Country Captain Chicken ~ A British Era Chicken dish

Thursday, November 14, 2013

    KPC school of Nutrition and Food, Kolkata has organized their annual event, named "Nutrifest" this year, where the theme is " Raj remnant : Laat Saaheber Bangali khansama" which loosely translates as British influence on Bengali Food, and Kolkata Food Bloggers(KFB) are working as a co-organizer of the event. Through the event, we are researching and recreating those dishes which are invented during British raj and still those are part of our Bengali Cuisine somehow.  As a member of KFB, I've prepared this chicken dish, named COUNTRY CAPTAIN CHICKEN which is part of our Bengali cuisine now but has its origin in the British raj in India. Nowadays, this dish is mostly seen on the menu-card of Social clubs of Kolkata, not many people know about this dish.
 Throughout history India has been invaded and occupied by many foreign communities and each contributed their culture and food habit to our country upto some extent. But the fact we can't deny that we adapted British culture and food habits the most, as they ruled over India for the longest time. This foreign influence was obvious on Bengal as this place has been the seat of power for many rulers of different countries. The British became the virtual ruler of Bengal in the year of 1757. Kolkata was the capital of the British Raj in Bengal. British introduced totally new cooking technique such as baking. English or Jewish bakers introduced 'Petis(savoury version of English pastry)' or 'Pau-ruti' or Western style bread are some of non-seperable food items of Bengali cuisine now. Additionally, British influenced hugely to our eating habits, too. Dining tables took place instead of floor to eat and porcelain replaced banana leaf as the utensils to eat. Indian Khansamas (cooks) learned various foreign cooking techniques from different foreign rulers and using local ingredients created a brand new unique cuisine to satisfy the western rulers, which we have known as Anglo-Indian Cuisine. British cuisine mainly introduced variety of finger foods, which are still very popular in Pucca" or social clubs of Kolkata, such as Mutton Chop, Kobiraji Cutlet or Fish Orly.
   

   Country Captain Chicken, has been originated in the British Raj in India. The name of this dish is quite strange, isn't it? But there is a story behind it. About.com says, "In the 19th century, British trade ships in India, were called 'Country Ships' and their Captains were known as 'Country Captains'. Country Captain Chicken was a popular dish at their tables and got its name through this association". Also I got to know this part of info from "The Calcutta Cookbook" that, when officers were out in the countryside from the confines of their garrisons and clubs and their regular cooks were not with them, this recipe was invented and served to the British officers by their ship captains. From here, the dish got its name Country captain Chicken. This dish became very popular that time and were served in the social clubs regularly.
   This Chicken dish is very mildly and uniquely spiced and perfect for people who are not habitual of spices. As you can see in the recipe, there are not much spices used but fresh herbs and saffron play an important role in the recipe to make it a very distinctly flavourful Chicken curry.


Some information about the history behind this dish is from About. com and some from "The Calcutta Cookbook" by Simon Parkes and Udit Sarkel", whose recipe I'm following today.

You need ::

Chicken : 500 gm.
Oil : 2-3 tblsp.
Turmeric powder : 2 tsp.
Onions : 2 (medium), peeled and cut into big chunks
Salt to taste
Cashew nuts : 50 gm.
Onion : 2, sliced/chopped and crisply fried
Ginger : 1"
Garlic pods : 4(big)
Cumin seeds : 1tsp.
Bay leaves : 2
Coriander powder : 1 tblsp.
Red chilli powder to taste
Fresh Cream : 2 tblsp.
Saffron strands : a good pinch
Fresh mint leaves : 2 sprigs, finely chopped
Fresh coriander : 4 sprigs, finely chopped
Garam masala : 1 tsp.

To Garnish ::
Ghee : 1 tblsp.
Tomato :  1 large, seeded and cut into strips
Green chillies : 2, slitted, deseeded and finely chopped (add as per your tolerance level)
Ginger Juliennes : very few(optional)

How To ::
  • Cut chicken in medium size pieces. Coat the chicken pieces with 1 tsp. turmeric powder and 11/2 tsp. salt, set aside for ½ an hour.
  • Boil 2 big chunked onions and cashew nuts in water until onions are soft. When cool, blend to a smooth paste and keep aside. Seperately, grind ginger and garlic together to a smooth paste. 
  • Heat oil in a saucepan, add 2 sliced/chopped onions in oil and in high heat with continuous stirring, fry them till they are brown. Drain on a kitchen towel to absorb extra oil.
  • In the same oil, add cumin seeds. Allow them to splutter. Then add the bay leaves. Add the crisp fried onions and the ginger-garlic paste, cook until you get the aroma of cooked garlic for about 2 minutes. Now add the ground coriander, 1 tsp. turmeric powder, chilli powder as per your tolerance level and cook for 2 minutes, then add boiled onion and cashew nut paste.
  • Bring this to a simmer, add the chicken pieces and cook fairly gently for about 20 minutes, turning the chicken once in a while, until it is cooked through. If needed, add ½ cup hot water.
  • When chicken are done, add cream, saffron, fresh mint and coriander leaves, salt to taste and the garam masala. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. The consistency should be medium thick. Put into a serving dish.
  • To finish the dish, heat the ghee in a small frying pan and rapidly fry the tomato and green chillies in it. Pour over the curry and serve with some hot white rice. You can also garnish with few ginger juliennes.

 

I'll recommend my readers and blog followers and visitors to try out this dish. The taste is simply extra ordinary and perfect who does not like spicy food, as it is very mildly spiced and the touch of saffron gives this dish a distinctive flavour.


Disclaimer : All the history part of this post is original research work of the KPC Nutrifest team.
 


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8 comments

  1. What a colorful chicken .You have given a very good name to the recipe.

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  2. Gonna try this...I will probably be back again to read more. Visit my space and keep in touch.

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  3. Lovely recipe and interesting read about its history

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  4. Sathya Priya, Thanks..this is the original name of this recipe..I haven't given any name dear

    Shaami, please try this , it's a keeper recipe and I'll surely visit ur space

    Amrita, Thanks dear

    Vimitha, thanka a lot dear

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  5. Looks absolutely delicious dear :) bookmarking this

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  6. Chicken looks delicious. Beautiful presentation.

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  7. My Goan grannie's Sunday special! Can't wait to try my own hand at this.

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