Friday, April 12, 2013

M - Murgh Musallam (Braised whole baby chicken)

A photograph of a Braised Spatchcock
Braised Spatchcock

“If ever a culture was reflected in food, look no further than the Mughals. There is a definite link between their approach to cooking, their approach to textile, their approach to architecture, their very lifestyle. The majesty of their buildings, their dazzling costumes, ther ichness of their culture… all can be found in their amazingly august, bejewelled, rich food.”

– Anirudh Arora and Hardeep Singh Kohli, ‘Food of the Grand Trunk Road’

More photographs inside.
Alas! We are late again this week and offer a thousand apologies. We have been busy entertaining guests – Dev’s parents and sister. I haven’t done all that much cooking in the past couple of weeks as Dev's mum (a fabulous cook) has been trotting out gorgeous meals for us. Having a lovely hot meal (not to mention dessert!!) ready and waiting for us when we come home from work has been SUCH a treat and we've been happily putting off the thought of cooking something ourselves. Last weekend, we thought we’d better pull up our socks and do some cooking, given we are supposed to be the hosts, and this recipe for "M" is one of the fruits of our labour.

A photograph of the stuffing that went into the Murgh Musallam
Spicing up the stuffing

I knew this recipe would be quite challenging, but I was quite intrigued at the thought of cooking a whole baby chicken, not to mention a stuffed and braised one at that. And besides, if one doesn’t go to some extra effort when family is visiting, when does one make those extra special dishes?!? Another reason to splurge is that this entry marks the halfway point of the Project – so exciting!!

A photograph of the boiled egg being wrapped in the stuffing
Wrapping the egg

We marinated whole spatchcocks in a mixture of ginger, garlic, chilli, lemon and salt. The spatchcocks were then stuffed with a boiled egg cocooned within a layer of spiced chicken mince. The stuffing mixture is a heady concoction of chicken mince, ginger, chilli, raisins, pistachios, cashews, coriander, mint, saffron, cardamom, mace and garam masala. Once the egg was snugly wrapped in the stuffing, the whole parcel was stuffed into the spatchcock which was trussed up with toothpicks (as we didn't have a trussing needle handy) and then seared until a lovely golden brown.

Photograph of the spatchcock being seared
Searing the Spatchcock

Preparing the sauce was quite an involved process, as we had to blend cooked onion and yoghurt, tomato and almonds separately before combining these along with classic Indian spices into a rich orange sauce. The spatchcocks were then popped into the sauce and the whole dish was placed in the oven for about half an hour. The sauce was then reduced until thick and fragrant before we added saffron, cardamom, mace (hello India!)rose water (sigh!), along with fresh coriander and mint (swoon!). After sweating it out in the kitchen for a couple of hours, it was really only at this point that I knew this dish would be something special.

Spatchcock - Mughal style

We served the spatchcock with a tangy aubergine dish from the same recipe book and the two combined to make up a beautifully balanced dish – the pickling spices used to flavour the aubergine contrasting nicely with the richness of the chicken. The meat was wonderfully tender and infused from both inside and out with the aromatic spices of the stuffing and the sauce. Visually, the dish was pretty impressive if we do say so ourselves – we were quite pleased that we were able to cut the spatchcock in half to show off the stuffing and the egg nestled inside.

A photograph of Murgh Musallam
Murgh Musallam

All in all, this was a successful dish and one we would make again. It is probably a special occasion dish as it is time consuming to prepare – but the first taste confirms it’s well worth the effort.

Technical Details

This lighting setup was used for the first photograph on this post.

I went back to my standard 2 light setup for this shot. For the fill light, I bounced a Canon 430 EX II off the ceiling at 1/4th and zoomed to 24mm.

The key was a Canon 530 EX II fired at 1/32 and zoomed to 70mm from a height behind the subject.

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