Kerala Chicken Curry

Update: Ever since shifting to Bangalore in December 2015, if there's one thing I've written on my blog continuously and shamelessly, it's the way I struggle with my routine. At the beginning of every month I promise myself to blog more, but even though I end up cooking a fair bit, I fail to shoot each and every time. Dirty dishes and I are not the best of friends, and frankly speaking, the time taken to set up a shoot, arrange your food and props and photograph till you're satisfied is way too much for me to afford. There have been so many times I have cooked something new, and even though it turned out great and blog-worthy, I didn't have pictures to post it. In my defence all I can say is I try to write down the recipes of dishes that turn out really well, in the hope that one day I'll make it again and (touch wood) shoot it. And then there are dishes that I have previously posted on the blog, so there's really no pressure to shoot them.

One such case was this Kerala Chicken Curry. On one of my weekly offs, I made it and some steamed rice and was just about to sit down to devour it, when I realised that I was not running against the clock. I didn't have the compulsion to get ready and go to work, and so, if I could make peace with the dirty dishes, I could squeeze out some time to shoot it (because trust me, the photos in the original blog post sucked!). And I did exactly that. I really should cook more on Thursdays. Like really.

Original post: Kerala is one of my favourite places to visit in India. And Keralan food is undoubtedly my most favourite. I totally get weak in the knees when it comes to coastal cuisine. The combination of coconut milk, curry leaves and tamarind seduces me more than Benedict Cumberbatch. Wait, no. No, no, no, no, no. That was an overstatement. Let me rephrase. This triumvirate seduces me in a way Benedict Cumberbatch would have had he been food. Yes.

However, I have noticed that people in my city don't particularly have the palette for enjoying this mild, subtle yet breathtaking flavour combination. Maybe it is due to the lack of coastal specialty restaurants like Gunpowder (I can only recall of Tamarind and Ammini which serve coastal cuisine in Calcutta)....or the age-old obsession with the butter and ghee-laden Punjabi food. But mostly I guess it is the mental denial to accept South Indian food as anything other than idli, dosa and sambar. I could spend a lifetime in Gunpowder...eating buff fry and malabar paratha (Delhi restaurants are very holy that way. They don't serve beef!). My friends (and fellow food and travel enthusiasts) Tanushree and Abhishek would vouch for that. But now that I am no longer in Delhi, I have to recreate Gunpowder in my own kitchen. This is a very basic Chicken Curry. Please adjust the amount of chillis if you want less heat. I don't want you blaming me for the fire in your belly. You can make the same curry with fish, prawns or even eggs! How versatile is that?

P.S.: Pardon the photographs because they were taken under artificial light. I am yet again guilty of cooking at 2 o'clock at night. No, I am not disoriented. The 41 degree C temperature renders kitchen entry during the daytime an impossible task!

Kerala Chicken Curry

Serves: 4-5

Ingredients:

Chicken, cut into pieces: 1 kg
Dried red chillies: 2-3
Ginger paste: 2 tbsp
Garlic paste: 2 tbsp
Onion, sliced: 2
Coriander powder: 2 tsp
Red chilli powder: 2 tsp
Turmeric powder: 2 tsp
Garam Masala: 1 tsp
Star anise powder: 1 tsp (you can also use fennel powder)
Green chillies: 5-6
Coconut milk: 200 ml
Kokum: 3 segments (tamarind concentrate is a good substitute)
Curry leaves: a handful
Oil: 1 tbsp
Salt, to taste

Method:

1. Marinade the chicken pieces with half the ginger-garlic paste and a little bit of salt for 3-4 hours and keep in the refrigerator.

2. In a non-stick wok, heat the oil and add onions, remaining ginger and garlic and stir on medium heat till translucent. Add the dried red chillies and saute for another minute.

3. Mix the turmeric, red chilli and coriander powder with a little bit of water and add to the onions. Cook till oil separates.

4. Now add chicken pieces and fry for 5-6 minutes.

5. Add the garam masala, star anise powder and salt and continue cooking till chicken is almost done. Halfway through this stage, pop in the kokum segments and some of the curry leaves.

6. Now, add the coconut milk and boil for 2-3 mins. Cook covered for another 7-8 minutes.

7. Add another round of curry leaves. Take off the heat and serve with steamed rice or malabar paratha (which is something I'd never be able to make!)

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