I was reading this book famously named “Curry”written by this English writer, Lizzie Collingham. An incredible book by the way if you are even mildly interested in the exquisite history of Indian cuisine all the way from the Imperial kitchen of the Mughal invader Babar and before to the smoky cookhouse of the British Raj. Towards the very beginning before discussing a recipe for chicken tikka masala she shares her learnings about the societal divisions in the ancient times which was mainly governed by the way people consume their food. Their were a set of “rules” that represented an ideal of good practice. But then once in a while those rules could be broken too, you know for the sake of circumstances and lifestyle. Like a person coming from a purely vegetarian sect of the society could very well enjoy a rich, meaty and strengthening broth to fight illness etc. It was so fascinating to read the ways said rules could be bent and twisted and this story about the meat broth specially took me back to my childhood when my happily meat eating mummy would frown over the fact if we brought meat into her kitchen or touched something without washing hands.
All of us in the house ate meat (which by a typical Indian Hindu family standards means chicken and could only be stretched up to goat or lamb. No beef or pork strictly! Fish is a different family altogether). But there were a set of rules that were not meant to be broken. Separate cooking and serving dishes (even glasses and spoons) for meat. Only certain areas in the house where you could sit and eat when relishing tender and juicy drumsticks of chicken with some hot and spicy curry. Wash hands throughly before moving on to the next task and god forbid if you step into the bedroom or Pooja room during this whole time. You are a dead meat like that sad chicken on your plate. It was annoying but funny at the same time but most of all it was confusing for our 8-10 year old brains.
Even more so when all these rules were tossed into a steaming and bubbling pot of chicken shorba when one of us would fall sick. This simmered for hours, chicken shorba, laced with enriching veggies and spiked with whole spices, would then be served to us, to our beds IN the bedroom. So when I read about the law making and abiding citizens from the yesteryears who would very innocently bend the “rules” a little bit for bigger good, you should understand why it reminded me of mummy. There are no rules when it comes to things like love, care and affection. Not for mums at least.
I think irrespective of the region or culture every cuisine has a few dishes in common. Recipes or the look of the dish itslef might be different but the dishes stay common. One such dish I believe is chicken soup. A brothy dish with bits of chicken, some vegetables and probably varying set of spices. Every culture has a version or other. Sharing with you today the Indian version called Murgh Shorba or Chicken Shorba where Shorba is just an Indian name for broth. Something we grew up eating, and in my case hating, probably because I’d eat it when sick and so for the longest time related it to feeling low and down. Tables have really turned now but thankfully my kids find it comforting. Being a busy mom sometimes its a challenge giving every meal my full time and attention and for somedays when I know the schedule is going to take over me I tend to my slow cooker. This Murgh Shorba is one of our family favorite slow cooker meals specially to tuck in with a bowl of, on chilly winter nights.
1 tablespoon ghee
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust per taste)
1 1/2 teaspoon coarsely crushed black pepper
3-4 green cardamom
1 teaspoon garam masala
2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 1/2 cup tomato (diced or canned)
1/2 cup shallots (chopped)
1 cup carrot (chopped)
1 lbs chicken (I used breast you can use any cut, boneless or bone in)
3-4 cups water (depending on how “brothy” you want your soup to be)
Salt to taste (keep in mind slow cooker asks for lesser salt compared to a stove top dish)
Turn the slow cooker to high. Add ghee. Work on your chopping and prep while the ghee melts.
Thrown in the spices. Mix. Transfer all the vegetables and salt. Stir. Place chicken on the bed of vegetables. Add water. Turn the slow cooker on low and cook for 6-7 hours.
When ready break the chicken into smaller pieces by pulling with fork. Crush the vegetables a little bit if you want. Serve with hot naan or freshly baked loaf of bread.