around 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate. In the same ghee that's in the pot put in the curry paste. Add some more ghee if required. Fry the paste well for a few minutes. At this stage add the chilli powder, bay leaves, pepper and salt. Stir around and cook the paste well. Add a cup or so of fresh curd and mix it in well. Cook for another couple of minutes.
Put the chicken back in the pot and pour in a cup of water. Blend the paste into the water. Add more water if you need to. Bring to a gentle boil, spoon some of the spice paste over the chicken, and then cover and let it cook on a low flame till done.
Succulent chicken blanketed in a thick luscious gravy, serve your Murg Musallam with hot parathas.
This is a relatively easy dish that would be a hit at parties and potlucks. Make extra stuffing and serve it on the side with extra boiled eggs too.