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Cumin-Coriander Chicken - outstanding!

We recently returned from a trip to India, having spent most of our month there in the southern state of Kerala. One of our last stops was in Cochin, a port city with a long and colourful history. Long story, really, but we ended up at the home of one of the last remaining Jews living in the city, once a vibrant hub of Jewish life. Well, imagine my shock when, just last week there was an article in the New York Times by Joan Nathan about the Jewish cooking of Cochin. And, amazingly it focused on this particular woman whose home we'd visited but, unfortunately, missed having dinner there for reasons too stupid to mention here. Anyway, I just wanted to recommend the recipe that was included with that article - Cochin Cumin-Coriander Chicken. I made it for Passover seder and it is absolutely delicious. Used many of the spices I'd brought home from our trip, which made the dish extra special (at least to me). Once you've mixed the spices and coated the chicken, the rest of the dish comes together quickly - it's easy and everyone loved it. Fragrant, layered and really unusual.


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    1. Yes, it is an excellent recipe. I made it as soon as I saw it (had the ingredients) and both BFF and I liked it a lot. Gave some to BFF, who, after finishing the chicken, had sauce left over, in which she poached a piece of salmon to good effect. Thanks for calling it to our attention.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Joebob

        Yes there's a lot of sauce. Actually next time I make it, I'll omit the small amount of water that is called for - its really not needed. Also, I used bone-in skinless chicken thighs, which are cheaper and easier to find. I skinned them myself - takes a minute.

      2. I just grabbed a bag of chicken thighs out of the deep freeze and made up the spice blend. Wonderful recipe, thanks for sharing the recipe and just a small taste of what had to have been a remarkable India adventure!

        I'm adding this to our Sunday dinner menu (last minute substitution!).

        13 Replies
        1. re: HillJ

          Excellent! It was, indeed, a remarkable adventure. India is such a diverse place and the food was absolutely fantastic. The south of India has its own range of cuisines, most of which I had never eaten before. It was an eye-opener. We spent a couple of days in the spice town of Kumily (or Thekkady, depending on which side of town you're on) which was mind-blowing. Imagine wall-to-wall spice shops, many of them wholesalers, with mountains of fresh spices for sale. I now wish I'd brought more home with me but we didn't want to haul so much stuff around as we were trying to travel light. Cochin's cooking seemed almost akin to Moroccan - this chicken recipe definitely reflects that.

          1. re: Nyleve

            I went to the market early this AM to pick up more mint & coriander and the pot is simmering now. Smells wonderful in my kitchen and the recipe helped me use up a few more curry leaves and seeds I had in the pantry. Did your host add anything to the rice?

            Wall to wall spices for sale....oh my! I would love to have a trip to India planned for 2013...on the bucket list! I was in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur in 1997 with a handful of co-workers. I recall being breathless most of the trip!

            1. re: HillJ

              Exactly. Go south - Kerala is spice central and completely breathtaking.

              1. re: Nyleve

                I'm going to enjoy the bit of leftovers from this tasty dish for lunch today. I really liked the simmering sauce. I used a combo of boneless breast and thigh. Great use of whole spice.

                1. re: HillJ

                  I am going to braise a whole chicken in this manner . I am mad for whole braised chicken and I think this will be a grand way to do it.

                  1. re: magiesmom

                    Absolutely. I might make the simmering sauce all by itself and freeze for other applications. It's really easy to put together.

                    1. re: HillJ

                      That's a great idea. I think I will do that now!

                      I would have loved to make this for seder but many Jews do not eat cumin for passover.

                      1. re: magiesmom

                        I didn't realize that about cumin.

                        1. re: HillJ

                          Caraway & anise/fennel seed too. Ashkenazi Jews don't eat them on Passover, but Sephardim do.

                          Anyway, that chicken recipe does sound wonderful - I don't recall ever being steered wrong by Joan Nathan.

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            yes, those too. it is interesting because usually in the Times Passover recipes are identified as Sephardic if they are and this one was not but clearly not going to work for observant Ahkenazis.

                            And yes, Joan Nathan in my experience completely reliable.

                            1. re: HillJ

                              I had no idea. Not that it makes a lot of difference to me - but I guess it would to some people.

                              1. re: Nyleve

                                Today I followed the exact recipe but this time I added chickpeas and cauliflower heads to the pot.

                                After the first batch I had about 1.5 cups of the sauce left in the pot so I poured it into a baking dish and baked pre cooked chickpeas and a small dish of leftover curry cauliflower I had in the frig to the sauce to create a side, I liked the side so much, I decided today to just add half a cup of each to the recipe after adding the chicken and letting it cook 20 mins. Really good.

            2. Wow, that sounds great and I have everything on hand. Thank for sharing, I can't wait to try this one... maybe tonight...

              1. Sounds like a great culinary adventure! Making it tonight. I also have everything except for the cilantro and mint - easily remedy. Cooking for two, so will cut in half.

                1. This looks amazing. Thanks for sharing.

                  1. I made this at work for 10 people with serious mental illness because I had all ingredients on hand, except for the fresh mint. It was a huge hit, and goes into the permanent recipe file. Next time, I'll have mint. The sauciness of it was one of the charms -- over gingered brown rice.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pitterpatter

                      That recipe would help me connect with the real world.

                    2. This sounds delicious. I have most of the spices on hand. Before I take the plunge and buy curry leaves, would those of you who've made this let me know if this is one of those dishes that "perfumes" the house for days afterward?

                      27 Replies
                      1. re: MrsJonesey

                        It didn't for me. I made the dish the night before Easter and warmed it the day of. Yesterday no trace of this dish or any others I served. Hot soapy water was all I used to clean our pots & pans. But I'll be honest, while the dish was simmering I loved the fragrance!

                        1. re: MrsJonesey

                          In my humble opinion, the curry leaves added very little to the final dish. In India, where they use fresh curry leaves, it might be a different story. But the dried leaves don't taste like anything to me, especially with all those other spices going on. And no, the house didn't smell at all. It was lovely.

                          1. re: Nyleve

                            Thanks for that opinion. I have most or all of the spices except for curry leaves.

                            Also thank you A LOT for posting this as its own thread. I think too many good dishes get lost on WFD threads. Three hundred or so posts per thread keep some of us away.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              You can get them online - ishopindian.com, among other places. I get LOTS (the only Indian grocery in town closed last year upon the death of the owner) and freeze them as airtight as possible. They're ALMOST as good as fresh, and tons better than dried. Dried are just like the dusty sad ghosts of curry leaves...

                            2. re: Nyleve

                              Nyleve, I am so glad you said that as I expect curry leaves will be hard to find here. And also glad to know your house didn't smell afterwards. Thanks so much for the link to the recipe and the extra help!

                            3. re: MrsJonesey

                              I was actually talking to my mom (my parents are from south India) about this recently. I asked what exactly curry leaves contribute to a dish. It's never an issue for us to use them because we have an enormous curry leaf plant in our house, but I pointed out that they don't really taste like anything more than "sort of medicinal" raw and they're not eaten when cooked. She said she'd always assumed they were added for health reasons. So I don't think they're worth scouting out if you don't have them.

                              1. re: lamb_da_calculus

                                I am from South India myself and use curry leaves a lot. I too have a carefully tended curry leaf plant in the sunroom.

                                They *do* add a very lovely and subtle aroma to the food. In everyday South Indian cooking that uses very few spices, you'll notice if you don't add the curry leaves. Even in a more complex dish like this, you can taste the extra zing.

                                Most people don't eat them when cooked, but I always do :) as I like the taste. They are indeed supposed to have all kinds of health properties.

                                Dry curry leaves are no use. But in Indian stores in the US they are available in the refrigerated section in plastic baggies and usually fresh deliveries arrive every week. They stay for a very long time in the freezer at home and work just fine when taken straight from the freezer and thrown into the pan.

                                Also I commend this entire thread for making an Indian regional recipe and never once using the word "curry" except for curry leaves :)

                                1. re: Rasam

                                  lamb and Rasam, it's great to have your input. Thanks!

                                  1. re: Rasam

                                    Thank you for that. I am going to look for a curry plant next time I'm at my herb nursery. I already keep a bay leaf and rosemary indoors during the winter - the curry will keep them company!

                                    1. re: Nyleve

                                      Make sure you buy the curry leaf plant: murraya koenigii.

                                      Don't buy the curry plant: helichrysum italicum. That is a completely unrelated plant and has no use in Indian cuisine whatsoever.

                                      If you google or ask the nursery people you will get good advice about growing conditions.

                                      But the curry leaf plant is a shrub that grows tall: 2-3 feet indoors and 3-5 feet outdoors. It likes a very large pot, ample sun, and don't over-water.

                                      Don't expect it to sit and behave itself on your windowsill. If you have a large and very sunny bay window or similar and can put the plant on a stand on the floor, that's how it will work.

                                      And of course, I am sure this group knows, there is no relation at all between curry leaves and "curry powder". :)

                                      1. re: Rasam

                                        Right. I once bought the other kind of curry plant by mistake - a low thing with very small intricately shaped leaves. But when we were in India we saw curry leaves growing, even wild, so now I know what to look for. Had a wonderful tour of a spice garden near Thekkady where we saw all the things we use but have no idea how they grow! Black pepper was such a suprise - they grow like tiny grapes in bunches on a vine that climbs up tree trunks. And cardamom! Who knew? Photo below - the cardamom pods grow on stems that sprout from the base of these large, fern-like plants.

                                        1. re: Nyleve

                                          That spice tour sounds lovely. Did you get to see a clove tree?

                                          Did you find that the spices you bought there are any fresher or better quality than the ones available in stores in the US? Especially reputed dealers like Penzeys?

                                          I wonder if the growers reserve their best merch for the export market while the local market gets the leftovers. But maybe I am wrong?

                                          1. re: Rasam

                                            It was interesting. We stopped at the spice garden on the way to Thekkady, and didn't realize that the town was going to be spice shops from one end to the other. So we bought a bunch of spices at the garden which turned out to be not quite as nice as what was available at some of the spice shops. On walking around the town the next day, we found there was quite a range of quality in the various shops, with many of them having some pretty outstanding stuff. So of course, I bought more. The cardamom was fabulous, and the nutmeg (and mace) are a quality I've never seen here. The black pepper I bought at the garden, on the other hand, smells a bit musty and I wish I'd bought from one of the town dealers instead. So if you happen to find yourself in Thekkady/Kumily, definitely go on a spice plantation tour in the area, but do your shopping in town. Yes, we saw a clove tree, but since we were there in February, we were in the wrong season to see the buds.

                                            1. re: Nyleve

                                              Lucky you. Sounds like a lovely trip.

                                            2. re: Rasam

                                              Hey Rasam, as we split our lives between Kochi and the US, I do think that the best stuff gets exported, mostly. But if one knew the right people in Fort Kochi, where the trading happens, maybe the good stuff is available?

                                          2. re: Rasam

                                            I just had a panic that I have been lovingly growing the wrong kind of curry plant for almost a year! Luckily google shows me that I have the right one. It is just getting big enough for me to contemplate using a few leaves and I was going to be sad if I couldn't!

                                            1. re: nat8199

                                              If it smells pungent and curry-like, you have the right one. Tear one leave and smell it.

                                          3. re: Nyleve

                                            I've never seen curry plants at any plant store, but they might have them in nurseries in California. This is the place from which I'm ordering a seedling for my Mom.


                                        2. re: lamb_da_calculus

                                          We did have a lot of dishes that included curry leaves and you pretty much always pick them out when eating anyway. I smelled and tasted the raw leaf and it has a sort of musky rounded curry-ish flavour, which to me just gets lost in the finished product. I am no expert on south Indian cooking, so maybe if you're used to cooking with it you'd notice the absense of curry leaf. But the dried leaf is pretty tasteless.

                                          1. re: Nyleve

                                            Something rang a bell here. I googled for dry curry leaf, and apparently it makes a great chutney.

                                            Here are a couple of links:

                                            First, a very nice write up of curry leaves with several recipes including a dry curry leaf chutney, by food writer Monica Bhide:


                                            Another couple of recipes for dry curry leaf chutney, one more elaborate than the other:



                                            So, fresh curry leaves are easy to get in Indian stores, you can dry the curry leaves in the oven or toast on the stovetop if you want to make the chutney. Dry curry leaves do have their uses!

                                            1. re: Rasam

                                              Those are recipes for curry leaf podhi and they are made using fresh curry leaves. The shelf life is short, but they are good while they last.

                                              The dried leaves themselves are worthless though. It's like dried coriander leaf - all the things that make them taste good are volatile oils, which are destroyed in the drying process.

                                              That includes the 3rd recipe in your list - they are making that from fresh curry leaves that they have dried out in a low temp oven (I usually do mine with a quick roast in a dry frying pan). This is the only time I have ever heard of anyone trying to store them that way - everyone I know uses them in a podhi right away, and we try to use that podhi up before it goes stale.

                                          2. re: lamb_da_calculus

                                            Please use them! It took me years of cooking without, as curry leaves were unavailable at all in those days, to realize what they add to the dish. A fresh green aroma that rounds out the dish. For spiced buttermilk curries, indispensable really!

                                            1. re: lamb_da_calculus

                                              There's a saying, it goes something like "She treats her friends like curry leaves" - eg just discarding them when they're no use to her any more, which is what people do with curry leaves in their food, pulling them out and discarding them off to the side.

                                              Curry leaves make a HUGE positive difference to the flavor of the curry in my opinion. Even a curry leaf podhi helps carry some of that goodness over. I will cut them into small pieces with shears - like they do for basil leaves sometimes - and then they can be eaten without having to deal with an entire leaf, which can be kind of tough.

                                              Years ago, back in the 70s, it was a lot harder to find Indian ingredients, and all you could find in the way of curry leaf were these sad little packets of grey dusty leaves. Worthless. Fresh curry leaves though - heaven! I wish I lived somewhere where I could grow my own!

                                              1. re: CookingForReal

                                                Just curious which language "she treats her friends like curry leaves" is from.

                                                1. re: luckyfatima

                                                  As far as I know, it isn't a language thing - it's just a folk saying. I think I first heard it from a friend from Kerala? I'm not actually sure. But I've heard it from other people as well. All South Indians. I'm undoubtedly misquoting it to some extent - but that was the gist of it.

                                                  There was another one I used to like that I learned from my ex oh.... 40 years ago? It was in Telugu and I used to know how to say it in Telugu, it translated to "May the rain fall in your house". It was supposed to be a curse in the monsoon season. There was a little more to it than that; I don't know why, but I thought it was hilarious when I was 19.

                                                  1. re: luckyfatima

                                                    Luckyfatima, It's a Tamil phrase: ""Kariveppilai mathiri thukki potuttan" -- basically "lifted off and dropped like curry leaves".

                                                    It's funny this is coming up here, because I just read a comment on someone's Indian politics blog that said: "Sir, It is well known that Mr Kejriwal uses good people like curry leaves in a bowl of Sambhar." We had thought that phrase was one my mother's aunt made up. She used to sigh and say in Malayalam, "I'm just like a curry leaf. Cast off once you people have used up all my flavor." Indians love their flowery phrases.

                                            2. And yet another question for those who've made this. Recipe calls for 3 1/2 T. coriander seeds or 3 T. ground coriander. Shouldn't this be 3 teaspoons ground coriander?

                                              10 Replies
                                              1. re: MrsJonesey

                                                No: tablespoons is correct. I know it seems a like a lot but it really works.

                                                  1. re: MrsJonesey

                                                    I didn't alter the recipe at all. I used the powdered, seeds and since I had curry leaves used those too. The fresh mint, cilantro, garlic mash you make in the food processor and add to the simmering sauce at the end was what brought the sauce to a wonderfully fresh finish. Without that step the sauce would have been entirely different. Nyleve, your thoughts?

                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                      Absolutely agree. It was nice enough with just the dry spices, but the cilantro, mint, chilies and garlic made it explode.

                                                      1. re: Nyleve

                                                        Thanks again, HillJ and Nyleve! I am really looking forward to trying this.

                                                  2. re: Nyleve

                                                    Disagree - if you use roasted and ground coriander seeds, better cut it down unless you want the coriander to overwhelm the other spices. The powder is probably less intense (keep it in the fridge or it goes stale fast!) so maybe 3T is OK.

                                                    1. re: Steveinjapan

                                                      I used roasted and ground coriander seeds and although I was a bit uncomfortable using that much - it seems like a lot - it turned out delicious. I'm not sure why. I can understand that you might think it's going to overwhelm the other flavours but it really didn't.

                                                      1. re: Steveinjapan

                                                        That wasn't speculation - I did make it last night! The dominant flavor was coriander, which isn't the worst thing that can happen but I like more balance. 1/2 c coconut milk helped tone it down but next time I'd reduce the coriander. I did reduce the chillis because my family doesn't do real hot, so perhaps that was why the coriander pushed through.

                                                        1. re: Steveinjapan

                                                          Like anything else, it's always a matter of individual taste.

                                                          1. re: Nyleve

                                                            +1... per Sara Moulton -- there is no right or wrong in cooking so long you enjoy it! :) Some like it hot, some like it mild; some like it sweet, some like it sour .. usw usw

                                                  3. Thanks Nyleve for a seemingly interesting trip to India. and for the recipe link.

                                                    This recipe sounds fantastic!! Will definately give it a try!! For a more typical authentic Keralite taste though, I would add the vinegar to the marinade, sub the vegetable oil with coconut oil, and add the curry leaves along with the onions when sauting them. Rest I will follow the recipe to the "T".

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Chowshok

                                                      I wish I had thought of coconut oil - I have it at home. You're right, it would have been good.

                                                      And for the earlier post about the late-added garlic, I am very sensitive to raw garlic and this was fine. I did simmer the sauce for a few minutes after adding the herb mixture so it tempered it somewhat.

                                                      1. re: Chowshok

                                                        Made this recipe on Saturday. Originally planned for Friday dinner, the chicken was intended to be marinated as suggested for 2-3 hrs. But plans changed and the chicken went back into the refrigerator, then took out for Saturday dinner, by which time it had the full 24hrs marination. I did add the Tbspn of Vinegar which also helped the dry spices to coat the chicken more evenly.
                                                        To cook, I browned the chicken pieces in my DO for 4-5 minutes on each side, transferred them on a plate, then sauteed the onions & curry leaves in coconut oil. That aroma just transports you to a different continent of the world.. :-) At this point, I added a lb of mixed exotic mushrooms to the pot, to make it.. well, exotic. Then I promise, I followed the rest of the recipe.
                                                        I do admit, the addition of the cilantro-mint-ginger-garlic paste at the end, changes the aroma & color of the dish. As lucky fatima mentioned, it is a strong flavor, but pleasant after simmering for 5 minutes as suggested.
                                                        We ate it by dunking bread into the soup consistancy of the gravy. The chicken & mushrooms tasted divine. The next day, I added a couple TBspn of coconut powder to the leftover gravy and heated it up. This addition just kicked the whole dish up a couple notches. Next time, I will probably add coconut when cooking it. Yummy!! Thanks for a lovely dish Nyleve.

                                                        1. re: Chowshok

                                                          You're welcome but you can thank Joan Nathan for this - or more properly, Queenie Hallegua, from whose kitchen it originally came. Glad to have brought attention to it, though.

                                                      2. The addition of a large quantity of garlic-ginger that is only simmered for 5 minutes at the end of cooking seems off to me. I would have expected it to have been added once the onions were golden and before the other wet ingredients went in. Did it taste strong?

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: luckyfatima

                                                          It would be like the garlic/ginger/scallion sauce added to Chinese Steam Chicken. So long the garlic is finely mashed, it won't have the aftershock taste. You can also pre-roast the garlic to minimize its strong flavor. I really enjoyed this recipe made by my BFF some weeks ago. Since I prefer spicier food, I add Schiracha sauce to my dish and it's just mmmh mmmh good. Can also simmer fish in the left over sauce...

                                                          1. re: roro808

                                                            Yep it looks like an awesome recipe and I hope to give it a try soon, but I was wondering how the garlic-ginger pungency was when used like this.

                                                            Pre-roasting is a thought...

                                                          2. re: luckyfatima

                                                            I recently made it and was yummy and fragrant. The only ingredient I added was freshly ground chili.. give it a more zingy taste. Very easy to make.

                                                            1. re: luckyfatima

                                                              I'm with you - I would add it with the onions.

                                                            2. Thanks for posting this recipe. I can't wait to try it, even if Passover has ended. It seems like it would be great for any time of the year. And thanks also for those who chimed in with hints about curry leaves, etc. I think I know what's on the menu for this weekend!

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: AmyH

                                                                I have made it with coconut milk instead of yoghurt... tastes even creamier.

                                                              2. Look forward to reading the article and recipe. Thanks for posting it. Most people don't realize what a long, rich history Jews have in India and how harmoniously their community has blended their culture with Indian culture. Cochin is the oldest settlement. I think Jewish people started settling there in the mid-500's BC! All the Jewish-Indian food I've had is amazing.

                                                                1. I typically use drumsticks -- with skin and bone. I don't imagine I need to cut the meat off the bone first but is it necessary to first remove the skin so that the marinade can soak in?

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: dagron_eats

                                                                    I don't think the skin adds anything to this dish, so yes, ithe chicken should be skinless. I'm not usually one of those skinless, boneless people, but since the dish is simmered in the sauce, the skin doesn't remain nice and crisp and just goes wiggly. You don't have to cut it off the bone, though. Bigger pieces are better.