Mauritian Chicken Kalia

Think of a beautifully spiced and perfumed biryani and then imagine it without all the hassle of dealing with the rice, layering and steaming. You’ve got Kalia: a deliciously fragranced, easy-to-prepare dish that will have your taste-buds doing cartwheels in your mouth.

This recipe was given to me by my dad, who hails from the eponymous paradise island. I’ve tried to keep as true to authenticity as possible, but my dad is a natural cook – preparing food from memory, using taste, touch and smell. It’s difficult to wrangle a recipe out of him: often he’ll tell me that there was a handful of this, a bit of that, a splash of this and a grind of that.

So I’ve collated all the evidence, cobbling together my dad’s list of ingredients and hope that I have created something that is close enough or hopefully equal to the way that my dad makes it at home.

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RECIPE: Mauritian Chicken Kalia

INSPIRED BY: My dad.

FLAVOUR PROFILE: Fresh, fragrant, light

GOES GREAT WITH: Basmati rice and a fresh tomato and onion salad. Or why not try making Matar Paneer

NOTES: As with all recipes that involve marinating, the key is – the longer the better – for all the flavours to infuse.

This recipe includes Biryani spice, which you can now buy in all good supermarkets. Shop-bought spice is excellent, but nothing beats making your own. If you have the time, I’d suggest toasting and grinding the spices, as it lends the most incredible flavour.

In Step 5 – you will be adding whole cinnamon and cardamom pods, which will need to be fished out at the end of cooking. You could make this easier by putting them inside a muslin bag first.

MAKES: Enough to feed 4. Or 6 if you are making side dishes.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 450g (16oz) CHICKEN, in large pieces
  • 2 tbsp. BIRYANI SPICE, either shop-bought or make your own (recipe below).
  • 2 inch piece FRESH GINGER, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves GARLIC, roughly chopped
  • Handful FRESH CORIANDER, torn
  • Handful MINT, torn
  • 2 RED ONIONS. roughly chopped
  • 2 TOMATOES, roughly chopped
  • 1 RED CHILLI, roughly chopped
  • 180g (6.3oz) NATURAL YOGHURT
  • Few strands SAFFRON, added to 2 tbsp. of hot water
  • 4 CARDAMOM PODS
  • ½ tsp. CUMIN SEEDS
  • 1 inch piece CINNAMON STICK
  • 1 tbsp. COCONUT OIL
  • 1 tsp. GROUND TURMERIC

BIRYANI SPICE

  • 1 tbsp. CORIANDER SEEDS
  • ¾ tsp. FENNEL SEEDS
  • ½ tsp. CUMIN SEEDS
  • 4 CARDAMOM PODS
  • 2 CLOVES
  • 1 DRIED RED CHILLI
  • ¼ STAR ANISE
  • ¼ tsp. WHOLE BLACK PEPPERCORNS
  • 1 tbsp. CURRY LEAVES
  • ½ inch piece CINNAMON STICK

METHOD:

  1. First make the BIRYANI SPICE (unless you are using shop-bought): Take all the spices (CORIANDER SEEDS, FENNEL SEEDS, CUMIN SEEDS, CARDAMOM PODS, CLOVES, DRIED CHILLI, STAR ANISE, PEPPERCORNS, CURRY LEAVES and CINNAMON STICK) and put them in a dry frying pan. Heat them over a medium-high heat, shaking the pan occasionally, and toast them for 1-2 minutes. Be careful, as they will burn easily if left unattended. You’ll know they are ready when the oils are released and you can smell their fragrance.
  2. Split open the CARDAMOM PODS and scrape out the seeds, discarding the husks, and put them, along with all the other toasted spices into a spice grinder. Whizz to a fine powder. If you are planning to use a pestle and mortar, then I would suggest keeping the cinnamon, star anise and dried chilli whole, as they are very difficult to manually grind and are easily fished out of the curry in the end.
  3. Make the marinade: To a blender, add the FRESH GINGER, GARLIC, CORIANDER, MINT, RED ONIONS, TOMATOES, RED CHILLI and NATURAL YOGHURT. Blitz until you get a paste (I left mine slightly on the chunky side, as I like the texture).
  4. Put the CHICKEN into a large zip-lock bag. Pour in the MARINADE, BIRYANI SPICE and the SAFFRON AND WATER. Seal the bag, then give everything a good squish around so that everything is evenly distributed over the chicken pieces. Leave to marinate for at least 1 hour or preferably over-night.
  5. Make the curry: Heat the COCONUT OIL in a large saucepan. Add the CUMIN SEEDS, CINNAMON and CARDAMOM PODS and cook for a minute to release their flavours into the oil. Now add the CHICKEN along with all of the marinade. Sprinkle in the TURMERIC, give it a stir and put a lid on the pan.
  6. Cook on a medium heat for ½ hour. Then turn the heat down to low and cook for a further ½ hour.

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3 thoughts on “Mauritian Chicken Kalia

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