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Saffron Chicken Korma

Asma Khan

Lesson time 20 min

Asma teaches how to infuse saffron, blend masalas, build flavor profiles, and she even reveals her secret tips on making the ultimate homemade garam masala.

Saffron Chicken Korma
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– Aah. Thank you. Yes, I’m looking for this. Now I’m gonna be making a zafran chicken korma. Zafran is saffron, but korma is a very interesting dish. It is a mild aromatic dish, usually cooked like a stew in yogurt. I’m using chicken, and I’m using chicken on the bone, thigh which has been cut into half. Do not use chicken breast. Chicken breast does not absorb spices. However long you marinate it, it barely is gonna go through, and you should not have the skin on. The chicken skin acts as a barrier to spice, and you don’t want that. And I like something crunchy on the side, so I’m gonna make spicy beans dish with mustard seeds. I think it just needs a bit of crunch. As it is zafran korma, I’m gonna start off with the saffron, which I’m gonna infuse before I start marinating anything else. You don’t need a huge amount of it because if you infuse it, it release all the aroma and the colors, but if you put too much heat in it, It’s gonna kill it. And it kills the best part of the saffron which is the floral aroma. That is immediately killed off. So, of course, because I’m gonna put it in chicken korma which is gonna be very hot, I am going to infuse it, and the way I’m going to infuse this is to actually put it in milk, which is blood temperature. Because the way to know that it is a right temperature for the saffron, that it’ll not burn the saffron, it doesn’t burn your finger. So It’s the same temperature as your blood. So I’m gonna just heat up the milk in a small little pan. Also, don’t use cream. Someone asked me this before, and I just realized that this is something worth mentioning. The fat and the water balance in milk is ideal. Don’t use double cream and cream and that kind of thing. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. I need around two tablespoons. This is around two tablespoons. Okay, It’s warmed up enough, I think. So I’m going to now put it off. So I’m just gonna move it now, pour it, and now I’m going to start dipping my finger in. Yeah, it works, because it is blood temperature. I’m gonna start putting saffron in. So I put all of them in. So now you can already see the color being infused, and you can see these kind of orange shadows coming out, and there’s the aroma, the floral aroma and the colors, and now you leave it. You leave it alone, undisturbed. Don’t cover it. If you have a cat, cover it. The cat, not this, okay . Put the cat in a bin and keep it there or something. But basically don’t risk this because you gonna lost the saffron if the cat drinks it. My cat licked saffron milk, and after that, it was just so confused. It didn’t taste like anything else. Anyway, very bad cat I’ve got, but very, very important. Do not put it in front of anything else with a strong aroma. Milk absorbs aromas quickly and you don’t want anything but saffron in there. So just be careful where you put it. So this is already becoming darker and darker. I’m gonna set it aside. You put away from anything else, and then I’m going to start getting my chicken ready. My chicken is in the fridge, and also my yogurt for the marinade. So first put the chicken in. Here you can see It’s chicken thighs, on the bone. The bone is the one with all the juice, and you need to have that in your dish, for sure. Then the yogurt. The yogurt has to be full fat, or you hang the yogurt, because you don’t want it to be watery. It’s been in the fridge. It does help it to have this very firm, almost ricotta cheese kind of texture. The yogurt basically is used as a protective, to stop the chicken from drying out. Now the only other thing that goes in this marinade is garlic and ginger. So, whatever ginger you put, is half of that, of garlic, and then you mix it. The most important thing is to make sure that every piece is covered. That’s the essential bit. I’m just going to cover it and I’m gonna set it aside while it marinates. If you use the entire thigh piece bigger, you have to marinate for an hour. That’s really important to remember. If it is boneless and It’s very small, half an hour. The trick to making a good gravy base is that all your onion slices should be equally thin or thick. Otherwise the thin ones will burn. Don’t have to try and fake and try and be this classic chef. I’m not, I’ve got really poor knife skills, but I will replicate the thickness, and that way, when I start frying my onions, they will all be the same thickness. This is what is happening. See? So the thickness of this and this is the same. That’s what I really want. I want them to cook at the same rate. If you have got very thin pieces of onions in there, and It’s burning, take it out, because It’s gonna ruin your dish. It’s gonna have a bitter taste. Onions is the heart of our cooking. This one was just a killer. My onions are ready. So now I’m gonna get my pan ready with the oil, and I’m gonna start. I’m going to put in the onions to caramelize. Any kind of onion is fine. In this particular korma dish, the onions are not being left inside. They’re gonna be used as a garnish on the top. But you have to be patient. It’s not gonna happen very quickly. This is one of my favorite smells. Aromas. Because of the sugars in the onions, there’s a sweetness when you caramelize it this way. There’s something so beautiful about onions being browned, and especially this stage. This stage. Okay, I’m getting close to the onions being browned. I’m gonna take it off the heat. I’m gonna take it off the heat because it you don’t want to burn it. ‘Cause the oil has got all the onion flavors. You don’t wanna lose that in that plate. It’s eventually gonna go back but you need that oil in there with the flavors of the onions. So now my oil is ready for the rest of the spices and for the chicken to go in. I just wanna show you the garam masalas that I’m gonna be cooking. So you need a clove, bay leaf, It’s very, very important you use Indian bay leaf. It’s called teja patta. It’s a very robust leaf. One piece of cassia bark. This is actually a bark. It’s not cinnamon which is curly wurly, and two cardamoms. Cardamom, always, at least, when I cook, I always use it whole. Put the fire back on. I’m putting my garam masala in, which is a bit of coriander, coriander powder, and then immediately, I’m gonna add my chicken. Don’t throw the chicken from the top. So I’m just sealing the chicken in that onion, garam masala spiced oil. You already got the oil separating out a bit. So this is when you add some chili powder. Some salt. Always use a little bit less than you need, because It’s much easier to add the salt later than try and figure out what happened. I love this color. It’s so pretty. Okay, so now, because you still have some of the marinade left, I’m gonna add some water to this, use my hands so that I don’t waste the marinade. I’m gonna pour that in, so then I’m just gonna add some water in there. I’m just making sure that I get all the marinade off. You don’t wanna put too much water. A good estimate by eye, which is what all home cooks do, is more or less It’s enough liquid so that all the pieces are almost buried in it. I need it to boil all the way. Wait ’til everywhere there’s actually bubbles coming up. It is. It’s boiling everywhere. So I’m gonna put the lid on and then I’m gonna put it on simmer. It should take around half an hour. So while the chicken is cooking, I’m gonna make the beans dish with mustard seeds. I’m making these beans, they’ve been washed. These beans, I’m gonna cut them an inch, because I don’t wanna add water to them, I want them to cook very quickly. Here, I’m just topping and tailing them. These are beans that you get nowadays. When I was a child you didn’t get a lot of beans, and what we have is the local bean, which has a really, really, really hard skin. I know you can cut the beans by just lining them all up, but I like cutting them this way. There’s something quite satisfying and healing cutting them into three pieces, and it works very well. I’m just gonna get the chilies, and the last bit, which is the garlic. I don’t bother peeling the garlic when I’m cutting it, because when I cut it, all the skin falls off. So what I’m adding to it is mustard seeds, black mustard seeds. For the mustard seeds, I want all the flavors to infuse. Now these chilies are much more spicy, so I’m not gonna break them. Gonna leave them whole, as it is. I’m gonna leave two aside because I think It’s just gonna become super spicy. So that very, very smokey, burnt chilies flavor is incredible, but you need to make sure that you don’t break it, because, already, by just the thing, It’s on fire. And now I’m just gonna add some turmeric, some salt, and then just stir fry. The other thing is that if you’re not gonna immediately eat it, don’t cook it all the way through, so that because when you reheat it, It’s gotta get limp. So it is ready now. I’m gonna put it off. So I’m gonna now take out the beans. This is probably the most spicy beans you’ve had in your life, ’cause these chilies are super fiery, but It’s a really nice contrast with the korma, which is gonna be very mild and soft and floral and aromatic. I’m just gonna put some lemon juice on it. That should be enough. My korma looks like It’s ready, so then, I’m going to add now, some almond powder, essentially as a thickener. Also it kind of gives a really nice nutty aroma to the korma. A touch of sweetness. Sugar is going to break down. If you want a bit more gravy at this point, you just gonna add a bit of milk, and now It’s ready. So now, the final stage. I’m gonna add the saffron, and I’m gonna immediately take it off the heat, but I need to taste it once, so that I’m happy with the way it is before the saffron is added. Just a touch of salt. It’s very important. This adjustment of sugar and salt. Now I’m gonna add the saffron. With a bare spoon, get the rest of the saffron out. I’m taking some of the gravy back in here, because I don’t wanna waste. You won’t see the impact of adding the saffron ’til I stir it. I’m gonna put it off, and then I’ll stir it. Now, as you can see, what It’s doing, It’s wrapping itself around the chicken and It’s infusing the entire dish. I’m now ready to serve. I’m just gonna go and get the dish. You can see that some of the pieces, the bone has come out. So that means, also, when the bone is out, that means the chicken is ready. Okay, so this is the last bit where you add all the saffron sauce. I’m gonna now add my onions, which I’d done, which completes the dish. Okay, so I have used just the onions because that’s the way I prefer it, but traditionally you put flakes of almonds on it. That’s up to you. But I just think there’s something beautiful. Also there’s so much hard work that goes into the onions, I wanna show off the onions that I made. I could eat this any time. Anytime. It, for me, symbolizes celebration, family, and all the happiness of having grown up in Gakara.

About the Instructor

Asma Khan, owner of famed London eatery Darjeeling Express and bestselling cookbook author of “Asma’s Indian Kitchen” teaches her favorite family recipes, inspired by her childhood in Kolkata, India. The chef, restaurateur, and activist is the first UK-based chef to be featured on Netflix’s Emmy-nominated Chef’s Table and, in 2019, was listed number 1 on Business Insider’s ranking of “100 Coolest People in Food and Drink”. Join Asma on a nostalgic culinary journey to explore the smells, flavors, and ingredients of her ancestral Bengali roots.

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