Simple to prepare and with such superb flavor, this is one of my favorite chicken dishes. It is typical of North Indian cooking. Be sure you purchase the saffron from a reputable supplier, since there are many yellow powders and bright orange strands labeled saffron which are not. Some cooks soak the saffron strands in hot milk or hot water and add them whole, but I think the method I have described below diffuses the flavor more evenly.
- 1.5 kg (3 lb) roasting chicken
- 3 tablespoons ghee
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
- 3 fresh red chillies, seeded and sliced
- ½ teaspoon saffron strands or ¼ teaspoon ground saffron
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1½ teaspoons salt or to taste
Cut the chicken into small serving pieces: divide the breast into quarters, separate thighs from drumsticks and disjoint the wings. Heat the ghee in a heavy saucepan and cook the onion, garlic, ginger and chillies on low heat, stirring frequently, until the onion starts to turn golden. Heat the saffron strands in a small dry pan for about 1 minute, shaking the pan or stirring so that they don’t darken. Turn onto a saucer to cool and crisp, then crush with the back of a spoon. Dissolve in 1 tablespoon boiling water. Add to the pan with the cardamom and stir well, then add the chicken pieces. Turn the chicken pieces for 5 minutes or until each is coated with the saffron mixture. Add salt, cover and cook over moderate heat for 15 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Uncover the pan and continue cooking until most of the liquid evaporates. Serve with parathas or rice.