Chettinad Chicken with Tomato & Black Pepper

I was pretty exhausted and dare I say a little grumpy after a day filled with work, and general ‘stuff’. I was in the mood for something that would make me feel like it had all been worthwhile. Curry (and beer) go a long way to making this happen, and there’s none better than this amazing Chettinad chicken curry – flavoured with regional spices such as cinnamon, fennel and predominantly black pepper. This curry is spicy, fragrant and rich. But not at all heavy – the curry leaves at the end add a lovely fresh finish to this dish and the lingering heat of the pepper creates a welcome difference from the usual chilli hit. Grumpiness be gone!

INGREDIENTS:
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
4 dried red chillies
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 cardamom pods
4 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 onion (sliced)
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon finely grated garlic
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 1/2 tablespoons ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1kg chicken thighs (cut into 1/4 portions)
200g can chopped tomatoes
3 hot green chillies (chopped, seeds in)
20 fresh curry leaves
2 teaspoons black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Heat the oil in a large heavy based pan over a moderate heat until hot. Add the mustard seeds and sizzle for 30 seconds before adding the chillies, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds and cardamom. Cook for 1 minute, then add the cloves, cinnamon stick and fennel seeds and cook for a further 1 minute. Add the onion slices and cook for 7-8 minutes until soft and golden. Now add the ginger and garlic and fry, reducing the heat slightly to avoid sticking, for 1 minute. Now add the ground cumin, ground coriander, ground turmeric, salt and 1/4 cup water and stir continuously for 1 minute, before adding the chicken, tomato and chillies. Let this cook for 7-8 minutes until the sauce is thick and the oil begins to separate.

Add 400ml water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, partially covered, for 45 minutes (remove the lid after half way). Stir in the curry leaves and pepper and serve.

SERVING:
Serve alongside lots of fluffy basmati rice.

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