Chicken in saffron sauce


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Complete Indian Regional Cookbook: 300 Classic Recipes from the Great Regions of India

The Complete Indian Regional Cookbook

By Mridula Baljekar

Published 2017

  • About

The origins of this recipe, Murgh Kalai Kesari, go back to the Mughal era and the ingredients used certainly evoke a time of wealth. Here the sauce is enriched with saffron and freshly made almond purée.


  • 50 g/2 oz blanched almonds
  • 675 g/lb boned chicken thighs or breast fillets, skinned and cut into 5cm/2in cubes
  • 10 ml/2 tsp garlic purée
  • 10 ml/2 tsp ginger purée
  • 5 ml/1 tsp ground cumin
  • 7.5 ml/172 tsp ground coriander
  • 2.5–5ml/½–1 tsp crushed dried chillies
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 75 g/3 oz/73 cup full-fat (whole) natural (plain) yogurt
  • 10 ml/2 tsp gram flour (besan)
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 green cardamom pods, split at the top of each pod
  • 2.5 cm/1 in piece of cinnamon stick
  • 25 g/1 oz ghee or unsalted butter
  • 300 ml/72 pint/ cups full-fat (whole) milk
  • 2.5 ml/72 tsp saffron threads, pounded and soaked in 15ml/1 tbsp hot milk
  • 2.5 ml/72 tsp garam masala
  • 1–2 fresh green chillies, deseeded and cut into julienne strips, to garnish
  • naan, to serve


  1. Put the almonds in a small heatproof bowl and pour over 150ml/5fl oz/ cup boiling water. Set aside for 20 minutes.

  2. Put the chicken, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, crushed chillies and onion in a large, heavy pan. Beat the yogurt and gram flour together in a bowl until smooth, then add to the pan.

  3. Add the cloves, cardamom and cinnamon, and place the pan over a medium heat. Stir until the contents begin to sizzle. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 20–25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  4. Remove the lid and increase the heat to high. Cook until the liquid is reduced to a thick, batter-like consistency, stirring often.

  5. Add the ghee or butter and stir-fry the chicken for 3–4 minutes, or until the fat rises to the surface of the mixture.

  6. Purée the almonds with the water in which they were soaked in a blender or food processor. Add this to the pan.

  7. Add the milk, and saffron and the soaking milk. Stir and bring it to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5–6 minutes. Add the garam masala. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the strips of green chilli. Serve immediately with pieces of naan.

Per portion Energy 554kcal/2321kJ; Protein 75.6g; Carbohydrate 5.1g, of which sugars 4.7g; Fat 25.9g, of which saturates 12.2g; Cholesterol 255mg; Calcium 146mg; Fibre 0.8g; Sodium 792mg.