One of the most exciting ways to explore and learn more about a region, for me, is to learn to cook regional dishes. I cooked Chettinad Chicken in a claypot, an affair that I have been longing for a long time. It turned out to be delicious and I’m currently obsessing over everything about it… the aroma, the texture and the excitement of cooking in a claypot.
I have been gathering recipes from Tamil Nadu – the easy ones to be stirred on the weekdays while I am keeping aside the elaborate ones for the weekends. Today, I cooked Chettinad Chicken in a claypot, an affair that I have been longing for a long time, specially after a drive to ECR or East Coast Road that brought me to a shop selling potteries and earthen cookwares. I have used earthen tagine for cooking Moroccan chicken or fish in the Mediterranean style before, but this was the first time I used earthenware for Indian style of cooking that probably required tempering of spices in hot oil. I was assured by the vendor that my claypot would be safe and sound… hence I took a leap of faith and survived safe and absolutely sound!
Chettinad cuisine is one of the most popular regional cuisines of Tamil Nadu. Originating from the Chettinad region, the speciality of the cuisine is the use of a variety of spices and fresh ground masalas. Although the Chettinad Chicken recipe called for roasting a lot of spices, the cooking itself was neither elaborate nor difficult. I missed out on two ingredients – the small round fat gundu red chillies and kalpasi or black stone flower. While I substituted whole red chillies for the gundu red chillies, I couldn’t substitute anything for Kalpasi. The latter is a kind of a lichen and often blended with other spices – I have added that to my next grocery list.
The WhatsApp group in our community, specially the women’s group, has become quite a lifeline for me. Yes, there is a subgroup from amidst the residents’ group, much like a lot of WhatsApp groups that seem to overwhelm us in our daily lives. Various tips poured in when I asked about Kalpasi and I learnt that it was a flavouring ingredient that added aroma to rice variety and curries. A bit of it was enough to lend flavour. The stone flower is often dry roasted with other spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, fennel seeds, coriander, red chillies, pepper corns and then powdered to flavour curries. Some used it sparingly in its whole form for making coconut based kurmas and fried it along with the onions. Too much Kalpasi could make a dish bitter.
Food cooked in an unglazed claypot gives out a strong earthen aroma and the food retains all the oil and moisture. Moreover, since food can only be slow cooked on slow to medium fire, do remember the adage … patience is a virtue.
I poured myself steaming hot rice and I couldn’t stop obsessing over the Chettinad Chicken that I had cooked for lunch. I am sanguine it was the same for the Z-Sisters and the Bearded Biker. That… when humbly said!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Some spicy recipes that you may like: Homemade spicy Chicken 65 Stuffed Chilli Spring Rolls Thai Papaya Salad
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* The recipe shared in my blog is guided by our wonderful cook who follows home style cooking and the recipe has been tried in our kitchen.
1 kg chicken with bones, de-skinned and cut into medium sized pieces
8 Indian shallots, thinly sliced
4 medium sized tomatoes, cubed
4 tbsp poppy seeds
4 tbsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp turmeric powder
2 two-inch cinnamon sticks
8 pieces green cardamoms
8 pieces cloves
2 star anise
8 dry red chillies
2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 cup fresh grated coconut
20 fresh curry leaves
½ cup vinegar
2 tbsp white oil
salt as per taste
- Wash the chicken well and marinate it with turmeric and vinegar. Leave aside for 1 hour.
- Dry roast the whole spices – fennel, cumin, coriander, star anise, cloves, cardamoms and cloves, in medium flame in a heavy pan. As the seeds start spluttering, add poppy seeds, dry red chillies and fresh grated coconut. Keep stirring so that the roasted spices don’t burn. Once they turn golden brown, keep the pan aside to cool and grind the masala in a coffee grinder.
- Set the claypot in medium flame and heat oil. Add curry leaves (leave aside a few fresh ones for adding them later as garnish), sliced onions and tomatoes. Add the ginger-garlic paste and fry for a while. You may use a deep bottomed pan instead of a claypot.
- Add the ground masala, mix well before adding the marinated chicken pieces to the pan. Stir them well into the masala.
- Add adequate water to cover all the chicken pieces. Add salt, cover the claypot with a lid and simmer the chicken for thirty minutes in slow flame.
- Check for salt and once the chicken pieces are tender and appear well cooked, add fresh curry leaves before taking off the claypot from the fire.
- Serve with steaming hot rice.
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