Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sheeba’s Kerelan Chicken Curry

The smell of old frying oil, dust and bustling crowds, and the tastes of curries, rotis and atchars are still fresh in my memory... My husband and I recently spent four months travelling through South East Asia, spending two months experiencing the beauty of India – a richly diverse country. Every village seems to have its own customs, hundreds of gods are worshipped and every region has a unique food culture.

We spent a few nights in beautiful Fort Cochin, situated in the predominantly Catholic province of Kerala on the West coast of India where we stayed in a 'Home Stay’ with a very hospitable Keralan family. In Kerala, they often use fresh coconut in their curries and are known to be a lot more generous with chillis - adding roughly chopped green chilli's to almost everything, including omelettes. One of the typical Indian delicacies we miss most are the chilli omelettes, neatly packaged in newspaper, bought in the early hours of the morning on the train station platform.
When our host asked whether I would like to join the other guests for a cooking demonstration in her kitchen I, of course, jumped at the opportunity! With such grace and precision she went about cooking dish after dish of fragrant Keralan food while we sipped tiny glasses of sweet home-made wine ladled from a big pottery vat under the kitchen counter.
Plates of crab bisque, spicy prawns, fish curry and small flat breads deep fried in coconut oil soon filled the small and humble kitchen... This recipe is a chicken curry she demonstrated. I have made slight adjustments, replacing the fresh coconut milk and coconut oil, but if you are able to find a fresh coconut - she simply blended the soft flesh and the juice and strained it through a muslin cloth for that authentic Keralan flavour.

Sheeba's Keralan Chicken Curry (serves 6)Ingredients
• 1 kg of chicken pieces (with skin)• ¼ cup chopped coriander• 1 onion• 1 ½ cup Basmati rice (1/4 cup per person)• 1 tin coconut milk• 1 cinnamon stick• 6 cloves• 1 cardamom pod• 2 garlic cloves• 1 chilli• 2 cups of plain yogurt• 1 tsp chilli powder• 1 tsp turmeric powder• Salt and pepper to taste

  • To make the marinade, crush the cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom pod, garlic and chilli with a pestle and mortar. Add this to the yoghurt, chilli powder and tumeric powder.
  • Marinade the chicken pieces overnight in the fridge.
  • Scrape the excess marinade off the chicken.
  • Finely chop the onion.
  • Heat a deep frying pan or pot; add about 30 ml of olive oil and brown the onion until translucent.
  • Add the chicken pieces and fry with the skin-side down until brown.
  • When the chicken is browned, add one tin of coconut milk, cover the pot with a lid and simmer at a low heat until the chicken is cooked through.
  • Remove the lid once the chicken is cooked to reduce and thicken the sauce.
  • Add 125ml chopped coriander and serve with Basmati rice.

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