Were it not for my determination to make a recipe using every letter of the alphabet this month, I am quite certain I would never have made xacuti.
And I’d really be missing something.
Xacuti (pronounced shakuti) is a dish from the Indian state of Goa. Goan food is typically heavy on the chili peppers and spices; dishes made with fish and coconut are also popular. Sounds like my kind of place. Xacuti is often made with fish, as well as with chicken and other meats; it can also be prepared as a vegetarian dish.
I know it looks a little complicated, but don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients. It doesn’t take that long to make. I’ve been working up to owning all the spices necessary to make Indian dishes like this for a while, but I still didn’t have everything. You could probably get away with omitting one or two of the spices, but do try to use them all, as it’s totally worth it for the amazingly exotic flavor in the dish.
I made a few adjustments based on availability of ingredients, and I added some vegetables (cauliflower and pumpkin) to the original recipe, as well. My changes are in bold. I was afraid to use as many chilies as the recipe calls for and I regretted not using more in the end. Also, I believe that if you use more chilies, the sauce will be much redder, the traditional color of xacuti.
It’s supposed to be a very spicy dish, but you can make it less so like I did, if you don’t enjoy super spicy food.
Recipe for Xacuti
adapted from the gather.com website
For the Spice Paste:
8 ounces coconut, freshly grated- I used 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut instead
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
6 dried red chillies- I used just 1 ancho chili and it wasn’t nearly spicy enough, so I added cayenne later while everything was cooking
4 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
6 cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 (2in) cinnamon stick, broken
2 star anise
1 curl of mace- I omitted this
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons white poppy seeds (I used 1 tablespoon of regular poppy seeds)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used ghee; you could also use coconut oil)
1 medium onion, cut into fine half rings
1 (2in) piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
7 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
For the Chicken:
3 pounds chicken pieces, preferably organic and free-range, cut into small serving pieces
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons vegetable oil (again, I used ghee and halved the amount)
2 medium onions, finely sliced into half rings (I used 1 onion plus 1.5 cups chopped cauliflower and 1.5 cups diced pumpkin)
20 curry leaves (optional)- I omitted these
Place the chicken pieces in a single layer on a large plate. Sprinkle on all sides with 3/4 tablespoon salt and the lemon juice. Rub this in and set aside for 20 minutes or so, while you make the spice paste.
Make the spice paste: heat a cast-iron or other heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the coconut and stir and roast until it is medium-brown. Add the turmeric and stir once or twice; remove the coconut and set aside. Put the chillies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, peppercorns, cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, mace and nutmeg into the same hot pan. Stir until the spices are almost roasted, then add the poppy seeds.
Roast until the spices are lightly browned. Remove the spices from the pan and set aside…
Put one tablespoon of oil or ghee into the same pan and heat over a medium-high heat. Add the onion, ginger and garlic. Saute until medium-brown…
…then remove from the heat.
Combine coconut, ground spices and onion mixture in a food processor or blender. Add 350ml/12 fl oz water or more as required and blend to a paste. Do this in more than one batch if necessary.
Heat two-four tablespoons of oil or ghee in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the sliced onions. Stir and fry until it is browned, then add the spice paste; stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Put the chicken and vegetables, if using, and all the accumulated juices into the pan with the remaining salt and 300ml/1/2 pint water; stir and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn the heat to low and cook for about 25 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Add the curry leaves (if using) and serve.
Though I didn’t have any at serving time, I think some chopped fresh cilantro would be perfect over the xacuti. Serve with white or brown basmati rice; some naan bread is also great for sopping up the delicious sauce.