Claypot chicken, or murgh ka dum, murgh dum pukht, or, as the Raj referred to it, dum-poked chicken is a spicy and aromatic baked chicken dish.
Chicken, marinated overnight, then baked in a sealed pot is a popular dish. It is easy to prepare, as everything goes into the pot for marination, and then is placed into the oven to cook.
Dum-poked chicken was a great favourite with the Raj, and records of this recipe go back to the early 1800’s in recipe books from that time.
The traditional Indian recipes date back a lot further than that.
This is another dish that shows its Persian heritage. Whilst there are Mughlai versions, and Awadhi versions, this version, typical of Hyderabadi cuisine, was the one that the Raj adopted. The reason they took on this variation is probably due to its relatively unsophisticated approach, with plenty of chilli, and robust spices. The Raj weren’t subtle, generally.
The Awadhi version has no green chillies, and uses Kashmiri chilli in place of the normal red chilli powder. It also has much more cardamom and cloves, and twice as much yoghurt. It produces a far more aromatic, gentle dish.
There are some important techniques in this recipe – largely related to making pastes.
The nut paste is used to thicken the sauce in the dish. This type of paste is used in many of the Mughlai recipes in this book. The onion paste is a tradition of Hyderabadi cuisine, as is the coriander-chilli paste. The garlic-ginger paste is a staple of southern Indian cooking.
The recipe calls for charoli nuts. These are small, round, musky-flavoured nut, pale, and speckled with dark patches. They have a nutty aroma and a pronounced taste that is between nutty and musky. These are available from good Indian grocers. They may be called chirongi nuts. You should buy as small a pack as you can, because you won’t use these too often.
Could you throw all the ingredients in a blender and make one paste? Yes, you could. Thousands of Indian mothers don’t, so, why should you?
This recipe is based on layering flavours, so a traditional approach has some benefits.
For dinner party theatre, you might cook this in your favourite clay pot, take it to the table, unseal it, and finish it in front of your guests.
- 800 g chicken thigh fillets - cut into 5cm pieces
- 1 tsp ghee
- 1 brown onion - finely sliced
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 8 cloves
- 10 black peppercorns
- 2 blades mace
- 6 green cardamom pods - broken open
- 2 black cardamom pods - broken open
- 50 g raw cashews
- 6 cloves garlic
- 50 g ginger
- 2 tsp coriander stalks
- 2 green chillies
- 2 tsp red chilli powder
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp salt
- 12 curry leaves
- 200 ml yoghurt
- 2 tbsp ghee
- 1 lime - juiced
- 1 cup coriander leaves
- ½ cup mint leaves
- Heat one teaspoon of ghee in a small frypan and add the onions. Fry until a deep golden brown, then set aside to cool.
- Make the masala by toasting and finely grinding the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cloves, black peppercorns, mace, green cardamom pods and black cardamom pods.
- Make a smooth paste from the cashew nuts by grinding them with as a little water as possible.
- Make a ginger-garlic paste by blending the ginger and garlic with a little water.
- Make a coriander-chilli paste by blending the coriander stalks and green chillies with a little water.
- Blend the reserved fried onions with a little water to make smooth paste.
- Using a large oven dish with a tightly sealing lid, add chicken, masala powder, chilli powder, ground turmeric, garam masala and salt. Toss the chicken to cover with the spices.
- Now add the onion paste, nut paste, ginger-garlic paste and coriander-chilli paste, and mix gently, but well.
- Add the curry leaves and yoghurt, and mix well, as above. Put the lid on the pot and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat oven to 175C. Remove chicken from refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking – do not take it out sooner, as chicken kept at room temperature can kill people.
- Stir the chicken well, but gently. Crumble or pour the ghee over the top of the chicken, then seal the pot with baking paper or aluminium foil. Place lid on the pot, put into the pre-heated oven and cook for one hour.
- After one hour, remove from the oven, but do not open the lid. Let the dish stand for another 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes open the lid and remove the foil. Add the lime juice and gently mix. Sprinkle with mint and coriander. Serve with plain rice or chapatis.
- Traditionally, this is cooked in a clay pot with a tight-fitting lid sealed with dough. If this is what you want to do, make a dough using about one cup of plain flour and some water, roll into a sausage, and use that to seal the pot. To serve, you would bring the sealed pot to the table, break the seal and finish the dish in front of your guests. Pure dinner theatre.
- Bone-in chicken can be also used for this recipe. Increase the weight of chicken to over a kilogram. The rest of the ingredients remain the same. Increase the cooking time of chicken by at least 15 minutes.