Recipe for Chettinad chicken from Rick Stein’s India

29th Jul 2013

If, like us, your Monday nights are now missing a little colour and spice, this recipe from Rick will offer you an Indian fix.  

Here is an exclusive recipe from Rick’s new India book, happy cooking!

chettinad chicken

Chettinad chicken from Rick Stein’s India


When I heard that the Taj Gateway hotel in Madurai had employed a local housewife to cook some of the region’s dishes, I knew they were on to something. Wherever you go in India, what people love above all is home cooking. I was lucky enough to watch Mrs Samundeswary cook her Chettinad chicken there. The dish is very peppery, but you know you’re experiencing real country cooking. It also has one of those ingredients that is transformational but quite hard to get hold of. It’s the lichen off a tree, known as dagarful, kalpasi or stone flower, with a flavour like cinnamon. You can find it online, but if it proves elusive, just add more cinnamon.


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.

You can also try this dish at Rick Stein’s Café

Recipe taken from Rick Stein’s India, courtesy of BBC Books. 

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3 Responses

  1. Elaine O'Regan says:

    This dish is lush… and very spicy! I have made it now on a number of occasions and takes around 20 mins or so only… perfect if you dont want to spend hours in the kitchen. I didnt have any fennel on the first make i did so I put in some La Fée Absinthe Blanche…. it was a great alternative… the meal was lovely 🙂

  2. Matty says:

    This is a great recipe, straightforward and filled the house with redolent aromas of India. It is pretty peppery hot and quite delicious!

  3. Leone says:

    I make this recipe regularly and we never tire of it!! Love the black peppery flavour and robust spices! I even managed to find the elusive Daga na Phool tree moss after a special trip to Southall! I have yet to come across a more flavoursome chicken dish in an Indian restaurant! I prefer to make my own curries from scratch, so much nicer!

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