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Remember Rahamatullah? . . .He taught me this dish, it’s an absolute beauty!!!

In 1988, just before I left the Taj Residency, Bangalore, to come to  Australia, I had the ‘privilege’ of cooking for the boss of the Kingfisher Group in Bangalore.

This guy is the ‘liquor Baron of India and probably owns half the liquor industry in the world.

Well anyway, Vijay Mallaya was on his way up, fast.

His star was shining brightly, and in this stellar brightness he had gone on an acquisition spree picking up pharmaceutical companies, bio-tech companies, aviation companies and he was on the look out for more. . .

Now, I had done a number of functions for this man over the past five years, but this event was special.

There were some very important people from the Middle East, Iran, Iraq, the USSR, as it was known back then, who also had interests in petroleum, horses and all things automobile!!

Mr Mallaya wanted to impress his guests and had asked for a unique menu, the kind that would make a sheikh “shake”.

So, the food being presented had to be none other than my favourite cuisine, Hyderabadi, of course!

We had paththar ka gosht, lukmi, followed by kachache gosht ki biryani, murgh zaafraani, dalcha, baghar-e-baingan, mirchi ka saalan and finally there was a dish called murgh kali mirch and much, much more besides.

Now, there are possibly 10 different ways of making murgh kali mirch and each state in the southern part of India makes its own version which has a different name depending on the region it’s made in.

For example, the Tamil Chettiars call it kozhi milagu chettinad, kozhi molavu varuval. . . but the Hyderabadis claim theirs to be the most authentic and superior to the rest.

Rahamatullah (remember him? I wrote about this chef in my blog Why add the damn-d nuts?), had come down to Bangalore, from Ooty, to learn how kitchens in the big hotels worked. He didn’t do this so that he could show-off on his CV, but being sent to watch an hotel kitchen in action was the corporate way of recognising his services to the company that he had served as a humble and honest servant for many years!

He was posted to all departments of the kitchen including the bakery, the butcher and the banquet kitchen with yours truly at the helm!!

For Mr Mallaya’s party, chefs from my banquet kitchen were assigned a dish each to cook and  Rahamatullah was given the murgh kali mirch.

After almost 23 years, this dish is still one of the most amazing dishes I have learnt to cook. It is simple yet very technical as it uses pepper, the king of spices, in three different ways in the same recipe.

The ingredients arranged before I cook

Adding buttermilk to the chicken

mixing the buttermilk and chicken

Adding oil or butter

adding pepper corns to the hot oil

Adding cassia

adding the cardamon

adding cloves

adding asafoetida

cook oil till aromatic 

Adding onions and curry leaf to the oil

folding the spices and onions

the leaves will become translucent and the onions start to caramalize

Add salt to taste and cook till onions are translucent

keep stirring whilst holding the pot firmly

Add ground ginger and garlic one after the other, when the onions are golden

Add the chilli powder

Add turmeric powder

stir ingredients each time after adding a new one

add ground coriander

Add chopped tomatoes

Stir in tomato

let the tomato cook till skin is soft

Add marinaded chicken

fold in chicken

cook chicken

crush curry leaves and add

add ground pepper

a generous sprinkling of cracked pepper

cover the pot and simmer till chicken is cooked

add pepper corns to mortar

Add garlic flakes to mortar

Crush leaves and add to mortar

add coriander leaves

crush ingredients with pestle working under towel to stop mess, and smile please!!

Add crushed peper etc to pot, keep smiling !!

sprinkle chopped coriander before serving

close up

It's ready

plate the meal on a banana leaf with steamed rice

First it is used whole to create an infusion in the hot oil; second it’s crushed, or cracked; and third it’s as ground with garlic and curry leaves to add that extra ‘oomph’ to the dish!!

Anyway, at the outdoor event held at the Kingfisher House we do our job with army-like, but friendly!, efficiency, serving the guests and their partners.

Plenty of food and grog is being served. Conversation is continual.

Desserts are then served, followed by cognac and coffee.

It’s late and time for us to leave when I am summoned to the chambers of Mr Mallaya.

Never before in my five years of serving this man had I ever been into the ‘private chambers’, so why today, I ask myself as I leave the kitchens. Am I going to be. . .?

So, I knock at the large doors, enter and no sooner have I stepped into the room than I hear a voice, “Ajoy,” says the man, exhaling thick smoke from his Havana cigar so that at first his face is hard to see, “I believe you are leaving the Taj and going to Australia.” It’s more a statement than a question but I reply all the same, “Yes Sir, that is right. I finish here in a few weeks.”

“Well,” he says, rolling the thick cigar between his fingers, “If you ever change your mind, come and join me as a corporate chef for the Kingfisher group……”

And as he smiles at me and takes one more puff, I smile in return but say, “Thanks for the offer, Mr Mallaya, I am honoured but I am off down under.”

And he nodded his head slowly as I said this, watching me carefully.

So, from down under in Sydney, here is Rahamat’s murgh kali mirch recipe if you want to try it out for yourself.

It’s a straightforward recipe, just remember those three styles of peppercorns and rejoice in the versatility of the humble peppercorn!

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!!

About Ajoy Joshi

i've been a chef for over three decades now! i trained in chennai and started off with the taj hotel group. i've owned nilgiri's indian restaurant in sydney for over 15 years. i'm on a mission to dispel the myth that indian food is no more than a 'curry in a hurry'! come with me as i try and educate. indian food is my passion (alongside cricket!) and i'm enjoying exploring the new social media and as well as having published cookery books i'm now moving into videos. simple and easy to follow that don't go on for hours like some Bollywood movies!

17 responses »

  1. That looks like one of the most fabulous things on the planet. I wish I could smell through my computer!

    Reply
  2. Made dis for my food trial chicken pepper fry…
    Memory attached.

    Reply
  3. OMG your pictures were so amazing that I had to try them out today. In fact, I did not see that you had attached the original recipe . I followed the ballpark amounts of ingredients from your pictures and the recipe turned out amazing! It was a marriage of flavours. Only that I am a vegetarian so I substituted the protein with cauliflowers and peppers! Amazing and yum!

    Shobha

    Reply
  4. The pictures along with your recipes are so good and helpful. I forward these to my
    son in Vancouver regularly.He loves to cook and tries new stuff for his friends.

    Devika.

    Reply
  5. Awesome Ajoy! Have posted it on my blogpage…Do take a peek and leave and comment and make my day!!!

    Shobha

    Reply
  6. oops sorry about the typo…I mean do leave a comment!!!! Merry Christmas and wishing you and Nilgiris a wonderful new year!!

    Cheers, Shobha

    Reply
  7. Chef Ajoy, Well presented
    Prakash Moorthy

    Reply
  8. I just love your blog and love the fact that such a talented chef is willing to share his recipes and share every step of how he arrives at the awesome dishes presented in this blog. Ajoy thank you from the bottom of my heart and I can assure you that I will surely be trying many recipes from here. ANAH DAATA SUKHI BHAVA

    Reply
  9. Zeenath A. Rahim

    Ajoy….Greetings from Bangladesh. I am from kerala & had a cousin A.K. Harris who also went to the catering college Madras.I have spent the whole morning going through your blog & website. Congratulations on coming so far. I could connect with your frustrations about recipe sharing. I have faced this through my 37 years in this country,struggling to learn a new cusine & cook for my young family. Your recipes are astounding and food photography so clear & explicit. Wish internet had been there when I started. You have made cooking a happy event and I am sure many of your admirers and followers will be happy & enthusiastic cooks with your clear cut recipes. You have a big heart & bigger spirit to share your knowledge. Wish you even more success in your culinary adventures. Zeenath

    Reply
    • Hi Zeenath,
      Good to hear from you and thanks for the encouraging words.
      Would love to have your recipes on my blog if you would like to share them. I love collecting recipes from people who are passionate about this wonderful cuisine.

      Inshah Allah !!
      Happy cooking!!

      Reply
  10. Hi Ajoy,

    I enjoy cooking and the recipes shared by you are so good and the step by step pictures makes it so much easy to understand. When I am reading your blog, I feel I am in the Kitchen with you cooking along. Great work.

    I am really happy that you are standing out and saying that Indian cuisine is not just ‘Curry’ (being Indian this always frustrated me). My son who is 13 years old (born in Germany and we are currenlty living in Toronto Canada is so frustrated when his school friends classify every Indian dish as curry. He does tell his friends that there is no such thing as curry (he loves Indian food).

    I am sure to try all the different recipes from you blog.

    Thank you so much.
    Florine

    Reply
    • Hi Florin,
      Thanks for your feedback.
      And great to hear that your son also believes in what we all have known for hundreds of years.
      And more importantly it is great to know that our ‘cuisine’ is well and truly alive, Thanks to your 13 year old son!!

      Happy cooking !!!

      Reply
  11. Hi! Ajoy,

    I enjoy cooking and love learning all kinds of cuisines.. I spent whole day yesterday going thru your blog.. the recipes shared by you are so good and the step by step pictures makes it so much easy to understand. When I am reading your blog, I feel I am in the Kitchen with you cooking along. Great work.

    Please visit my blog and give some feedback..

    Rasoiguru.blogspot.com

    Reply

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