Chettinad Chicken

I’ve been enthralled by Rick Steins recent programme for the BBC – India.
He travelled around the country cooking with people from top hotels down to street traders and even in peoples kitchens.
I love Indian food, and this programme has inspired me to cook from scratch rather than my over-reliance on jars of sauce.
My first attempt was Chettinad Chicken a spicy, in a peppery way, chicken dish – delicious!
It has inspired me to throw the jars away and make them all from scratch… lets see how long that lasts!

For the spice blend

  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder

For the chicken

  • 50ml vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 5cm piece cinnamon bark
  • 1 tbsp very roughly chopped dagarful or an extra 3cm piece cinnamon stick
  • 150g shallots, diced
  • Handful of curry leaves
  • 700g skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 5cm pieces
  • 20g/4 cloves garlic, finely crushed
  • 20g/4cm ginger, finely grated
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 100ml water

Boiled basmati rice to serve


If using dagarful, sort through it and remove and discard any pieces of bark first.


For the spice blend, put the spices in a spice grinder and process to a powder.

For the chicken, heat the oil in a sturdy frying pan or karahi over a medium heat, add the fennel, cinnamon and dagarful and fry for 1 minute. Add the shallots and curry leaves and fry for 10 minutes until the shallots are softened and golden. Add the chicken and stir around for 1-2 minutes, then stir in the garlic, ginger, sugar, salt and all of the spice blend, and fry for 2 minutes. Add the water, and cook for about 10–15 minutes, stirring often and adding more splashes of water if needed to stop it sticking to the pan, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce thick and reduced and clinging to the chicken. Serve with boiled rice.