WHB : Pepper Chicken Chettinad

This week’s WHB is hosted by Anh of Food Lover’s Journey and my featured ingredient is pepper.

Dried black peppercorns (melagu), which are a fruit and are native to South India, are the star component of this South Indian dish called Pepper Chicken Chettinad (Koli melagu varuval). The peppercorns are toasted and ground up and add a robust warmth and comforting heat to a very simple chicken dish which I think is a perfect weekend meal. It only requires a satisfyingly small number of ingredients, and the end result is so flavoursome it’s hard to believe so little work went into it’s being.

This recipe appears in the new book Qmin by Anil Ashokan and was featured in a recent edition of Gourmet Traveller. Recommended accompaniments to this dish include lemon rice and stir fried green beans. In a fit of “my body is my temple” pique, I served this with gloriously nutty brown rice and steamed broccoli.

Pepper Chicken Chettinad :
(Koli melagu varuval)

4 chicken breasts on the bone, skin on
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
8 golden shallots
12 cloves of garlic
1 tsp fennel seeds
6 dried red chillies
1 tbsp black peppercorns
5 tomatoes
125ml vegetable oil

1 Clean and trim the chicken breasts. Season to taste with sea salt and sprinkle with turmeric and set aside.

Peel the shallots and garlic. Dry-roast half the fennel seeds with chillies and peppercorns over gentle heat, stirring constantly. Crush using a pestle and mortar. Crush the shallots and garlic in a blender, then mix in the pounded spices. Chop up the tomatoes roughly.

Heat oil in a heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Put in the rest of the fennel seeds and then the chicken breasts. Seal well on all sides and remove. Add the tomato and some salt. Stir and cook well. Add the garlic, shallot and spice mix and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Return chicken to the pan and simmer over low heat until it reduces to a thick sauce consistency.

[Note: I used chicken drumsticks and finished the cooking process in the oven at a low temperature so that the meat on the drumsticks would be very tender]


  1. Lorraine E said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 9:22 am

    That looks absolutely mouth watering! I could just bite into my monitor screen right now…

  2. tigerfish said,

    May 8, 2008 @ 2:53 pm

    I want this. I want this. I just want this with some steamed rice. Gosh, I’m so hungry now. I should not be looking at WHB round up at this time of the day (lunch time!).

  3. Kalyn said,

    May 9, 2008 @ 12:35 pm

    Sounds so good. I love all the seasonings you’ve used here.

  4. Maninas said,

    June 4, 2008 @ 6:54 am

    What a gorgeous looking dish! YUUUUM! 🙂

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