a blog by Gemma Thomas.
I made this chicken a little while ago when my friend Lizzie came over to help me finish off the Christmas gin and keep me company whilst my husband was locked away in his studio. As is often the way when I invite friends over for weeknight suppers, I ask them what they would like me to cook. More often than not, the answer is curry.
Making dinners on request in this way for some time, means that I have since cooked with, and adapted, quite a few different recipes. Making curry for friends, especially for groups, can be a tricky thing, as our tolerances to heat vary so much. That’s one of the reasons Indian restaurants do so well: everybody can order their own dish. I get around this by cooking my medium curries and serving them with both hot sauce and raita, so people can heat them up and cool them down as they wish. Unless I know the friend coming to dinner particularly well, in which case I cook for their preference, for I am as happy with a vindaloo as I am with a korma.
This particular dish originates from the Indian region of Kerala; once seldom seen among the ‘traditional’ Indian foods that dominated the high street and our cookbooks, this cuisine has increased in popularity in the last ten years and is now as ubiquitous as the rest. One of the main features of this cuisine is the use of coconut and coconut milk in many of its curries; which is the basis of the sauce for this Keralan chicken dish.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that these innocuous-looking coconut curries are mildly spiced, for many of them pack as much of a punch as their redder-tinted counterparts. This curry gets its heat from the use of dried red chillies, in addition to the spices that give it its warmth. Of course, you can reduce or increase the chillies as you wish. The quantities I have used are for a medium-spiced dish.
8 pieces of chicken drumsticks and thighs
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 dried bay leaf
8 black peppercorns
2 cardamom pods
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 dried red chillies
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
12 curry leaves
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
250ml coconut milk
Rub the chicken with the ground turmeric and set aside. Place a small frying pan over a medium heat and cook the coriander seeds, fennel seeds, bay leaf, peppercorns and cardamom pods for a couple of minutes until fragrant, stirring them so they do not burn. Transfer them to a pestle and mortar, along with the ground cinnamon and dried chillies, and grind to a powder.
Place a large frying pan over the heat and heat the oil until simmering. Add the mustard seeds and the curry leaves and cook for about 30 seconds, being careful to stand far enough away in case the seeds pop. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, but not browned, about five minutes. Add the chicken and cook for a few minutes on each side until browned.
Add the coconut milk and season with salt. Bring to a simmer, and then turn down the heat, cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.
Adapted from a recipe by Serious Eats. Serves four.