Sunday, July 16, 2017

Olga's Jeera Meera Chicken



When we first set up home in New York, my kitchen was a bare bones affair. Then we visited Aunty Oreen. She lived with her sister in law Olga in a small Maryland town. Both of them made it their mission to find kitchen essentials for me. Their hunting grounds were local flea markets and garage sales. This was my first encounter with the great American pastime. Olga is the lady who bargained at a flea market for my first Tupperware container, badgering the poor lady to lower her price from $1 to 25 cents. Embarrassed, I stood at the outer edge of the flea market, cringing, while she picked up a bagful of products for me.

Not only was Olga a redoubtable bargain hunter, she was also had excellent culinary skills. Every time we visited we were treated to a plethora of homemade treats. Barbecued chicken, apple butter, cookies, chicken chops and the oft made jeera meera. Jeera Meera means cumin and pepper. It's what goes into the chicken. Every Goan I know makes  this traditional recipe, one that is simple and wholesome. It's to be eaten with rice or chapattis, either one complementing the chicken. I have vivid a mental image of Olga, dark glasses on, in the kitchen, sharp knife in hand, deboning chicken legs and thighs, cleaning every visible yellow globule of fat assiduously from every single piece. To this day, I do the same.



OLGA'S JEERA MEERA CHICKEN
Serves 4


8 Chicken legs and thighs
3 tablespoons Canola Oil 
3 large Onions
1 tablespoon Cumin powder
1 tablespoon ground Black Pepper
A pinch of Clove powder
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
1 tablespoon Garlic paste
4-5 Ginger slices
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
3 green Chiles
1 large Tomato
2 tablespoons Tamarind pulp


Remove skin and all visible fat from chicken legs and thighs. Wash pieces and pat dry.

Peel and chop onions finely.

Cut green chiles into half inch pieces.

Cut tomato into small chunks.

Heat oil in large Dutch oven or saucepan.

When oil shimmers, add chopped onion and saute till golden brown.




Add chicken to onions and continue frying for 7-8 minutes or till the chicken has browned a bit.







Sprinkle cumin and pepper powders, turmeric, clove powder, garlic paste, ginger slices, salt and tomato chunks. Stir well and saute for a few minutes.




Add chopped green chiles and enough water to come up to the level of thighs and legs. 




Cover pan and cook till chicken is done.

Uncover the pan and add tamarind pulp to gravy.

Let gravy simmer till thick.

Serve chicken with rice, chapattis or naan.




I still use those orange and mustard colored Tupperware containers. For me, Olga is still cooks that sunlit Reisterstown kitchen, calling me Baby, and effortlessly churning out tasty treats all day long. Every meal came laced with heaping tablespoons of well-meaning advice. I took that advice to heart and her recipes into my kitchen lore.