Chicken Dum and Jiggs Kalra

He rose to fame for promoting little-known Indian chefs, converting Indian culinary tradition into haute cuisine, and he knew little about the cuisines of North India. But Jaspal Inder Singh “Jiggs” Kalra passed her young adulthood with unusual food.

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Upon Kalra’s death in 2019, journalist Bikram Vohra recounted how he often ate sardines and baked beans for breakfast and served fish paste on Monegasque cookies as canapes at parties in the apartment. they shared for seven years on Altamount Road in Mumbai. These parties have attracted Bollywood stars, models, flight attendants and various personalities.

Kalra’s story has faded somewhat in this era of cloud kitchens, home delivery, star chefs and pandemic. I am telling it because I hope to gradually explore the culinary heritage of some of those who made us aware of our heritage.

Kalra, like Vohra, was also a journalist, and they both cut their teeth in the 1971 war while working at India’s Illustrated Weekly, brilliantly edited by Khushwant Singh, whom Kalra considered his guru. Years later, due to his close association with food, Kalra was mistakenly famous for being a chef, but he never trained as such, learning the basics in his mother’s kitchen.

Kalra has written about and promoted regional Indian cuisine. His special affection was the food of Awadh, with an emphasis on dum pukht—Slow cooking with steam. “Mr. Kalra has written about innovative restaurants, unusual ingredients and new and old techniques in Indian cuisine,” noted a 2019 New York Times obituary.

His most famous book was Prashad: cooking with Indian masters (1986, Allied Publishers), which he called “a celebration of the best of Indian cuisine”. It’s hard for someone like me to accept that the best Indian food comes from East Kolkata. Nonetheless, the cuisines he presented to us eventually became national and global to the point that even the local biryani cloud cuisines in the south today seal their mark. Handis idiot style.

Prashad (offering) broadened my culinary horizons in the late 1990s, a time when, like Kalra in her early days, my home in Delhi was a revolving door for friends and their friends in search of food, alcohol and noisy company. There weren’t any models or celebrities, but a lot of the friends I made then lingered, even if they don’t remember the deal I offered them: dinner is still available but wash yours. damn plates.

Presenting the recipes of the “great old men” – they were all men – restaurants in northern India, Prashad came into my life in 1996, at a time when my repertoire was limited to masala sausage, kheema, barbecued meats and Konkan fish curry. This opened up an unknown world of not only silly cooking, but also crushed spices, simmered sauces, and exotic Awadhi cuisine: Khuroos-e-Tursh (spicy chicken with saffron and black cumin), Adh-e-Changezi (leg of lamb in pepper sauce) and Firdaus-e-Barein (meatballs stuffed with sunflower seeds and raisins, simmered in a sauce).

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It was Prashad it allowed me to prepare my first serious vegetarian entree for my then girlfriend – and now my wife – whom I learned to my dismay was, well, vegetarian. With great fanfare, I did makai khumb, a mushroom head and corn sauce. She liked it, she said, her eyes full of stars. It wasn’t until years later, when the stars receded somewhat, that she admitted that she didn’t like mushrooms.

The fonts, photographs and layout used in Prashad have the visual appeal of a textbook. In fact, this is not true. The textbooks are nicer. However, you will find it in bookstores, with its design unchanged, holding up with Nigella Lawson and Sanjeev Kapoor.

From dum pukht options Kalra talked about, one of my favorites was Fenugreek Chicken. It uses dried kasuri methi, or dried fenugreek, the best of which, he tells us, comes from Qasur in Pakistan. I took the dish back after almost two decades and am happy to report that it is still so appealing, a pleasure to cook and a delight to present, after carefully peeling off the batter that seals in juices and flavors. Recipes in Prashad, writes Kalra, “are not the usual fayre (sic) restaurants, where it is not uncommon to sacrifice the palate to please the eyes”. I think he may have been wrong.

For 4 people

For the marinade

Half kg of chicken
Half a cup of yogurt
(Whisk the yogurt, salt and immerse the chicken in this marinade for at least an hour.)

Whole spices: 2 green cardamoms, 1 black cardamom, 2 cloves, a half-inch stick of cinnamon, 1 bay leaf, a small pinch of mace
2 onions, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
A spoon and a half of garlic, finely chopped
One and a half spoonful of ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of ginger, julienned
2 green peppers, seeded
A quarter of a teaspoon of turmeric + a half teaspoon of red pepper powder, dissolved in a little water
2 tbsp kasuri methi
2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp ghee


Heat ghee in a handi or a container that can be easily sealed, add the set Garam masala and cook over medium heat until it crackles. Add and sauté the onions until golden brown. Add the garlic, ginger and green peppers and sauté for one minute. Add the turmeric and dissolved red pepper and stir in. Add the tomatoes and sauté until the oil leaves the masala. Add the marinated chicken with the marinade and half a cup of water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until the chicken is almost cooked. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Sprinkle with julienned ginger, kasuri methi and cilantro and cover with a lid. Seal it handi with attack (dough) and put idiot in an oven preheated to 250 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes.

Our Daily Bread is a column on easy and inventive cooking. Samar Halarnkar is the author of The Married Man’s Guide To Creative Cooking — And Other Dubious Adventures. @ samar11

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