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 Chicken 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 added some vegetables (cauliflower and pumpkin) that might not typically be included in Xacuti, but I used them because I had them around. The first time I made this I was afraid to use as many chilies as the recipe calls for, but I regretted not using more in the end. So I suggest using them and I found 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.
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.
For the Spice Paste
- 8 ounces coconut freshly grated
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 6 red chilies dried
- 4 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- 6 cardamom pods
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick about 2 inches, broken
- 2 star anise
- 1 curl mace
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 2 tbsp white poppy seeds
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion cut into fine half rings
- 1 thumb fresh ginger root about 2 inches, peeled and sliced thin
- 7 garlic cloves coarsely chopped
For the Chicken
- 3 lbs chicken pieces cut into small serving pieces
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 medium onions cut into fine half rings
- 20 curry leaves
- 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 chilies, 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. Sauté until medium-brown. 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 2-4 tablespoons of oil or ghee in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. When it's 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 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.
This recipe was originally published in October 2009.