The adventure to your stomach

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There are a few adventure trail that I wish I could retrace. I agree the magic of the first time goes unmatched. One such trip of mine was to a natural hot water spring in Assam.

Picnics during winters is a very common outdoor activity and people commute in buses to enjoy a day out in the open. The downside is that the common picnic spots are usually over crowded and people tend to litter. My father’s elder brother was (he left us forever early this year) quite an adventure freak and he decided to take us to a spot away from the madding crowd. Our curiosity grew when he said it was a hot water spring. As a kid, I found it very amusing to see hot water bubbling out of the ground. We soaked our feet in the lukewarm water at the periphery as uncle made a quick orange salad. When it was time for lunch, we headed to the open market of a nearby village and picked up local chicken. Then we hijacked a Dhaba for lunch! A Dhaba is a basic roadside eatery where you get fresh, piping hot food at a reasonable price. They are open air and mostly cater to travelers and drivers. I said hijacked because when my whole family entered we outnumbered the few customers.

My uncle handed over the chicken and gave a few instructions as to how to cook and what to serve it with. He understood food very well and everyone trusted him. As we eagerly waited for our food, I remember it was already late afternoon, the dust on the gravel road had still not settled and with the vendors closing the last deals with their customers before the dusk, the air was filled with the smell from the rustic kitchen at the back of the Dhaba. Steel plates loaded with hot glorious food was served. Simple food which included chicken, daal,  whole-wheat Rotis (Indian bread) fresh chilies, onion, and lemon slices. The chicken tasted divine. Loaded with black pepper it was perfect for winters. Made with simple ingredients yet tasted so good and the aroma stayed with me forever. Whenever I cook this chicken the smell that fills my kitchen reminds me of our little adventure.

I have used only whole black pepper which is much more flavorful compared to the powder. I prefer using local free range chicken for this recipe but the commercial chicken (bone in preferably) can be used and tastes equally good. Have you ever used your memories as an inspiration to create a dish? Do share with me and try this recipe if you are looking for a dish that keeps you warm in this winter. A very rustic and simple dish that promises nothing but good taste.

Dhaba style pepper chicken

Course:  main or side
Cuisine: Assamese / Indian
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 35 minutes
Chicken   1 kg (bone in)
Black peppercorns 3 tbsp.
Onion  2
Garlic 3 cloves
Ginger   1-inch piece
Cumin seeds  1/2 tsp.
Cumin powder   1 tsp.
Red chili powder 1 tsp.
Turmeric powder  1/2 tsp.
oil  3 tbsp.
salt  1 tsp.
  1. Soak the peppercorns in water for 3-4 hours or until soft. Blend into a fine paste with ginger, garlic, and onion.
  2. Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan and add cumin seeds first and then the black pepper paste. When oil starts releasing from the sides add chicken pieces.
  3. Cook the chicken till the edges are slightly golden brown. Now add the powdered spices along with salt and mix thoroughly.
  4. Add a little water at this stage. Cover the pan and let the chicken cook until tender.

Note: I normally use mustard oil for cooking traditional dishes but you could use any refined oil of your choice and splutter a few mustard seeds before adding cumin.

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