Kukul Muss – Chicken Curry

This is chicken curry Sri Lankan style. The recipe is about 50 or 60 years old, from when the country was known as Ceylon. The original recipe calls for jointing a chicken, but you could just use chicken joints instead. Tempering is a local term, it means to blend or mix. We’ve tried to remain true to the original recipe whilst adapting it to the modern Western kitchen.

Feeds 4

1 large roasting chicken
3 small pieces cinnamon
6 cloves
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
½ tablespoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
12 cardamom pods
2 large onions
1 teaspoon chilli powder
Peppercorns (as many as you fancy)
1 cup thick coconut milk (tinned is fine)

Ingredients for tempering
1 level teaspoon ghee or cooking oil
6 small red onions or 1 large onion, sliced
Good pinch of dried mustard
6 – 8 curry leaves

If you want to make this dish the traditional way, joint the chicken into 2 breasts, 2 wings, 2 legs, the backbone and the neck. How you joint it depends on the size of the bird. If you buy a complete, whole chicken from a butcher or farmer, the recipe suggests you use the liver, heart and gizzard in the curry. But you leave them aside until required.

Or you can just use chicken joints.

Break the cinnamon into small pieces and crush the cloves. Lightly crush the seeds, this brings out their full flavour. Slice the onions lengthwise.

In a deep, heavy frying pan dry fry (in Ceylon / Sri Lanka this is called roasting) the chilli, coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek and peppercorns. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring and keeping them moving to avoid burning. Put the mixture to one side.

Put the chicken pieces into a saucepan.

Add the cinnamon, cardamoms, onions, cloves and the thin coconut milk. Add the fried spices and the turmeric, stirring all the while with a wooden spoon. When all is blended add the vinegar and salt.

Cook the curry over a moderate heat so that the chicken simmers steadily until it’s tender. Add the thick coconut milk and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, or until the gravy is thick and oily.

Empty the curry into a bowl and set aside but keep hot.

Heat the tempering ghee or oil in a saucepan, add the sliced onions and mustard, and the curry leaves. Cook until the onions are brown.

Pour the curry on top, let it simmer a few minutes longer, stir well.

Serve with rice, chutneys or sambols.


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