Chicken Tehri used to be one of those dishes that would be rustled up whenever someone would be hungry and there won’t be enough time to make a more substantial meal. My mother learned this from one of her friends, and the friend had a few amazing gems in her kitty. I have fond memories of my mother stirring the pot to make a tehri on a cold evening, and a very hungry me shelling peas, which would be then stirred into the pot.
Technically, you can make this dish without the chicken. It is actually a vegetable pulao of sorts, with strains of Awadh hanging around, but let me just say this – chicken makes it so much better! The day I made this one, I had run out of virtually all vegetables but carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes, so I made mine with these three, but you can feel free to add one of more of the following vegetables – peas, string beans, bell peppers, cauliflowers, broccoli, cabbage, pearl onions, mushrooms, or well, any firm vegetable you feel will do well with this. It is an excellent way to clean up your fridge, using the last bits of the vegetables.
Start by heating a heavy-bottomed vessel, ideally a kadhai or handi, and add a tablespoon of vegetable oil. When the oil heats up, add a single bay leaf, a stick of cinnamon, a pinch of whole cumin, and 4-5 cloves. I am not much of a fan of cardamom in this dish, so I do not add it. Once the whole spices starts sizzling, add 1 medium onion, chopped. Stir in a pinch of salt, and let the onion cook till it is golden brown, about 7-8 minutes over medium-low heat.
Meanwhile, wash and soak 200 gm. raw rice. I love using Basmati for this application, but feel free to use your favorite. My mother has used Dehradun, brown Basmati, Gobindobhog, and all sorts of other kinds, and it always turned out pretty much amazing.
Once the onions are cooked, add 500 gm. chopped chicken. I like using thighs and legs for this recipe, but sometimes use breast meat as well. I prefer the meat to be slightly bony – that way, more flavors sneak into the dish. Up the heat to medium, and sear the chicken, till it is evenly seared on all sides. Then, add 2 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder, 1 teaspoon coriander powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder, 1 teaspoon garam masala powder, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder.
Introduce your vegetables now. Add 1 cup of chopped vegetables, preferably cut in 1 inch pieces. In case you have peas, introduce them much later, but the rest can go in now. Stir everything together, add a couple of whole green chillies (and if you have it, a handful of chopped green coriander leaves), and add the soaked rice, minus the water. Stir the rice well, and add 500 ml. water and salt. This is the time when adding salt is important – once cooked, you won’t be able to add more salt. For this quantity of rice and chicken, around 7-8 gm. salt (1-1.5 teaspoon) is enough. Let the water come to a boil, then drop the temperature and simmer till the water is soaked up and the rice is done. If you want to add peas, add them when the rice is half cooked, around 7-8 minutes after adding water.
Serve with some ghee or butter on top. I add a slice of lime to it too!