Karnatakan Black Pepper Chicken

This curry hails from the Southern Indian state of Karnataka. For thousands of years the Indians have been using pepper to spice dishes. Long before the chilli was introduced to India from the New World, the peppercorn’s dry heat was used to give food kick. The flavour is a different kind of spice, a slow lingering heat which is really very delicious. Unusually, this curry is baked in the oven, which I have never encountered before. I’m not sure how this effects the flavour, if at all, but the finished dish is one of the tastiest curries I’ve cooked in a while. Thankfully, there is a lot leftover, some of which I will be scoffing for lunch.

5 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 medium onions (sliced)
6 garlic cloves (minced)
2cm piece fresh ginger (minced)
6 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon chilli powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 fresh green chillies (finely chopped)
4 black cardamom pods (or 6 green)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
30 fresh curry leaves
1kg chicken thighs (cut into large chunks)
500ml chicken stock
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium bunch coriander (roughly chopped, stalks and leaves)

Preheat oven to 190ºC

Heat the 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over a low heat. Gently fry the onions for 15 minutes until soft and caramalised. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a further 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and spoon into a food processor. Blend into a smooth puree and set aside.

Return the frying pan to a moderate heat with 1 tablespoon of oil and when hot, add the black pepper, paprika, chilli powder and ground coriander and stir fry for about 30 seconds. Add the onion puree and stir well for about 1 minute until fragrant. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Heat a large lidded casserole pan with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over a moderate heat. When hot, add the fresh chillies, cardamom pods, cumin seeds and curry leaves and simmer briefly before adding the chicken – fry for 5 minutes to brown lightly then add the onion paste, chicken stock, red wine vinegar and salt and stir well. Bring to a simmer then remove from the heat. Place in the oven with the lid on and cook, stirring occasionally for 40 minutes. Stir in the chopped coriander and bake for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve.

Serve alongside lots of fluffy basmati rice.

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