Saturday, 27 July 2013

Dak Bungalow Chicken Curry & a Rainy Evening


A lot of things have transpired in one month since I last posted. One among the many things being moving into a new house. Though its farther away from the last place we stayed, the scenery around is something to die for. For a city like Pune where the builders are leaving no stone unturned to build residential complexes, this area is tucked away in into the lap of the nature and surrounded by velvety hills. As the dawn breaks I am greeted to a view of misty clouds hugging the sleepy mountains cuddled in a quilt of warm green. It almost feels at times that I am staying in some hill station and not Pune. It’s just a matter of years until all this is gone but till then this feels like heaven. The temperature drops by at least two degrees the moment you are in the complex premises. And you know what when I lay on the bed I can witness the myriad colors that the skies and the clouds take throughout the day, the occasional visit of the sparrow couple and the beautiful breeze from the mountains . It almost feels like meditation. I may be closer to Nirvana than I think :)
So much green all around it almost hurts the eyes!

The best part of this house is the Kitchen. Its super spacious, airy and the red and white colors make me feel happy as soon as I enter the space. I longed for such an airy kitchen from the time I came to Pune. 

View of the building (my Mom in the pic)                                                                                   My Kitchen
 
Due to some constraints we had to shift our belongings in batches. The first day when me moved in, we found out that the previous occupants of the house had left behind a lot of utensils which we could use, which was like a blessing to us as we couldn’t bring our own utensils by then. 

A rainy evening, a brand new house with bare minimum stuffs  and couple of hungry souls languishing for a home cooked meal after a long long day. Though we didn’t have an ounce of energy left to go out and buy grocery but still we needed to get something to cook. So after freshening up we went exploring the market area to get familiarized with the stores. We saw a chicken store and got some chicken and eggs. What’s better than warm chicken curry and steaming rice on a cold and rainy night. 



The chicken was quickly washed and marinated. My mother proposed “Dak-Bungalow Chicken Curry” for our hungry souls. I am used to make chicken curry the conventional way or the more exotic ones. I had previously read about this particular preparation but never tried it. The name itself kind of transports you back to an era lost in folds of time. The days of the British Raj and the taste of the Colonial Indian Cuisine.

The Dak-bungalow
“Dak” means mail. The mails in those days were relayed via the post stations along a route for carrying mail. The Dak-bungalows were rest houses for travelers travelling along these mail routes. The British used to travel across the country for various reasons including administration, policing, revenue work, trade, hunting, trekking and photography. En-route they used to spend the nights at these quaint Dak-bungalows which had basic necessities provided and a house chef who would quickly round up a meal comprising of steamed rice, some fritters on the side, yellow dal, a seasonal vegetable curry, a custard or dessert  and the specialty of the house - Dak-bungalow curry. The curry has meat, a boiled egg and halved potato. It could be made of mutton, chicken, beef or lamb.

More from my backyard
The Dak-bungalow or the Government circuit houses as they are known today found its mention many a times in Satyajit ray’s works. I never had the chance to stay in any circuit house but the vivid description of the same in Ray’s stories were sufficient to paint a picture of a house situated off the beaten path, cream-colored, with red tiled sloping roof meshed with flower vines , a patch of a garden in front, surrounded by tall trees on all other sides and a ‘chowkidar’ (guard) to usher the guests in. None of  Ray’s stories are without a detailed description of meals. When Feluda would travel far and wide on a crime trail we would be introduced to the beauty of the place and the local cuisine. The circuit houses and zamidar houses would always have “Bon-murgir jhol” (wild fowl curry) on the menu along with an array of other delicious delicacies served in ivory white bone china dishes. The meal description of Ray would never fail to make me hungry. 

All these were a part of our growing up days. We are still very much kids in the comfort corners of our minds waiting to run back into time and revisit the fancies and beliefs of the childhood days. 

The chicken was done to perfection while me and my mom were having a tête-à-tête in the kitchen about the Dak-bungalows  and old times. The chit chat was just like the old days when me and mom would go on for hours on multiple topics without a care in the world. Ah! How I miss those days!

Nothing would have made a more perfect ending to the day than a dinner comprising of piping hot chicken curry and rice.

Here’s a slice of culinary history from the bygone era ( I left out the boiled eggs in the recipe)

Preparation Time: 20 minutes 
Marinating Time : 1 hr

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Serves:2


Cuisine: Bengali

Ingredients:
Marinade: 

·                     Chicken – 600 gm (cut into medium sized pieces)
·                     Lemon – half
·                     Turmeric Powder
·                     Red chili powder - 1/2 tsp
·                     Curd – 300 gm
·                     Salt to taste
Gravy:
·                     Potato – 2 medium size (halved)
·                     Onion – 2 medium size (thinly sliced)
·                     Ginger Paste – 2 tbsp
·                     Garlic paste – 2 tbsp
·                     Tomato – 1 medium
·                     Bay Leaf – 2
·                     Cumin Powder –
·                     Coriander Powder –
·                     Cinnamon – 2” stick
·                     Cardamom – 3
·                     Clove – 5-6
·                     Sugar to taste
·                     Mustard oil
Procedure:
1.    Clean the chicken and place it in a big bowl. Add lemon juice to it

2.    Take Curd in a bowl. Add salt, red chili powder, turmeric powder  and whisk the curd into uniform consistency. Add the curd to the chicken and mix well. Marinate the chicken for an hour.

3.    Fry the potato till sides are lightly browned. Keep aside.

4.    Take oil in a deep bottomed skillet and heat it. Add bay leaf and coarsely pounded garam masala (Cinnamon, Cardamom and Clove)

5.    When the spices are aromatic add the sliced onions and half a spoon salt. Fry the onions till golden brown. Add the ginger and garlic paste.

6.    Grate the tomato and add the tomato pulp ( You may skip the tomato if you feel the curd is sour enough)

7.    Add the marinated chicken, mix well with the fried onion in the skillet. Add the cumin and coriander powder. Cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

8.    Adjust the salt at this point and add a cup of warm water ( or according to the quantity of gravy required). Add the fried potatoes. Cook on high heat for 5-6 minutes stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat and cover and cook the chicken till done (About 25- 30 minutes)

9.     If you desire you can garnish it with chopped cilantro

Serve the Dak-Bungalow Chicken with Steamed rice, a portion of crispy fried potato( aloo bhaja), a wedge of lime and a green chili.

Bon Appétit!



Sending this recipe to Cooking 4 all Seasons' "Side Dish Mela" event.


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