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Chicken Salna

Chicken Salna
Chicken Salna Ready to Serve up

Chicken Salna is not one of the run of the mill chicken recipes and you are not very likely to see it in the average British Indian Restaurant. Which is a shame because it really is a stunner; spicy yet fresh tasting, quite wet but very warming. A sort of very chunky spicy soup. And indeed this is a very good 'winter warmer'

This is a Southern Indian dish from Tamil Nadu - this often means very hot, but you can tone it down. It is a street-food favoutite and you will find this dish served at roadside stalls - a big lump of flaky paratha to dip into a bowl of steming Chicken Salna.

I really don't understand why our curry houses don't do proper Indian dishes like this; you get chicken Madras (whatever that is?) and an array of things that you would never find in India; they all taste much the same. But really good dishes like Chicken Salna never get a look in - oh well.

I read quite a lot of different recipes and tried this a few times before settling on this, my take on Chicken Salna.

Basic Ingredients

1lb (450g) chicken
1 large onion
2 large cloves garlic
" (1cm) root ginger
red or green chilli
Chilli powder
2-3 shallots
small handfull of curry leaves
2 tablespoons dessiccated coconut
2 tablespoons toasted chickpeas (tinned or fresh)
200gms tinned tomatoes
Oil for frying

teaspoon turmeric
Seeds from 2 cardamom pods
2 cloves
teaspoon peppercorns
"(1 cm) stick cinnamon
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
About a handful of fresh coriander leaves (Optional)

Chicken Salna
Chicken Salna - with a nice flaky parata to dip

Notes on Ingredients

Chicken. I have used a variety of cuts, breasts are the easiest, thighs are very tasty but you can use any joints of chicken you like.

Chilli. This recipe includes both fresh and powdered chilli - you can leave out the fresh chilli if you like. The quantity of chilli powder is your choice, it depends on the strength of the chilli powder and how hot you want the result.

Oil. I used Mustard oil for this dish but you can use butter, ghee or, if you have none of these, then plain vegetable oil is ok.

Chickpeas. I have seen recipes that use chickpeas, peanuts, cashew nuts or coconut; I think cashew nuts are probably the most common. I have sort of settled on chickpeas and coconut 'cos I really like this.
If you use fresh chickpeas you have to soak them for a few hours or even overnight so tinned is easier

Basic Method

Heat a dry frying pan or tava and roast the coriander, cumin, poppy seeds, cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon.
Allow to cool and grind these together with the cardamom seeds, turmeric and fennel to a fine powder
Chop the chicken into 1" (2.5cm) cubes

Finely chop the onion
Crush and chop the garlic
Finely chop the chilli (if using)
Peel and very finely dice the ginger
With a little water, make a paste from the garlic, ginger and chopped chilli

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan.
Put the onions, fry for a minute or so then add then garlic, chilli and ginger paste.
Crumble in the curry leaves.
After a few seconds, turn down the heat and continue cooking until the onions are nicely softened.
Add the ground spices, turmeric and chilli powder, and cook for a couple of minutes.
Turn up the heat again and put in the chicken and fry until it is sealed and has all turned white, then reduce the heat to low, stirring to prevent sticking.
Add the tomatoes, chickpeas and coconut, stirring them in and cook for about 10 minutes.
Now add a couple of cups of water, bring to the boil and then slowly cook for at least 45 minutes, adding more water if necessary.

Optionally garnish with chopped coriander leaves or you can stir these into the dish

Notes on Method

Chicken Salna is pretty straight forward. It should be quite soupy, not too thick - ideal for dipping paratha or naan into.
You can simmer for longer in a slow cooker
If you feel the dish is too watery you can add a teaspoon of gram flour amd cook for about 10 minutes to thicken it up


Other Chicken Salna recipes I looked at and experimented with, had a few noticable options :
The nut content as mentioned in the ingredients
Spices vary a little but the fennel is important to give it a distinctive lift
Some recipes use bay leaf rather than curry leaves

You could use coconut milk to add another dimension.

This is perfect with naan bread or (better) a nice flaky paratha bread.

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