Murgh Mussallam is a dish fit for a queen! Whole chicken in a rich sauce of poppy seeds, aromatic spices and saffron. The name literally means whole chicken. This is a very old dish from the medieval Sultanate period in Delhi and predates the Mughal period. It was a favourite of Muhammad bin Tughluq who reigned from 1325-1351 and found mention in Ibn Battuta’s writings.It did evolve during the Mughal period and there is a recipe by Abul Fazl in Akbar’s Ain-e-Akbar.While the original recipe involved stuffing it with boiled eggs I have tasted variations where the filling is rice with raisins. It is served either completely “dry” ie without any gravy or with a bit of sauce. Either way it is a fantastic main dish for a Christmas feast. Here I show you how to do it with cashew rice stuffing.
- Mixing bowl
- Spice wet and. dry grinder
- large stock pot with close fitting lid (important as minimum steam should escape while cooking)
- large frying pan or wok to fry the chicken
- 1 medium Chicken preferably corn fed, free range
- 1 cup plain yoghurt
- 2 red onions
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp black pepper corns
- 20 blanched almonds
- 1 ½ tbsp white poppy seeds
- 3 tbsp lime juice substitute with lemon juice if necessary
- 2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ⅛ tsp ground mace
- 1 tsp cardamom powder
- 2 ½ tbsp freshly prepared garlic and ginger paste
- 1 cup corn or rapeseed oil for frying
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 pinch saffron strands
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 20 cashew nuts
- 1 cassia stick
- 6 cardamom pods
- 1 tbsp raisins or sultanas
- 6 cloves
- Carefully remove the skin from the chicken and make cuts in the breasts and legs so that the marinade can penetrate
- Mix the lime juice, salt, kashmiri chilli powder and saffron and apply all over to the outside of the chicken i.e. not the inside of the cavity.
- Make cashew rice for stuffing inside the chicken as well as serving with the chicken. Wash basmati rice until the water runs clear. Heat 2 tbsp oil, add 1 cassia stick, 6 green cardamoms, 6 cloves and 20 cashew nuts. Fry until cashews are a golden colour. Add the soaked rice, 1 tsp salt, the raisins and double the quantity of hot water. Stir and cover and cook on a very low heat until done.
- Now make the rest of the marinade. Thinly slice the onions and deep fry until light brown in colour. Remove and spread on a plate to allow them to crisp. Reserve the oil for frying the chicken later. Grind half 2/3rds of the onion into a coarse paste
- Lightly toast the poppy seeds and cumin seeds together in a frying pan (without any oil) until they change colour slightly. Grind together with the blanched almonds and black pepper corns. Add the fried onion paste, garlic-ginger paste, yoghurt, nutmeg, cardamom, garam masala and mace to the above and mix. The marinade is ready.
- Stuff the chicken cavity with 2-4 tbsp of the cashew rice and sew the opening. Spread the marinade evenly on the chicken and leave to marinate for 2-3 hours in a refrigerator.
- Remove the chicken from the fridge half an hour before you ready to cook it. Heat the oil from the onions (reserving 2 tbsp for later use) in a pan wide enough to hold the chicken. Scrape off excess marinade from the chicken and reserve it for adding later to the cooking pot. When the oil is hot, add the chicken, breast side down and brown on a medium heat for ten minutes taking care not to burn the marinade. Repeat the same for the other side.
- Place the stock pot on the hob and add 2 tbsp of the oil from the onions. When hot add the chicken, the rest of the marinade and a cup of water. Close the lid and cook on medium heat for half an hour.
- Remove the lid to check if the chicken is cooked through. Use a food thermometer – stick it into the thickest part of the breast and you should see a consistent reading of 75 degrees centigrade for a minute. If you dont have a thermometer, pierce the chicken at the thickest point and check if the juices run clear. if there is any trace of pink put the chicken back for another 10 minutes. If the sauce has run dry, add some water.
- Place the bird and sauce on a platter. Remove the twine from the cavity so that the inside rice is visible. Serve with the remaining rice and other accompaniments of your choice.