Chettinad Ghee Chicken Varuval
By Maria MK
Chunks of chicken swathed in a thick, tangy moreish masala, it’s absolutely lip-smacking whether paired with crusty French baguette or Indian thosai. Relying on earthy, musky pan-roasted spices like cumin, coriander and fenugreek rather than dried Kashmiri chilli, this Chettinad-style chicken dish has a generous dollop of ghee for oomph!
Total Time: 3 hours
Serves: 3-4 persons
700g chicken, skin on, cut into smaller pieces
4 tablespoons yoghurt
1 tablespoon lime juice
½ tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
B: Spice Paste
1 tablespoon ghee
6 dried chillies
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
½ tablespoon whole black pepper
½ tablespoon fennel seeds
¼ tablespoon fenugreek seeds
¼ tablespoon cumin seeds
2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled
3 cm ginger, peeled
C: Spices for Sautéing
3 tablespoons ghee
2 sprigs curry leaves, stems removed
1 star anise
5 cardamom pods
½ tablespoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Salt to taste
Fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1.1n a large mixing bowl, combine chicken with marinade. Allow it to stand at least 2 hours or refrigerate meat overnight.
2. Heat up a saucepan over low heat. Add in 1 tablespoon ghee, roast dried chillies for 10-20 seconds, then set aside.
In the same saucepan, roast remaining spices for 1 minute over low heat. Switch heat off.
3. Place onion, garlic, ginger and all roasted spices into food processor. Pour in 125ml water and pulse to a fine paste.
4. Heat up a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add in ghee, sauté star anise, cardamom pods and curry leaves from 1 sprig. Cook for a few minutes. Add marinated chicken and stir to mix well.
5. Cover saucepan with lid. Allow chicken to cook for approximately 12-15 minutes. As chicken cooks, it will start to shrink and release its juices.
6. Add spice paste and chilli powder. Continue cooking over medium heat. The gravy will start to darken. Pour in 125ml of water. Allow chicken to simmer for 8-10 minutes.
7. Toss in additional curry leaves. Add sugar and salt to taste. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes until gravy thickens. Toss in some coriander leaves. Turn heat off immediately.
8. Serve with rice or Indian roti e.g. apom, thosai and idli.
TIP: Adding lime and yogurt helps to tenderise chicken while it cooks owing to their acidic properties.
TECHNIQUE: Pan-roasting dry spices boosts aroma and loads up on flavour.
Photos: Maria MK