Black peppercorns are native to India and more specifically, cultivated in the South Indian states of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The uses of black peppercorn can be traced back to ancient times; it was very commonly used in both cooking and for medicinal purposes. Black pepper was at one time in history so highly prized a spice, that it was even used as currency or collateral. It was one of the major spices that changed the course of world history by way of the famous Spice Route.
Kali Mirch Murgh (Black Pepper Chicken) is a lovely recipe that originates from the famous South Indian city of Hyderabad, located in Andhra Pradesh. Hyderabad was a former stronghold of the Nizams who were viceroys that ruled on behalf of the Mughal emperors of Northern India. This delicious recipe combines the aromatic spices (mainly black peppercorns) from the south with the cooking techniques and methods from the north (Mughlai cuisine). This dish wonderfully manages to encompass the flavor of black peppercorns without the overwhelming spicy heat.
KALI MIRCH MURGH (Black Pepper Chicken Curry)
1 lb of boneless, skinless chicken cut into 1.5” cubes
2-3 large garlic cloves, finely minced
1” piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cups of yogurt
juice of ½ lemon
2 tsp black peppercorns
2-3 whole cloves
1 bay leaf (fresh or dried)
½ tsp turmeric (haldi)
salt, to taste
2 tbsp oil, vegetable or canola
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
In a small dry skillet on medium high heat, toast the black peppercorns for just a minute or so until aromatic and fragrant. Remove quickly from the heat, allow to cool and then grind into a coarse powder using a spice mill or clean coffee grinder. Set aside until needed.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the yogurt along with the ginger, garlic, chicken pieces, lemon juice, ½ tsp of the freshly ground peppercorns and salt. Mix well to combine, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours (preferably overnight, the longer the better).
In a large deep skillet or wok on medium high heat, add the oil. When hot, add the cloves and the bay leaf. Stir fry the spices in the oil for just a minute or so. Next, add the onions and 1 tsp of the freshly ground black peppercorns. Stir fry and let the onions brown. This may take some time (up to 10-12 minutes) but it is well worth the effort. Now, add the turmeric and the chicken along with the yogurt marinade. Stir well and let cook on low for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is tender but fully cooked, most of the liquid should have evaporated. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle lightly with a gentle dusting of the freshly ground black peppercorns. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro leaves and serve with fresh chapatis, Basmati rice and raita (yogurt based salads).