Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Kaalo Jeere diye Murgi and a few memories

I have a soft spot for Nigella seeds, the good old Kaalo Jeere. My fascination with Kaalo Jeere started as a child. As a child I used to take dance lessons from a young girl in the neighbourhood. She was the first person who taught me to dance and everyday she had treats waiting for me. She was my favourite and I hated my mother for quite sometime when she decided to put me in Thankumuni Kutty's dance school. However, this particular woman had done a Bengali film, perhaps the only one, which also starred Danny Denzongpa in the role of a care taker. Naturally, it goes without saying I watched that film a hundred times. I had even forced my uncle to buy a VCD so that I could watch , such was my loyalty to my teacher. However, in a particular scene in the film, Danny's character was asked to get "Bhalo Cheerey" (good flat rice) from the grocers and he brought back Kaalo Jeere...and that's what triggered my fascination with the tiny, black grains.

I have other memories to associated to the Kaalo Jeere. It was used as the tempering in a particular soupy potato curry that was a Sunday custom at my place when I was a  child. All of us, my cousins and I,  would gather in the living room upstairs, around the television set, at 10 am to watch Mahabharat, with our Grandmother, and ten minutes later, breakfast comprising Luchi and this potato curry would be brought in. I never really cared what went on in Hastinapur those ten minutes, it was only when I had my plate in hand did I turn my attention to the television. I was always served first, I was the youngest in the house then (a privilege I lost soon enough).

Back in the day when I ruled this household.
The curry is still made at home sometimes, but not as often. It is very simple. Heat the oil, add Kalongi and a couple of dried red chilli, toss in diced potatoes, add salt and fry for sometime. Mix turmeric and red chilli powder in a little water and add it to the potatoes. Stir for a minute and then add enough water to cover the potatoes and a little more, put on a lid and cook on medium heat until potatoes are cooked. Serve with piping hot luchis.

I also love kaalo jeere in Kumror chenchki. My maternal grandmom makes it the best. Again, add kaalo jeere and a couple dried red chili to hot oil, toss in pumpkin cut in thin strips, somewhat like french fries but smaller and thinner. Add salt, sugar and cook on low heat until pumpkin is cooked and oil separates. It is the simplest and the best use of pumpkin to me.  Other than that I like it as tempering in the archetypal Shorshe bata macchh (Bengali style mustard fish) too.

But what I have been contemplating is using it in a meat dish. I do make a particular chicken dish which has nigella seeds but it is used in a mix of a host of spices. I wanted to make a chicken dish that rides solely on kaalo Jeere and that's exactly what I did today.

The ingredients are very simple, mostly the usual ones used in curries. I must mention here that sometimes, using mundane ingredients a little differently can make a huge difference to the dish. For instance onion. It's is used in almost all curries. But sometimes I make the same curry but use onions different. Sometimes I would caramelise the onion and add it at the end instead of frying it at the beginning, sometimes I would make a paste of the caramelised onion and then add it and sometimes I would boil the onions and make a paste of it and use it in the same recipe.

About the recipe. Here it goes


Chicken - 1 kg
Curd: 100 gms
Birista* - 1 cup
Ginger paste - 2 tbsp
Garlic paste - 2 tbsp
Tomato puree - 2-3 tbsp 
Whole green chillies (slit) - 6-7
Nigella Seeds (dry roasted and ground) - 4-5 tbsp
Whole peppercorns - 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Mustard oil
A pinch of sugar


  • Marinate the chicken pieces in curd and salt for an hour. 
  • Heat mustard oil in a pan and add the ginger and garlic paste. Fry for a few minutes, do not burn. Now add the green chillies, tomato puree and peppercorns. 
  • Toss in the marinated chicken pieces and the ground Nigella seeds. Stir well, cover and cook until the chicken is almost done. Take the lid off, add the birista and cook on medium heat until the juices dry up and oil separates from the masala. Adjust seasoning, add a pinch of sugar, stir and take off heat. 
  • Serve with plain rice.
*Thinly sliced, fried onions. Add a teaspoon of sugar to oil and add the onions just when the sugar is catching colour colour. You will get the brown without burning the onions.


  1. Bahadur was one of the first films I saw in a movie hall, and I loved it. There was a song which sort of went ... bahadur tomar eitai bahaduri... And it was so much fun to watch it. This recipe sounds delish, and will try this out. Also, yes, that alur torkari seems to be a sunday staple in virtually any house, na?

  2. Haha ...yes it was a good film...I still watch it when it comes on let me know though how it turns out when you try the recipe...and yes that alur torkari,,,synonymous with Sunday for me!!!