For the spice blend
2 tbsp coriander seeds
11/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
2.5cm cinnamon stick or cassia bark
2–4 dried chillies (chiles), plus 2 more for the tarka
140g fresh or frozen coconut, grated
10 large garlic cloves
10g (2 tsp) finely chopped root ginger (peeled weight)
For the curry
4 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
3 small onions, 1 sliced, 2 finely chopped
1kg skinless bone-in chicken joints, cut into medium pieces
16–18 fresh curry leaves
300ml (11/4 cups) coconut milk, or to taste
3–4 tsp tamarind paste
A little chilli powder, to taste (optional)
1. Start with the spice blend. In a non-stick frying pan over a low heat, dry-roast all the whole spices and chillies until aromatic and turning colour, 1–2 minutes. Pour into a spice grinder and grind until fine. Add the coconut to the pan and dry-roast over a medium heat until golden. Pour into a blender.
2. Now for the curry. Heat 1 tbsp of the ghee or oil in the pan over a high heat and fry the sliced onion with some salt until coloured on the edges. Add to the coconut with the ground spices, the garlic, ginger and a splash of water and blend until really smooth.
3. Heat 2 more tbsp ghee or oil in a large non-stick saucepan over a medium-high heat and add 1 of the chopped onions with some salt; cook until soft, then add the chicken. Sear on all sides, then add the spice blend and a splash more water. Bring to the boil, then cover and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure the pan has not run dry (add a splash more water if it does).
4. Towards the end of this time, heat up the remaining 1 tbsp ghee or oil in the frying pan and add the curry leaves and the 2 extra dried chillies. Cook for 30 seconds, then add the final onion and cook until well browned.
5. Meanwhile, add most of the coconut milk and most of the tamarind to the chicken and stir well, then bring to the boil. Add the contents of the tarka pan and stir well. Taste and adjust the seasoning and the tamarind; add some chilli powder if you would like more heat, or a little more coconut milk if you find it too hot.
Wine match: Pinot Noir, Grenache or GSM blend
Recipes and images from I Love India by Anjum Anand (Hardie Grant, $39.99).