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  • Writer's pictureTina Brand

Gently spiced chicken stew: a New Year's tradition

What to cook today? After the inevitable post champagne and fireworks anti-climax, waking to an overcast day promising many more to come, together with the dread and anxiety of knowing that hospitals the world over are overflowing with the sick and dying, food to mark a special day takes on a new meaning for me.

I want to share this recipe as a gift on New Year's day: it is a gently spiced chicken stew, originating from the South Indian Christian community. My mother made this dish on special occasions and always on New Year's day. It was served with appams : spongy, round, coconut milk pancakes with a crisp outer 'frill' as we children called it. I'm planning on serving mine over some steamed basmati rice tonight.

I checked with the 'cooking aunties' before launching into the stew, as mum's is just in my head, not written down anywhere. The grand dames of Indian cooking, Niloufer Ichaporia King and Madhur Jaffrey both offered counsel within their books, so I set forth with confidence.

This stew is loving, nurturing and comforting. It is fragrant and warming, with only a memory of heat, imparted gently through whole spices, not crushed to release their strength.

Teetering on an unforeseeable 2021, but hopeful, this gift of the Kerala chicken stew recipe comes with love and hope. I encourage you to make it, for you will be comforted.

Happy New Year, my dear friends, and thank you for checking in to my blog posts from time to time. I appreciate your support.


1 kg. chicken thigh fillets, fat removed, and cut into pieces

1 tablespoon finely sliced and chopped fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, chopped fine

2 large purple onions, halved and then sliced fine

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 tablespoon plain flour

2 cinnamon sticks

1-2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon whole green cardamons

4 green chillies, slit at the tip

2 fresh sprigs curry leaf

2 cups coconut milk

1/2 cup water

2 large purple onions, halved and then slice fine

2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into c

2 teaspoons salt

Extra cracked pepper if more heat is desired


Heat the oil in a large casserole pan.

When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and when they begin to pop, add the peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, cloves and cardamon.

Stir once, then add the onion, ginger, garlic and curry leaves and stir until the onion becomes soft.

Add the flour, and stir until the mixture changes colour and browns.

Now add the chicken, the coconut milk, water and chillies.

Bring this to the boil, now add the vegetables and salt.

Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for a further twenty minutes or until the chicken and potatoes are tender and cooked through.

Add the lime juice and adjust the seasoning to your taste.

Serve with thick slices of crusty bread or over white rice.


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