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Chettinad Chicken

Chettinad Chicken

Chettinad Chicken

India holds a place dear to my heart. I can’t claim blood ties or colonial affiliations, it’s simply a deep and inescapable affection that descended on me during my travels there a decade ago.

I was enchanted from the moment I left the confines of the New Delhi’s airport terminal at midnight to be greeted by a sea of white bearded men, anxiously awaiting the return of loved ones from visiting Mecca. That sight alone created the sense I was in a movie set. The yellow overhead lights, the smoky mist and the smell of dung fires reinforced the other worldliness of the moment.

It was a preview for the most extraordinary experience of my life. One journey was not enough so I returned to India to explore further not once but twice.

My second trip took me to India’s south. Centuries of sea trade with the Portuguese and French, along with the influence of a large Syrian Christianity community in exile have westernised the culture to a much greater degree than further north while access to exotic ingredients from further east has added complexity and nuance to the flavour of the food.

Chillies are used generously in the food of South India and seafood is served in abundance. The coconut and the curry leaf are commonplace, although, as in the north of India, small communities have developed their own unique cuisine.

Karaikudi

Karaikudi

Vivid memories of a riotously colourful temple festival, vast ornate mansions, gracious old world accommodation and seriously delicious food mark my time spent in Karaikudi, the heartland of India’s Chettinad community. The unique food of the Chettiar, an ancient caste of bankers and traders is renowned for it’s nuanced flavour featuring peppercorns and spices normally associated with the food from far eastern Asia.

The most widely known dish is Chettinad Pepper Chicken. This is my adaptation of a recipe from “The Indian Cookery Course” by Monisha Bharadwaj.

Chettinad Chicken

1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes

3/4 teaspoon black peppercorns, cracked

1 teaspoon of aniseed

6 cloves

3 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and husks discarded

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

2 teaspoons garlic infused oil

12 fresh curry leaves

800g boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2cm dice

3 whole star anise

2 green chillies, finely sliced

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

2 spring onions, green tops only, sliced

1 tomato chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

sea salt flakes to taste

Heat a dry pan and roast the chilli, peppercorns, aniseed, cloves and cardamon until aromatic and toasty. Crush to a powder in the mortar and pestle. Add the ground cinnamon.

Heat the oils in a large lidded saute pan.

Add the curry leaves and sizzle until aromatic.

Add the chicken and saute until golden brown.

Add all the remaining ingredients and a couple of tablespoons of water.

Bring the pan to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid, taste the sauce and add salt to taste.

Serves 6 with accompaniments.

What to serve with curry?

Sourdough flatbread

Rice Flour Carrot Paratha

Carrot and cashew pilau

Raita

Kachumber

Pumpkin Kutu

Bean Thoran

Sweet and Sour Spiced Tomatoes 

About ladyredspecs

I live in sunny Brisbane, Australia. My love of good food drives me as a cook, a reader, a traveller, an artist and but mostly as an eater. I cooked professionally for many years but have no formal training. Simply guided by a love of eating good food, respect for ingredients and an abhorrence of artificial additives, I cook instinctively applying the technical know how acquired by experience. I hope you enjoy what I share Sandra AKA ladyredspecs

19 comments on “Chettinad Chicken

  1. Ron
    April 25, 2018

    Having travel extensively in India prior to retirement, I found this post very interesting. I was blessed to see and experience many wonderful and some not so wonderful things there. I haven’t had or thought of Chettinad Chicken since my last journey through the Pandya Nadu region. What great memories your post has given me. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  2. Linda Duffin
    April 20, 2018

    I could happily spend a year of my life wandering around India. I’ve been to Kerala (wonderful) but I’m not familiar with this particular cuisine, so thanks for the share.

    Like

  3. Gather and Graze
    April 20, 2018

    An inspiring post Sandra! We’ve not visited India yet, despite absolutely loving the cuisine. We’ll get there… one day, I hope!

    Like

  4. chef mimi
    April 19, 2018

    What a lovely post. Unfortunately, India is on my travel bucket list, but it’s not on my husband’s. I’m going to keep working on him. Lovely chicken dish. Indian cuisine is one of our top two favorites.

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      April 20, 2018

      Lots of people are reluctant to visit India because of the horror stories you hear about beggars and poverty, but a visit to India fills you with an enormous optimism for humankind.

      Like

  5. Debi @ An Evolving Life
    April 19, 2018

    Oh my! What a wonderful tribute – the smells, the sounds, the sights. Just from your wirds alone, I am craving a good curry. Looks like I will be cooking this up this weekend. Is there anything you can use as a substitute for curry leaves? It is the one thing that might be hard to find.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ladyredspecs
      April 20, 2018

      There isn’t much that can replicate the unique flavour of curry leaf. Do you have a supplier of Asian ingredients? They may have curry leaf frozen. If not I think the best bet would be to carry on without it

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Megala
    April 19, 2018

    Nice to find a non-native enjoying Indian cuisine!

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      April 20, 2018

      I do Megala, very much. I love the nuance of regional variations, usually lost in what is known as Indian food in Australia

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Mackay Sherry
    April 19, 2018

    This sounds very delicious Sandra. Love your story of your love affair with India. Nicely written too. Yum to this dish. Cheers S xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • ladyredspecs
      April 20, 2018

      Thanks Sherry, India well and truly got under my skin, been there before I think

      Like

  8. katechiconi
    April 19, 2018

    I suspect this delicious sounding recipe is one when the ingredient assembly and prep takes longer than the actual cooking!

    Liked by 1 person

    • ladyredspecs
      April 19, 2018

      Spot on. For me, time in the kitchen cooking Indian food is always a pleasure. I put it down to the alchemy of spice

      Like

      • katechiconi
        April 19, 2018

        I knew it! I had visions of you weighing, sniffing, rubbing, chopping and grinding all those wonderful tastes and scents…

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Francesca
    April 19, 2018

    I love it when you write about India and your love for the place- the colour, the smell, the people, the crazy bedlam. I feel that way too, and get all nostalgic and sad when I read your wonderful words. I long to go back. Although I don’t eat chicken,this dish looks so good- i’ll send it to my son and then maybe after he makes it I could just steal a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ladyredspecs
      April 19, 2018

      There are so many places to visit, I wonder if returning to India might prevent me from discovering another love. I haven’t tried it yet but I think eggplant instead of chicken would be fabulous in this sauce

      Liked by 1 person

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