Thursday, 15 March 2012

South Indian Inspired Chicken Curry

My family does not hail from the South of India, so I don't claim to be any kind of expert. The food of South India is usually exceptionally hot, with lots of chili. Apparently this is because the chili encourages sweating, which means you can keep cool in the fiercely hot climate of the south. South Indian food also reflects the produce of the area, with coconut, coconut milk and bananas appearing in dishes. Many South Indian curries are also cooked in coconut oil.
The marinade ingredients pre-prepared

Slash the thighs a couple of times to allow the marinade to permeate them
Some readers will be familiar with South Indian dishes such as the Masala Dosa, a scrumptious dish served on an enormous stainess steel thali consisting of a lightly crispy pancake made of fermented dahl, curried potato, rasam (thin dahl) and spicy chutney. That dish is beyond my skill; the making of the pancake itself is an art. So here is something altogether more basic and manageable.

This chicken curry attempts to deliver some of the flavour of South India without the heat. Even though it has 3 chilis in it, the fact that the sauce is cooked in coconut milk seems to neutralise the heat. The spice list may seem a bit daunting, but once you buy these spices, you will find that you'll use them again and again in many other Indian dishes. Because the majority of them are whole spices, they will keep well in an airtight container kept away from the light.

Serves 3-4


For the marinade paste:
2 small (or 1 large) white onion/s, peeled and roughly diced
7 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly diced
2-3” (5-8cm) piece of ginger,  peeled and roughly diced
3 green chilis, roughly chopped (please de-seed if you don't like too much heat)
1 tsp turmeric

8 chicken thighs, skinned and slashed

For the curry sauce:
4 dried curry leaves
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
3 tbsp mustard oil
2 sticks cinnamon
½  tsp ground black pepper
5 cloves
5 green cardamom pods
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm thick half moons
⅓  butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1cm slices
1 440ml (standard size) can coconut milk
2-3 tbsp fresh coriander
½  tsp ground sea salt

Serve with cooked basmati rice

Optional / variation: use chunks of sweet potato instead of ordinary potatoes.


Take all the marinade ingredients and put into a blender/food processor. 
Blender is loaded and ready to go!
 Blitz into a puree, although if it is too thick, feel free to add a tablespoon of water to loosen.
The marinade is ready!

Make sure the marinade coats all of the chicken
Rub the marinade paste over the chicken and place in a non-metallic bowl. It must be non-metallic or the acids in the marinade will react with the bowl, resulting in ICKY tasting curry!

Allow to marinate in the fridge. I did this first thing in the morning and left it whilst I went to work – around 8 hours. However, 1 hour at room temperature will do if you don't have that sort of time.

In a large saucepan, put your mustard oil and heat. Now fry the mustard seeds and curry leaves and allow to sizzle, about 2 minutes.

Now add the marinated chicken, any leftover marinade (which will make up the curry sauce) and all of the spices (including the salt). Brown the chicken all over.

Now add the tin of coconut milk and 100-150ml of water. Put the lid on and cook for 30 minutes.

Add the potatoes and squash. Cook for 5-10 mins with the lid on. Then another 10 minutes with the lid off.

Adding the veggies.....
Give them enough time to cook in the sauce....
Now cook your rice – which will take around 15-20 mins. Leave the curry cooking for 15-20 mins with the lid off.

Check the potatoes and squash are cooked. If so, then turn the heat off and stir through the chopped coriander, or serve topped with the coriander. (I served the coriander as a topping as it looks more attractive that way). Serve with the cooked rice.
The chicken is cooked as are the potatoes and squash

The finished dish, ready to enjoy!

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