Recipe: Murgh Al Shafa

I'd been wanting to piece together this puzzle of a recipe for some time now, and yesterday it finally happened.

Backstory: My insane cousin Abhinay and I have been eating at this hole in the wall place called Al Shafa in Hyderabad for many years now. We've been going to Al Shafa since we were in school, and the order has always been the same – one Talava (short for Tala Hua) Ghosht, one masala, four rotis and a biryani. Everything on the menu is beef. Everything on the menu tastes fantastic.

The last time I was in Hyderabad, Abhinay and I popped over for a quick bite and I got chatting with the 'Chicha' behind the counter. I tried to put together what he told me, but with chicken. Here's how it went down:

Ingredients:
750 gm skinless chicken (legs & thighs)
2 medium sized onions
200 ml curd
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tsp cummin seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp Garam Masala powder
1 Hulk sized handful of Kasuri Methi (dried fenugreek leaves)

Curry Paste:
5 green chillies
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 tablespoons watermelon seeds
2 tbsp desiccated coconut

I soaked 2 tbsp poppy seeds and 2 tbsp watermelon seeds in some warm water while I hunted for the Kasuri Methi. Took me a good 15 minutes to find the damn thing giggling behind a jar of olives in the fridge, but by the time I was done, the seeds were starting to feel nice and tender. I chucked them in the blender with 2 tbsp desiccated coconut and 5 hot green chillies, and blended the whole thing to a fine paste.

Heated up some sunflower oil and tossed in some cumin seeds and some peppercorns. Once crackling, I added two finely chopped onions to the pan. I gently browned them to perfection and once done, added the ginger garlic paste to the pan. Cooked on a high flame for two min and then added the blended curry paste to the pan. Over the next 20 min or so, I worked the curry paste; constantly adding spots of water to prevent burning and eventually got the whole mixture to release it's oils and leave the sides of the pan. Added some turmeric powder and garam masala powder and cooked some more. With centrifugal force, determination and perseverance, I turned that humble paste into a masala worth writing poetry (or in this case, a blogpost) about. Just when I was feeling like Mr. Miyagi of Karate Kid fame, my thumb touched the side of the pan by mistake and I screamed. It was time to add the chicken.

I tipped in the chicken and seasoned the whole thing with salt. Mixed well and added a cup of beaten yoghurt. I then added two giant handfuls of lightly crumbled Kasuri Methi to the pan. Mixed again, covered with a lid and abandoned the pan on a slow fire. 20 min later, this thing was done. Didn't add a drop of water so it had cooked entirely in the yoghurt and the juices from the chicken.

'twas amazeballs. - Gandhi

Served it up with Jeera Rice and was met with loud cheers from Paro. I'm just going to be modest and say that my CSAT scores went through the roof on this one. Give this recipe a shot. It's dense yet wonderfully light because of the melon seeds, and is a refreshing change from heavy gravies laced with cashewnut / almonds. The methi is a fragrant slap in the face and this is overall just a really really good dish.

Murgh Al Shafa 2

UPDATE:
We have a video! It's a lousy video, full of contrived jokes, but hey, it's a video. Watch!

Over and out.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Gunjan says:

    Hey, I stumbled upon this recipe and had a few questions:

    1. I tried to blend the poppy seeds and coconut but it wasn’t becoming a smooth paste…is it ok if it’s a bit seedy?
    2. I don’t have watermelon seeds – will it be ok to not add it?

    3. Did you marinate the chicken beforehand?

    4. The onions: did you put sliced or finely chopped onions…and were they like nicely fried to a deep Brown color?

    Sorry too many questions I guess I really want to get this right πŸ™‚

    Thank you

    1. Hey Gunjan,

      Thanks for reading!

      1. I tried to blend the poppy seeds and coconut but it wasn’t becoming a smooth paste…is it ok if it’s a bit seedy?
      You need to soak the poppy seeds first. A grainy paste wont be fun at all.

      2. I don’t have watermelon seeds – will it be ok to not add it?
      Substitute with musk melon seeds / cashewnuts / almonds. Just poppy seeds won’t be enough to give the gravy body.

      3. Did you marinate the chicken beforehand?
      No marination required.

      4. The onions: did you put sliced or finely chopped onions…and were they like nicely fried to a deep Brown color?
      Finely chopped / minced. Nicely browned.

      Hope it comes out well.

      Cheers,
      Dhruv

  2. Chayan Banerjea says:

    Looks Yum!
    Can almost taste the Methi and Khorma flavours…!
    Hot green chillies, seem to tantalize the tip of my tongue…
    …Legs and thighs make this succulent!

    Exposing the marrow at the bare end of the bone, may slightly add in to the goodness…

    Am going to try this soon πŸ™‚

    1. Great suggestion, Chef! Never thought of exposing the marrow before. Will do this next time. Thanks for reading!

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