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RECIPE. Keralan chicken ishtu w/ aromatic rice

We designed this recipe for a corporate cook along and loved it so much we thought we'd share the recipe. 

An ishtu is a South Indian stew - this one is mild and aromatic with flavours of coconut, turmeric, curry leaf and cinnamon (amongst others)

We also have a 'works every time' method for cooking rice by the absorption method, which makes it super fluffy.

Serves 2


Whole spices:
1 cinnamon stick
10 or so dried curry leaves

Spice paste made in advance from the following.
You'll need to toast the whole spices in a dry pan then grind in a spice grinder before blending together with the rest of the ingredients and a splash of water. If you don't have a spice grinder this can be made with ready ground spices. 
10 green cardamom pods
5 cloves
10 black peppercorns
3 star anise
A handful of dried curry leaves
5 cloves garlic
2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
3 dried red chillis
1 concentrated chicken stock cube or pot

Curry base
1 medium onion, finely sliced
A thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1-2 green chillies, finely diced
Ground spice mix of
- 1 tsp ground fennel seeds
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsps ground coriander
400g chicken thigh fillets, chopped into large dice
100g trimmed green beans
200ml coconut milk
½ lemon, juice only
A handful of baby spinach
A small bunch of fresh coriander
Vegetable oil
Salt & pepper

Aromatic rice:
200g basmati rice
2 cloves
2 green cardamom pods
2 star anise
Vegetable oil
Salt & pepper

Ingredients for Keralan Chicken Ishtu


STEP 1 - Preparation

Finely chop the onion, ginger, garlic and green chilli. Taste a tiny piece of chilli to gauge how hot it is and only use as much as you feel comfortable with. Cut the green beans in half into batons. Break down the chicken thighs into large pieces. Finely chop the stems of the coriander and roughly chop the leaves.

If you haven't made the spice paste in advance, go ahead and make it now.

STEP 2 – Start your rice

Place the rice in a container (small jug of tupperware) and note the level to which the rice fills the pot. Wash the rice in cold water in a sieve for a minute or so, drain off excess liquid. Heat a little oil in a small sauce pan with tight fitting lid, then add the whole spices and stir till aromatic. Now add the rice and stir so the oil coats the rice grains. Season with a little salt.

Fill the container you used to measure the rice to the same level with cold water add this to the rice pan. Bring the water to the boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat to the lowest level and add a tight fitting lid (or cover with cling film so that no steam is escaping). Cook away for 15 minutes then take off the heat and set to one side. When your curry is in the final stages of cooking, take off the lid and fluff up the rice with a fork.

STEP 3 – Release the aromas

Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable or rapeseed oil in a wide pan then add the cinnamon stick, curry leaves and spice paste. Cook this for a minute, stirring until it becomes fragrant, then add the onion and cook over a medium heat until the onion is translucent - around 5 minutes.

STEP 4 – Layer the flavours

Add the chopped ginger, garlic, green chillies and coriander stalks and sauté gently for 1-2 mins. Now add the ground spice mix to the pan with a splash of water and cook for 2 mins. Now add the chicken to the pan along with a small cup of water, the coconut milk and the green beans. Season well with salt and pepper, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

You can now fluff your rice.

STEP 6 – Bring everything together

Taste the curry and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if required, add a squeeze of lemon juice then the baby spinach, stirring through until it’s just wilted.

Serve with some fresh coriander leaves on top and the aromatic rice on the side.

ENJOY! And do feel free to leave comments below. LKD x

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