Chettinad Chicken


I’ve been making some delicious curries lately. This is one of the tastiest so far. Chettinad, in the south of India offers up flavours amongst the spiciest and most aromatic in the country. This dish is both rich in flavour but also spice. A hot, delicious curry which leaves the mouth tingling for minutes after each bite. I have reduced the amount of spice from the original recipe – instinct told me that 12 red chillies and a teaspoon of chilli powder would render the dish a little too hot even for my asbestos mouth. But fear not, spice lovers this still packs a punch. It’s pretty easy to make too.


For the paste:
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 star anise
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 dried red chillies
2cm stick cinnamon
3 cardamom pods
2 cloves
1 tablespoon dessicated coconut
1 onion (chopped)
2cm piece ginger (chopped)
4 garlic cloves (chopped)

Other Ingredients:
1kg chicken thighs (cut into chunks)
1 teaspoon turmeric
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tomatoes
1 lemon (juice of)
2 tablespoons natural (Greek style) yoghurt
20 fresh curry leaves
1 tablespoon fresh coriander
1 teaspoon salt

In a small frying pan, dry fry the poppy seeds, fennel, coriander, star anise, cumin, red chillies, cinnamon, cardamom pods, cloves and dessicated coconut for 1 minute until fragrant and lightly browned. Place in a spice grinder and grind into a fine powder. If you don’t have a spice grinder, use a pestle & mortar, just make sure you grind the spices finely enough.

In a food processor, blend together the onion, ginger and garlic into a thick paste. Stir in the spice mix and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pan over a moderate heat. Fry the onion paste for 5 minutes until softened. Add the curry leaves and stir for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and turmeric and continue stirring for 5 minutes until broken down. Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes, stirring. Stir in the yoghurt, lemon juice, salt and 300ml water. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered for 45 minutes until the chicken is tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, add more salt to your taste if needed and stir in the coriander just before serving.

Serve with rice or breads.


4 Responses

  1. […] of fluffy basmati rice. I served this curry ‘thali’ style alongside Brinjal Kootu, Chettinad chicken, Parippu dal and mint blended with […]

  2. A lovely curry. Hot and tasty. I simmered it for more like an hour and a half but I’d left the chicken on the bone. I batch cook and freeze a lot if the time as I don’t know when I’m going to have time to cook so I might see if the paste freezes. It’d be good if I can make the paste in a spare moment and use it when the mood strikes..

  3. Why not just freeze the whole curry?

    It tastes so much better reheated. My freezer is PACKED FULL of frozen curries that I reheat whenever I feel the need.

  4. I did freeze most of it. But i have a small baby and never know quite how much time I get to cook or get to the shops for that matter. Even with limited time I’m loathed to resort to jars of premade food and love cooking so freezing the paste means I can get it done a bit at a time, ie when my boy allows me the odd 15 minutes! I’ll let you know how it goes..

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