Cricket has been an integral part of my life since I was a boy of ten or twelve especially the five day format, where the players after playing for two hours take a forty minute breather. This is called the lunch break.
During our school vacations my father, brother and I would play the beautiful game amongst the three of us and Baba on finding his enthusiasm waning would urge us to take a break for lunch as the cricketers conventionally do. Of course, we didn’t relent that easily but when we did we demanded Baba arrange for us the same menu that the players were offered. He convinced us that since the cricketers had to take the field again after the break they would have a light but filling lunch and the standard menu was chicken curry with rice. Being kids, we had no reason to disbelieve an elder so that’s what we ended up having for lunch on most weekends.
Chicken or mutton (goat meat) curry with steamed rice remains a firm favourite across many a Bengali household. Comfort food, as they say. Till this day, before indulging in our weekly gully cricket on Sundays my brother and I keenly look forward to lunch only for this chicken curry never failing to share a nostalgic anecdote or two at the dining table.
Here’s what still gives us comfort, nostalgia and satisfaction.
1 medium chicken – cut into curry sized pieces or as per convenience.
2 tablespoons of mustard oil
2 medium onions – ground into a paste
4-6 cloves of garlic- ground into a paste
1.5 inch ginger – ground into a paste
Turmeric powder – half a teaspoon
Red chilli powder – half a teaspoon
Freshly ground garam masala – a pinch
Two medium potatoes – peeled and cut in four quadrants
A quarter of a medium raw papaya- peeled and cut into same size as the potatoes.
Salt to taste.
In a wok heat the oil on a medium flame. Once the oil is hot enough add the ground onion, once that takes on a whitish pink hue add the ginger and garlic paste. Let the condiments cook until they release their aroma. Then add the chicken pieces and start coating them with the paste. When the flesh turns white add the turmeric followed by the garam masala. Mix it all well and then add two cups of water. Now add the potatoes and raw papaya. Add the salt. Cover the wok and let it simmer for 25-30 mins. By now the chicken will have been cooked and the potato and papaya pieces would be soft enough. If not then cook for 5-10 more minutes but chicken usually cooks quite fast.
Serve with steamed rice and enjoy your ‘lunch break’.