My take on Rick Steins Chettinad Chicken……
If my TV is switched on, Cookery shows are my favourite pastime.. There is so much to learn about food both from these shows & the internet.. New ingredients.. New dishes.. world cuisine.. tips etc.
When in the UK, I watched loads of cookery shows on BBC’s Food channel, about a couple of months before we moved back from Glasgow.. I found this particular show called Rick Steins India really fascinating, as he travelled the length & breadth of India looking for some of the best curry recipes..!
When Rick Stein reached Madhurai to try some of the authentic Chettinad style dishes, he got to know that the hotel – Taj Gateway had employed a housewife living close-by to cook the authentic regional dishes. That’s when my eyes stumbled on this burnt paper like looking spice… I had never ever heard or seen it before.. ! It fascinated me.. Stone flower/dagad/kalpasi etc. were the names used to refer to this spice. I knew for sure that this would be hard to come by in the UK. I waited patiently to get back to India to try this recipe out. After we got back, this particular recipe just remained hidden/lost somewhere in my thoughts.. until just about a couple of weeks back, while I was grocery shopping, I was into my usual scanning of shelves looking for new ingredients… and my eyes fell upon a packet of dagad..! The thought of this recipe suddenly rushed back into my memory..! The manner in which Rick Stein had praised this dish… even though it was quite hot for his taste, just flashed back. I picked up a pack. These are really light..a 50 gm pack should you last you a year or more. It is a lichen from a tree… with flavours very different from what I have ever experienced. Guess what.. this dish is even served at Rick Steins Cafe.. that’s how much he loved this.. & I can’t blame him.. if I owned a restaurant, I would make sure this went up in the menu…! :)
Chettinad region is in Tamil Nadu – a Southern State of India. It is knows for its famous cuisine – Chettinad cuisine. This cuisine is regarded as one of the hottest & most aromatic cuisine of South India. Most of the dishes in this region are eaten along with rice based accompaniments like Dosa, appam’s idli’s etc. Stone flower is a very common ingredient used in the Chettinad cuisine.
Starting from the spice blend to the whole spices, till the completed dish.. everything about this dish is very aromatic.. you got to try it to believe it.!! I know it’s a blend of some of the common Indian spices, with just the addition of some dagad/stone flower. That makes all the difference. Rick Stein asks you to substitute an extra piece cinnamon if you can’t find stone flower. But my take is that look for it, this is what takes the dish to a whole new level.
Check the colours of the dish.. it is so rich & inviting. A perfect dish for someone who likes a hot South Indian chicken dish. What are you waiting for?!!? Go look for the Stone flower.. rest of the things are available in any pantry for sure..!
For those of you who want to try this recipe with EGGS!!.. I have a small note towards the end of this recipe which will guide you.. !
Ingredients: (Serves 3) Preparation Time: 30 mins
Chicken breast – 500 gms, cut into cubes, washed & drained
Shallots/Sambhar onions – 150 gms, finely chopped
Note: I was lazy to peel 150 gms of sambhar onions. So I used about 50 gms of sambhar onions & 2 medium-sized onions.
Garlic – 12 plump cloves, peeled & minced
Ginger – 2 inch piece, peeled & minced
Cinnamon – 3 inch piece, roughly broken
Dagad/Stone flower – 3 whole, finely chopped
Tip: There are bits of back stuck to the stone flower, clean them & remove the bits of bark out. If you cannot find dagad, use an extra 2 inch piece of cinnamon.
Fennel – 1 tsp, I used the smaller variety, rather than the plump ones
Curry Leaves – about 3 sprigs while cooking & 1 sprig to garnish
Sugar – 3/4 tsp
Cooking oil – 1.5 – 2 tbsp
Salt to taste
For the fresh spice mix:
Kashmiri red chilli powder – 3/4 tbsp
Black Peppercorns – 3/4 tbsp
Fennel seeds – 3/4 tbsp
Coriander seeds – 3/4 tbsp
Rub some salt on the chicken cubes & keep aside. Grind all the ingredients mentioned for the spice mix into as fine a powder as you can.
Heat oil in a deep bottom non-stick pan/kadai. When the oil heats up, maintain heat at medium & throw in the cinnamon, stone flower & fennel seeds & fry for a minute till fragrant. Now throw in the finely chopped shallots along with a pinch of salt & curry leaves. Fry till the shallots turn soft & a light golden brown. Add the chicken & toss them around for a couple of minutes to let the chicken blend in with the soft golden onions and the aromatic oil in the kadai.
Now, add the freshly prepared spice mix, sugar, ginger & garlic, mix well & let the spices coat the chicken pieces. After a few minutes add about 100 ml of water, mix well. Check salt & adjust seasoning, remember we added salt to the onions & the chicken. Maintain heat at medium at all times. Cook and keep tossing the chicken often. If the sauce begins to stick to the pan & the spices begin to burn, add splashes of water till the chicken is done & the water in the sauce evaporates and is thick & clings to the chicken pieces. Turn off the heat.
Note: For all you vegetarians out there… I’m sure this recipe will taste awesome with Paneer or mushrooms or even babycorn. I ended up trying this recipe with boiled eggs.. & it turned out fantastic ! So all you EGGITARIANS.. there you go.. A new recipe for all of you.. So many of my Eggitarian friends often complain that I don’t post enough Egg recipes.. Just follow the same recipe & add the boiled eggs once you add all the ingredients, since adding the eggs in place of the chicken as mentioned in the recipe will be too soon & the yellow may dissolve in the curry as you toss the sauce around. So, prepare the sauce & add the boiled eggs towards the end, once the sauce thickens.. ! Enjoy!
Garnish with some fresh curry leaves.
Serve hot with a bowl of rice & rasam or with any Indian breads of your choice.
K & I enjoyed this with a bowl of hot konjee with a dash of some ghee & salt…! Heavenly & comforting. You can also enjoy this as a starter.