The southern Indian state of Kerala is famed for its spices. Pepper, cinnamon, cardamon, and many more of the nation's staple spices grow in abundance there. And, as you might expect given this rich bounty, the region's cuisine is laced with different combinations of these spices, each giving unique flavor profiles to the dishes they season.
Nadan Khozi is a typical curry in Keralan houses, where the blend of spices differs just a little from home to home. The ingredient list might look long, but don't let it daunt you—once you understand that all Indian food is basically an amalgamation of spices, no recipe is really all that difficult. Though the specific spices and their proportions change, the underlying techniques are almost always the same.
This particular dish is especially comforting on nippy evenings (not that we have too many of those here). You can choose to turn down the heat by reducing the amount of red chili powder or whole chili by half. The roasting of the spices gives the dish a nutty, smoky flavor that adds to the dish's satisfying warmth, rounded out coconut milk. All in all, it's a particularly fitting tribute to the land of spices.
- 4 chicken legs, split into drumsticks and thighs
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 dry bay leaf
- 1 inch peice cinnamon
- 6 peppercorns
- 2 white cardamon pods
- 2 whole red chillies or 1 tablespoon red chilli powder
- 1 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon whole black mustard seeds
- 10 curry leaves
- 1 medium onion chopped fine (about 1 cup)
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 cup coconut milk
- Kosher salt
Rub the chicken pieces in turmeric powder and seat aside. Heat the cast iron skillet over medium heat until hot. Add coriander seeds, fennel seeds, bay leaf, cinnamon, peppercorns, cardamon, and red chillies. (if you're using the red chili powder, do not add it now). Cook, stirring constantly, until the spices are fragrant, a few minutes. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool. Transfer to a spice blender (along with chili powder if using) and blend until powdered.
Heat oil in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Stand away and add mustard seeds and curry leaves. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add onion, ginger, and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the ground spices and stir vigorously. Add the chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes total. Add the coconut milk and salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Serve hot with roti or white rice.
Cast iron skillet, blender/coffee grinder, heavy bottomed non-stick skillet