The Blues Breaker: Chettinad Pepper Chicken

It is back-to-school week in our parts this week.

Just another ho-hum week for people sans children. A sense of relief for weary parents of older children suffering through the summer slide.

A feeling of dread for me, thinking of The Youngling’s preschooler lunchbox lovingly packed at sunrise, coming back largely intact. Morning drills that would stop short of throwing a jug of iced water at The Boy. And last but not the least, the inevitable wail thanks to a forgotten stuffed friend as we pull out of the driveway, scrambling as always.

Add to that –

Mother leaves (me in the lurch) this weekend.
The Boy is off to Las Vegas hot on her heels, presumably to celebrate.
It is getting Darker. And Colder.

Meanwhile, people around me sound like a Visit New England infomercial, droning on and on about the glorious fall foliage that is to come, cooing over loathsome Halloween lawn ornaments and waxing eloquent about The Perfect Crisp Vermont Apple.

To make matters worse, we did a little day trip this weekend to see how the other half lives. And I came back feeling even more depressed. No governesses for The Youngling or dumb-waiters for me...

I was getting into a funk and it was time to banish the blues with peppery Chettinad Chicken. I originally got this recipe from my dearest friend L, superwoman par excellence, who inspires me to be the Energizer Bunny I will be. Starting next week.

Chettinad Pepper Chicken

2 lbs chicken (preferably a mix of bone-in thighs and drumsticks)
2 medium onions
2 tbsp ginger paste
2 tbsp garlic paste
2 tomatoes
2 tbsp black peppercorns
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
5 red chillies
2 tbsp oil
½ cup of chopped fresh coriander leaves
Salt to taste

Skin/clean the chicken, chop the thighs into smaller pieces if you wish and make a few small slits in each drumstick. Chop onions and tomatoes finely.

Roast the peppercorns, coriander, cumin and fennel seeds and the red chillies in a small saucepan or skillet on medium heat. Turn off the flame when the spices turn aromatic and the dry red chillies darken just a little. You need to be very careful to not overdo it (if the spices start smoking and darken, it is time to start over). Leave the spice mixture to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok. Add onions and fry for 5-7 minutes until they are translucent. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and fry for five more minutes. Then add tomatoes and continue to cook the mixture until they soften.

In the meantime, transfer your spice mixture into a spice grinder or coffee grinder (I use the latter) and DRY grind to a coarse powder. Then toss the chicken into the wok along with the spice mixture and salt. Fry for five more minutes and add a cup of water. Stir, cover and cook on a medium flame for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.

I like to serve this with hot steamed rice and a simple salad.

Serves 4.


  1. LikeItSpicy:
    Are you who I think you are? Mother of little girl L and of a certain philosopher-dog? If so, hello from New York! This is a great site you have hear - stumbled into it while looking for a recipe for Chettinad Chicken! I will be back!

  2. Mrs. Ejamanar - Thanks for the compliment. I have you on my blogroll, BTW, you have some krackerjack posts yourself. Do keep coming back!

  3. Hey - this is the idea of this blog+recipe. Keep the recipes coming..makes my mouth water :-)

  4. Well, well, well, what a small world this blogosphere is! I had no idea you knew about my little blog - thanks for blogrolling it, I will do the same to yours. You have some really good stuff here, and I will certainly check in regularly.
    About our lovely superwoman friend, I have reached the stage in life when I have realized the futility of even trying to become one. Some things are simply not meant to be, and so alas, I will remain forever the disorganized, low-energy tortoise I always have been!


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