South Indian Chicken Curry

I love this curry! It’s so easy to make and the results are very impressive. The second that the coconut oil gives off its unique aroma, I am transported back to Tamil Nadu where it filled the air of every restaurant and hawker stall. The curry itself is simple, there’s no garlic, ginger or onion to prepare either, which cuts down on the time it takes to get to your mouth! It has a delicious, rich aroma and flavour, creamy but spicy too! I normally use this recipe for fish, which works brilliantly, but tonight used chicken instead and the results were equally good. Incidentally, I use kokum in this recipe. Kokum is a Southern Indian, dried berry which when soaked and used in curries imparts a sour note to the dish – synonymous with South Indian cuisine. I stumbled upon this ingredient in an Indian grocer and it’s pretty hard to find. If you can’t find it, you can use 2 teaspoons of tamarind pulp at the end of cooking instead and achieve pretty much the same result.


4 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
8 black peppercorns
12 fresh curry leaves

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons Kashmiri chilli powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1x5cm cinnamon stick

4 dried kokum (optional)
4 fresh hot green chillies (slit lengthways)
1 teaspoon salt
500ml coconut milk
400g chicken thighs (cut into bitesize pieces)
1 lime (juice of)
sesame seeds (for garnish)

Heat the coconut oil in a wok until just smoking, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns and curry leaves and fry for 30 seconds or so until the mustard seeds start to pop. Quicky add the cumin, coriander, chilli powder, garam masala, turmeric and cinnamon and stir well, add about 100ml of the coconut milk and stir. Let the oil separate from the paste (about 3 minutes) before adding the rest of the coconut milk, chillies, kokum, chicken and 250ml water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to gently simmer. Cook for 30 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked and the sauce reduced. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with plenty of fluffy basmati rice to soak up the plentiful sauce.

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