Dan Toombs’ Chicken Xacuti

Serves: 4

This famous Goan curry is a hit.

Like so many I have typed – all I hope – it is just so unique, so special, so different to your usual local Indian. Indeed, we couldn’t see a world where we would get this served up outside of your really top Indian nosheries.

It is of course, a completely unique curry base.

I quartered the stock and then cooked it down far more than Dan suggests, though I cannot see how this wasn’t necessary to achieve the sort of gravy you would expect.

Substituted thyme for the ajwain seeds – which seemed fine – though ironically picked up some ajwain seeds the next day at an Indian grocer. Next time.

This is a special Saturday-night in curry.

Unique as I said. Special. Just special and oh wow wonderful.

Ingredients

Xacuti Masala

6 Kashmiri red dried chillies, chopped
1 c dried coconut flakes
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp ajwain (carom) seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp black poppy seeds (substitute black sesame seeds)
7 cloves
1 tbsp black peppercorns
5cm piece of cinnamon stick
4 star anise
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

For the curry

8 skinless chicken thighs
2 tsp rapeseed oil (canola)*
1 tsp black mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
2 onions, finely chopped
2 green bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
2 c chicken stock (I suggest 1/2c)
1 1/2 tamarind paste or concentrate
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 c coriander, finely chopped
Salt, to taste

Method

  1. Start by making the Xacuti masala: in a dry frypan, toast the Kashmiri chillies for about a minute, turning regularly until fragrant. Place in a bowl of warm water to soak for 30 minutes.
  2. Toast the coconut flakes until lightly browned and set aside.
  3. Toast the cumin, coriander, ajwain seeds, fennel and poppy seeds, the cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick and star anise over a medium-heat until fragrant and warm to the touch. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
  4. When the chillies are soft, drain them reserving the soaking water, then blend them with the coconut flakes and the rest of the masala ingredients along with a little of the chilli soaking water to make a paste. (If the soaking water is too bitter, use fresh water instead.)
  5. Pour the paste over the chicken in a large bowl and mix to coat. Marinate for as long as you can: overnight if possible.
  6. Heat the oil in a large frypan over a high-heat and when bubbling, adding the mustard seeds, stirring until they pop. Reduce the heat and add the curry leaves and cook for 30 seconds. Add the onions and fry for 5 minutes until soft, lightly browned and translucent. Stir in the chillies, then the chicken and all the marinade.
  7. Stir well to cover the chicken in the marinade and onion mixture; add the stock and cook down to a gravy.
  8. Stir in the tamarind and nutmeg and season. Stir in the coriander, season with salt and serve.

* We have doubled down on our oils this year and it makes a difference. Of course. Coconut oil, especially mustard oil. Canola will make the cut here, though do yourself the favour and invest in some Grapeseed oil. Doesn’t burn, no flavour, great for this sort of thing.

David Tanis’ Braised Chicken with Lemon and Olives

Serves: 4 – 6

I love a simple recipe that comes good and this one simply delivers.

It’s a bake (✅), it’s reasonably healthy (✅) and it’s easy (✅).

Though it’s the richness of wonderful Mediterranean flavour that truly gets it over the line. (✅).

It is better than the seeming sum of its parts and bravo for it.

The richness of the reserved stock, the break apart chicken… and those olives.

This is a mid-week meal that will set the clock forward to Friday when the cooking can commence. It’s just that good, that fun and that successful.

Paired with a salad of greens, red onion, tomato, maybe some cucumber and plenty of oregano and a good vinaigrette: I reckon only a bottle of chilled red along-side could better it.

Lock next Wednesday evening in and the road to the weekend just got much easier.

And chill that red.

Ingredients

8 chicken thighs (ideally skin-on and bone in)
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp crushed fennel seeds
1 tbsp roughly chopped rosemary
1 tbsp olive oil
2 lemons, cut into 8 wedges each
1 c olives, black and green pitted
1 c chicken stock
3 tbsp chopped parsley to serve

Method

  1. Pat chicken thighs dry with paper towels. Season well with salt and pepper and place in a baking dish one layer, (skin) side up. Sprinkle with red pepper, garlic, fennel and rosemary and drizzle with olive oil. Rub seasoning on all sides. Tuck lemon wedges here and there, marinating for 15 minutes. Heat the oven to 190c.
  2. Put the baking dish in the oven for 20 minutes uncovered (or until the skin, if you have it, starts to brown). Scatter olives over evenly and then pour over the stock. Cover tightly and bake for 1 hour.
  3. Remove thighs and lemon wedges and arrange on a platter and keep warm. Pour pan juices into a saucepan and quickly skim fat from the surface. Over high heat, simmer rapidly until reduced by half. Spoon juices over the chicken, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Gary Mehigan’s Karaage Chicken Burgers with Onion Slaw and Wasabi Mayo

Makes: 4

When it comes to burgers, we absolutely love it when we stumble on a burger that breaks into our top burgers of all time.* We can’t stop smiling.

And so here is one of those burgers, plated by my mother at a recent American-themed lunch. (And yes, I get that this burger, other than the bun and the fried chicken is the antithesis of an American burger!)

In his book, Gary references a time on Masterchef with Gordon Ramsay where Gordon was unimpressed by a challenge where contenstants plated up all manner of burgers; though where none of them were conventional or centered around a traditional patty.

As Gary says, Gordon might be right, though he hasn’t had this burger.

(Gordon is wrong. This is an excellent, excellent burger.)

Ingredients

4 chicken thighs
1/2 c katakuriko potato starch
1 c panko breadcrumbs
Peanut or sunflower oil for shallow-frying
4 soft brioche-style burger buns
1 ripe avacado, sliced
2 c mizuna or rocket leaves

Chicken marinade

2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin
2 tsp finely grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, grated

Onion slaw

1 white onion, thinly sliced
1 c shredded daikon
1 tbsp pickled ginger, finely chopped
1/4 c rice vinegar

Wasabi mayonaise

1/3 c Kewpie mayonnaise
2 – 3 tsp wasabi paste (depending on taste)

Method

  1. To make the marinade, combine the ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the chicken and stir through to coat. Cover and marinade in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, for the onion slaw. combine all the ingredients and set aside. For the mayo, combine the ingredients and refridgerate until using.
  3. Combine the potato startch and panko crumbs in a bowl, then add the chicken pieces and mix thoroughly with your hands to coat.
  4. Prepare a tray with a wire rack and tongs and set to one side in preparation to fry the chicken, Pour oil into a deep frying pan to a depth of 1.5cm, then heat over a medium-high heat until the oil reaches 160c. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain the temperature.
  5. Gently lower the chicken pieces into the hot oil with the tongs ad cook for 6 – 8 minutes, turning halfway, until evenly cooked through and crispy. You can check to see if the chicken is cooked using a thermometer – it should read above 65c. Lift the chicken from the oil with the tongs and place on a wire rack to drain. (If you feel that the chicken still needs a cooking nudge though you have already have a dark crunchy outside, place in an oven on 180c for a few minutes).
  6. Cut the buns in haf and cook under a grill until golden. Smear the cut side of the top half with a generous dollop of the wasabi mayonnaise. Place a little avacado and slaw on the base, add the crispy chicken, then the greens and sandwich together.

* Those burgers that Nat and I reckon have made that list – that have been absolute homeruns – are:

Anjum Anand’s Best Ever Burger with Spiced Onions
Gordon Ramsay 1-million Subscriber Burger (ironic I know)
Jamie Oliver’s Insanity Burger
Neil Perry’s ‘Hamburger’ (my favourite)

Ajoy Joshi’s Pepper and Garlic Chicken

Serves: 4 – 6

Another cracking Ajoy Joshi recipe, where according to Ajoy, this recipe began life at the Nagarjuna Restaurant in Bangalore where it is renowned for this Tamil Nadu dish.

The steaming of the chicken is clever, finishing it in ghee (Ajoy asks for oil and unsalted butter) until golden.

We served this on steamed rice with mint sauce, lots of chutney and coriander… and it was excellent. It reminded us of eating Nilgiri’s (Ajoy’s wonderful lower North Shore restaurant) and on that basis, it has to be typed.

Ingredients

1 cinnamon stick, about 7.5cm long
2 tsp green cardamom pods
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1/3 c chopped fresh coriander
36 fresh curry leaves
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
1 fresh mild long green chilli, finely chopped
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp tamarind concentrate
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
1kg skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and halved crosswise
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 unsalted butter (N.B. We substituted oil/butter with ghee)
Mango pickle/chutney to serve
Steamed rice to serve
Coriander to serve
Mint sauce to serve

Method

  1. In a spice grinder, combine cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns and grind to a fine powder. Transfer ground spices to a small food processor and add coriander, curry leaves, juice of 1 lemon, chilli, garlic, ginger, tamarind, turmeric, and salt. Process until a paste forms.
  2. Place chicken pieces in a non-reactive bowl. Add remaining juice of 1/2 lemon and turn to coat. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add paste and turn chicken to coat well. Set aside for 15 minutes to marinate.
  3. Line a large bamboo steamer with baking paper. Arrange chicken on a single layer on paper, cooking in 2 batches if necessary. Place basket over a wok or other pan of simmering water, Cover and steam until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 12 – 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
  4. In a large frying pan, heat oil and butter (or ghee) over a medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, 1 – 2 minutes per side. Serve with rice, fresh coriander, mint sauce and chutney.

Tony Tan’s Chicken Pepper Stir-fry (Curry)

Serves:4

Holy shit, this dish is amazing.

Amazing.

The heat, the bang, the spices. The whole thing.

We were blown away. It’s part Malaysian, Sri Lankan, maybe Southern Indian. Not sure.

Singaporean?

Though Lordy.

It’s the paste with the coconut. I’m sure of it.

This is a stir-fry curry that you have to do. This is a home run.

When we find a new curry that is so unique, we smile.

This is one of them.

Serve with lots of rice and plenty of white wine and here is your night done.

Ingredients

1/4 c ghee (or vegetable oil)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
3cm ginger, finely shredded
3 green cayenne chillies, thinly sliced
2 onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
500gm chicken thigh, cut into bite sized pieces
Large pinch of black pepper
Juice of half a lime
Extra fried curry leaves to serve

Spice paste

1 tbsp vegetable oil
100gm coarsely grated coconut flesh (or 50gm desiccated coconut)
2 cloves
3 cardamom pods
5 black peppercorns
1cm piece of cinnamon quill
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander

Method

  1. For the spice paste, heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add the coconut, cloves, cardamom pods, peppercorns and cinnamon, and cook, stirring occasionally, until coconut is golden brown. Add ground spices and cook for another minute. Cool and transfer to a blender. Add 200ml water and blend to a fine paste.
  2. Heat ghee or oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add mustard seeds and as soon as they pop, add curry leaves, ginger and green chilli. Cook, stirring frequently until softened: 2 – 3 minutes. Add the onion and cook until golden brown: 2 – 3 minutes. Add garlic, followed by tomatoes and spice paste, stirring each ingredient for a minute, before adding the next one. Season to taste with salt.
  3. Add chicken to the pan and cook until golden. Add 250ml hot water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to, cover pan partially until the chicken is cooked and the sauce is thickened. Serve sprinkled with black pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice and with extra fried curry leaves.

Christine Manfield’s Mughlai Chicken

Serves: 4

Christine Manfield‘s Mughlai Chicken is just another brilliant curry from her wonderful book, Tasting India.

It was just luscious, so unique and perfectly executed by Nat. Local Indian restaurant this is not.

Served alongside another wonderful cauliflower and potato curry, we had an old friend over for dinner, decanted a cracking red and had a memorable Saturday night in.

Doesn’t get much better than this.

Ingredients

1 tbsp vegetable oil
50gm finely sliced white onion
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp minced ginger
2tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
500gm chicken thigh, cut into 2cm cubes
100gm thick plain yoghurt, whisked
300ml white chicken stock
3 tsp mint chutney
50gm finely chopped spinach leaves
100gm spinach puree
2 tsp salt
20 fried curry leaves, slightly crushed
1 tsp ghee, melted

Mint Chutney

100gm mint leaves
75gm coriander leaves
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 small green chilli, minced
2 tsp minced ginger
5 tbsp thick plain yoghurt
2 red shallots, finely diced
2 tsp chat masala
1/2 tsp sea salt
Pinch of chilli powder

Method

Mint chutney

Blend the mint, coriander, lemon juice, chilli and ginger to make a smooth paste. Stir in the yoghurt, shallot, chat masala, salt and chilli powder. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Spinach puree

Blanch spinach leaves in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain and chop then puree in a food processor.

Fried curry leaves

Heat some vegetable oil to 170c and fry fresh curry leaves in small batches for 20 seconds

The Curry

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli over a high heat until softened. Add the chicken and toss to combine. Fry for a minute and then add the yoghurt.
  2. When the mixture starts to simmer, add the stock. Bring back to the simmer and then stir through the chutney and spinach leaves. Cook for 10 minutes until the chicken is tender and the gravy reduced.
  3. Add the spinach puree and salt and stir until combined and heated through. Stir in the curry leaves and ghee and serve with steamed rice.

Grilled Rosemary Chicken Thighs – Kamado

Serves: 6

In one of my previous posts I mentioned that during Covid, we invested in a Kamado: a heavy, ceramic BBQ based on the traditional Japanese wood or charcoal stove.

It hasn’t always been the easiest thing to master.

It took trial and error to understand the heat potential and elasticity of charcoal.

Do not cook pizzas over a direct heat.

If you are going to cook naan bread and plug it into the roof of the device – which you can – oil the surface first.

And, do consider the use of a hair dryer in emergencies: it is not something to be ashamed of.

The most interesting approach for me however has been the combined use of charcoal and wood: you get immense heat when you need it, you have staying power thanks to the coal and you get flame when you want it.

I am starting a new category of recipes dedicated to the Kamado.

And this is my first recipe, though I have a few to do.

Combined with a wonderful Karen Martini slaw and corn cooked over the flames of the Kamado, it transported us back to the very best BBQ Nat and I had in Austin a few years ago.

This is BBQ. This… is amazing.

Ingredients

15 chicken thighs (free-range please people)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 – 4 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp garlic powder

Method

  1. Combine all the ingredients except the chicken.
  2. Mix well and add the chicken, ensuring that it is covered in the mixture.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and ideally 24 hours, stirring a couple of times.
  4. Prepare your Kamado for direct cooking: I drifted between 150c and 220c based on the flames.
  5. Char-grill until well cooked through and caramelised and enjoy!

Chicken skewers: Moroccan-style marinade

Makes: 12 skewers

For Nat’s birthday, we got an awesome, portable, charcoal grill from Everdure, a company Heston Blumenthal has been promoting.

The idea was inspired by some Phillipino pork skewers we had cooked over a traditional hibachi grill at a market a few weeks prior; though a sensible, all-in-one charcoal grill versus a not so sensible, not so portable hibachi grill steered us in the Heston direction.

Anyway, we have loved the grill and the many skewers we’ve made with the boys and friends.

There is something neat about cooking your own meat over a super hot grill. Cold beer, sizzling meat, some dipping sauces… doesn’t get much better.

This marinade we have done twice and it has been really popular.

Make it the day ahead and marinate the chicken in a big ziplock bag. When cutting the meat, keep it small and consistent. Small cubes, not big off cuts.

If you can find chicken thigh with the skin on, even better… though however you do it, get the surface chargrilled and enjoy the taste of charcoal BBQ.

Ingredients

1.2kg chicken thighs

Marinade

1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp honey
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp salt flakes
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Freshly ground pepper

Method

  1. Cube the chicken into 2cm cubes, retaining the fat.
  2. Combine the marinade ingredients with a few cracks of pepper. Marinate the chicken cubes with the marinate, ideally overnight, refrigerated.
  3. Soak bamboo skewers in a shallow dish of cold water for 30 minutes and then drain.
  4. Skewer the chicken tightly. Heat the grill on high. And cook those puppies, marinating with the remaining marinade as you go.

(Not) Butter chicken

(Not) Butter chicken

Serves: 4

The last ‘generic’ curry I I typed up, I commented that I had always steered clear of the Indian take-away favourites – Rogan Josh, Tikka Masala, Butter Chicken – because, well, they’re the sold-out, hardly Indian curries. 

In fact, butter chicken was the worst of the lot.

Often a flavourless, nuclear yellow/orange goop, I literally only entertain it because the boys will eat it: validation that it must be bland. (Sorry boys).

So by typing this up, you must have guessed it.

This is a seriously good curry. A seriously good, rich, flavoursome, moorish butter chicken, so much so, that you’d say it isn’t butter chicken.

So maybe after-all I haven’t cooked butter chicken.

Either way, you will love it. Just tell them it’s not butter chicken.

Ingredients

1 kg chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 bsp grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 stems, curry leaves
1 red chilli, chopped including seeds
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 x 400gm can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
165ml coconut cream
1 tsp golden syrup
½ concentrated chicken stock cube

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat.
  2. Season the chicken thighs well and add to the pan; cook until golden brown. Set aside.
  3. Add the butter to the pan and when heated, add the onion and cook cover a medium heat until softened. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and add the curry leaves, chilli and spices and cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and coconut cream; add the golden syrup and stock cube and stir to dissolve.
  5. Return the chicken and cook on a low heat for at least an hour; several more if you have the time.
  6. Check the seasoning and serve garnished with the fresh coriander and steamed white rice.

Chicken, Pumpkin and Cashew Curry

Chicken, Pumpkin and Cashew Curry

Serves: 4 – 6

This is a really neat curry from The Blue Ducks’ ‘Real Food’ cookbook, a book we really like and have had some early success from.

It is unusual, both in terms of the amount of curry powder you need for it, as well as the wonderfully fragrant paste of ginger, garlic, curry leaves, lime leaves, coriander roots and lemongrass; though it definitely, definitely pulls together.

Just ensure that you get the curry powder to a powder, even if it means a second vino whilst working the mortar and pestle.

It is warm, comforting, fragrant and fun to pull together. Comfort being the operative word; this is simply a great chicken curry you’d happily eat every night with rice – or cauliflower rice as we did.

The original recipe asks for a whole chicken cut up, though we used 1kg of chicken thigh.

Final point: Kashmiri chilli powder.

Most of Rick Stein’s curries ask for it. Among many others.

Sure, you can substitute other chilli powders, though if you can, make the effort and get some Kashimiri chilli powder from an Indian grocer. It is mild and adds a wonderful red hue rather than simply being the Sherman Tank so many chilli powders are. It is worth it.

Ingredients

3 tbsp ghee (or vegetable oil)
1 large onion, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
5cm piece of ginger, chopped
10 – 15 curry leaves
3 kaffir lime leaves (remove the spine)
1 bunch of coriander, leaves picked and roots and stalks reserved
1 lemongrass stem, white part only, chopped
1 x 1.6 kg chicken, 10 – 12 pieces, skin on and bones in (or 1kg of chicken thigh)
200ml coconut milk
500gm peeled and deseeded pumpkin, cut into 5cm dice
400gm can diced tomatoes
100gm roasted cashews
1 heaped tsp salt flakes
Natural yoghurt

Curry Powder

75gm coriander seeds (yes, a lot!)
50gm cumin seeds (ditto)
8 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
6 black peppercorns
½ tsp ground turmeric
2 dried chillies
½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

Method

  1. For the curry powder, toast the coriander seeds cumin seeds, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves in a dry frying pan until fragrant and lightly coloured. Tip the spices into a spice grinder – or mortar and pestle – and grind until a fine powder.
  2. Place the garlic, ginger, curry leaves, lime leaves, coriander roots and stalks, and lemongrass in a blender or small food processor and blitz to a paste.
  3. Place a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the ghee and fry the onion until it is just turning golden. Add the curry powder and cook over a medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure the spices don’t burn.
  4. Add the paste to the pan and fry for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the chicken, coconut milk, pumpkin, tomatoes, cashews, salt and half the coriander leaves. Slowly simmer over a low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Sprinkle with the remaining coriander leaves and serve with steamed rice (or cauliflower rice) and a dollop of natural yoghurt.