Chicken Kurma

Kurma is a creamy, mild curry from North India. This is the Kerala Muslim version of the northern classic, taught to me by a Mappila woman[ named Haseena Sadick. Her version has rich, layered flavors, and it's thickened with a coconut and cashew paste.]

Serves 6
  • 1/4 cup grated unsweetened coconut
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons raw cashew pieces
  • 1 tablespoon white poppy seeds (optional)
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced shallots or onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh green chilies (serrano or Thai)
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
  • Ground masala:
  • 6 teaspoons coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala (see below)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs and breasts, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Garam Masala:
  • 4 whole pieces star anise
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground clove
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Ground masala:
  • In a mini food processor or blender combine the coconut, cashews, poppy seeds, and 1/3 cup water. Grind thoroughly to form a smooth paste like pesto. (A mini processor works best for this.) Set aside.

  • In a wide deep pan heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Fry 1 cup of the shallots until light brown. Stir in the garlic, ginger, green chili, and fry for 1 minute. Add the tomato, 3 tablespoons cilantro, ground masala, garam masala, salt, and 1/2 cup water; fry until the tomato breaks down and forms a paste.

  • Add the yogurt and stir until it dissolves. Add the chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

  • Fry the remaining 1/2 cup shallots in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until very brown and crisp. Remove them to a plate.

  • Add the coconut and cashew paste to the chicken and simmer for 10 more minutes. Check the salt.

Garam Masala:
  • Place the star anise in a coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder. Measure out 2 teaspoonfuls, reserving the rest for another use.

  • Grind the fennel seeds in the coffee grinder to form a fine powder.

  • Combine all the ingredients and store in an airtight jar away from the light. It will keep for 6 months.

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