Murgh Khandani (The Family Chicken)


I’m a meat eating Tamilian whose parents shudder at the thought of an egg entering their home, let alone an entire chicken! But every time they’ve raised their eyebrows at my choice of food, I’m quick to point a finger right back. They’re the ones who insisted on dragging my sister and I to live in every nook and cranny of meat devouring North India, as we were growing up. A few stints in the meat mad developed world didn’t really help their case either.

I’m fascinated at how the culinary influences of my childhood and my roots, automatically meld in the flavors of the Indian recipes I come up!  The creamy texture of my Murgh Khandani  – the richness of the coconut combined with cashews and a very slight hint of chilli – reminds me of the coconut based dishes of the South and the ‘Nawabi’ chicken of the North.

This Diwali, one chicken loving friend said the dish was fit for a king! I hope you agree!

This recipe will feed 4 if served alone, more if there are other sides.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Marinating Time: Overnight or minimum 1 hour

Cook Time: 1 hour


1kg  skinless chicken drumsticks

1 can coconut milk

2 cups desiccated coconut

1 cup cashew nuts

Finger green chilies 3 finely chopped (do not de-seed)

Onions – 2 (pureed into a fine paste)

Ginger/garlic paste – 1.5 tsp

Onion seeds – ½ tsp

Mustard Seeds – ½ tsp

Curry Leaves – 5-6

Vegetable oil – 2 tbsp

For the Marinade:

Yogurt 2 cups

Salt to taste

Coriander powder – 1 tsp

Cumin powder – 1.5 tsp

Tumeric powder – ¼ tsp

How to put it together!



Marinating is key when you want to present a meat dish that is soft, juicy and succulent. Mix the yogurt, salt, coriander powder, turmeric powder and cumin powder. Pour over the chicken and mix the two well. Set aside in the fridge overnight.

If you don’t have the time to do that, let the chicken sit in the marinade as long as possible. Prep the rest of the dish in the meantime. Leave it in the yogurt for at least 1 hour.

The dish:

Heat your oil in a wide dish and put in the onion seeds and mustard seeds. Let them pop before adding the curry leaves. Let the leaves cook in the oil for a few seconds before adding the onion paste.

Cook the onions till they are slightly brown and add the ginger/garlic paste. Cook for at least another 6-8 minutes on a med/low heat without burning the pastes.

Slowly add your marinated chicken, with the yogurt into the pan. Turn up the heat to medium and toss the chicken with the onions etc. Make sure the chicken is touching the hot pan during this process. After about 5 minutes of doing this, add your coconut milk and desiccated coconut to the mix. Then add the chopped green chilies to the mix. Stir well until the onion, chili, coconut and yogurt all mix well. Turn the gas down to low, cover and leave to cook for 40 minutes.

In the meantime, put the cashews in a food processor/liquidizer and add enough water to create a paste. It should look and feel like a thick milk shake. Keep this cashew paste ready.

After 40 minutes, check your chicken is cooked. The meat should be falling off the bone. If so, it’s now ready for the royal treatment – ‘Add the cashew paste to the chicken and stir’.


Cover and leave to cook for another 5-6 minutes. Taste test for salt. Add more if needed.

Add a garnish of freshly chopped coriander if you want to dress up the presentation a bit.

How to Serve:

Serve with Parantha, Naan or boiled rice. I served my chicken with Naan and Jeera Rice for Diwali.

Booze that goes with this dish:

Red wine is an excellent accompaniment for this dish. I love a good Montepulciano with my milder Indian dishes. Of course, as always a good beer is great with it too. I find beers like Kingfisher or Cobra go well too.


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