John’s Chicken Chettinad Dream Curry

A few nights ago I had a vivid dream in which I was cooking a curry called ‘Chicken Chettinad’. I’d never heard of it, and assumed it was just one of those silly things you make up in dreams. But the next day I was flipping through a friend’s cookery book and what should I find but a recipe for chicken chettinad! I copied it out, and made one a few days ago. I can honestly say it was the best curry I have ever made, and I’ve made quite a few. So here by popular demand is my recipe.

This comes out slightly less hot than Madras, although it does have some poke to it. for a hotter version you could increase the chilli powder, or add some chopped fresh chillies with the garlic and ginger.

Hope it works as well for you as it did for me!

Chicken Chettinad

2 tsps poppy seeds
225g fresh coconut or 200g block of creamed coconut
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
3 green cardamoms
4 cloves
¾ tsp turmeric
¾ tsp garam masala
Cooking oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ star anise
3 tsp red chilli powder
1.1 kg chicken, cut into smallish bits
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
Juice of ½ a lime
A few curry leaves
½ cup chopped fresh coriander

1)        Dry roast the poppy seeds, grind them, using pestle and mortar or electric coffee grinder, and soak in a little water in a large bowl for 15 mins

2)        Grind the whole spices (fennel, cardamom and cloves) and add to the poppy powder and water. Then add the powdered spices (cinnamon, turmeric and garam) and finally grate in the coconut. Make a fine paste, adding some water if necessary, but don’t make it too wet.

3)        Heat some oil in a pan and sauté the onion until light brown. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for 2 mins. Add the star anise and chilli powder, followed by the space paste. Fry for 5 mins, adding a little water if necessary

4)        Add the chicken and sauté for 5 mins. Then add the tomatoes. When the tomato juice has been absorbed, add 400 ml water and salt to taste. Simmer until the chicken is done and the liquid reduced.

5)        Just before serving add the lime juice and curry leaves, and sprinkle with fresh coriander.

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