Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chicken, Coconut & Cashew Nut Curry

Chicken, Coconut & Cashew Nut Curry 1

It was bound to happen sooner or later - a Tessa Kiros recipe that left me feeling a little disappointed.

Our theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, where we are spending six months cooking the recipes of Tessa Kiros, was "Some Like it Hot ... and Spicy!" - an opportunity to heat things up with a bit of chilli, or introduce some warming spices to a heart-warming dessert or sweet treat.

I toyed with the idea of making Tessa's Cinnamon & Cardamom Buns, a recipe which has been on my radar ever since Kim made them right back in week one, and Natashya made them last week.  But in the end Tessa's recipe for Chicken, Coconut & Cashew Nut Curry, which I'd had bookmarked ever since I bought the book Falling Cloudberries, seemed like just the thing for a quick, flavourful, mid-week dinner.

Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes

To be honest, I wish I'd stuck with the buns, since both Kim and Natashya raved about them, and I find myself falling a long way short of being able to rave about this recipe.  Now don't get me wrong - it wasn't terrible or objectionable - but when you are used to eating and making a lot of Indian food, as I am, it just fell rather short.  Despite the variety of spices in here, the flavours were somehow not fully rounded out and felt a little unbalanced, and the gravy failed to thicken and emulsify as it should have.

I think, however, the recipe is not beyond redemption.  I would make this again, but there are a number of modifications that I would make which I think would improve it considerably.  Below I have recorded the recipe from the book, as that is what I made, and then at the end I have included my notes for what I would do to improve this.  I'm going to make my improved version next week, so I'll be sure to let you know how that goes.

Chicken, Coconut & Cashew Nut Curry 2

Don't you love the way I managed to capture my own reflection in the bowl - try cloning that out!!

Chicken, Coconut & Cashew Nut Curry
Recipe by Tessa Kiros from
Serves 3-4

1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
4 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 heaped tablespoon garam masala
pinch freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1.25 kg (2lb 12oz) chicken thighs, skinned, boned & flesh diced
(use bone-in thighs for better flavour)
2 onions, finely diced
45g (1-1/2 oz) dessicated coconut
70g (2-1/2 oz) roasted, unsalted cashews
1 cup plain yoghurt

Dry roast the coriander, cumin, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, bay leaf and garam masala and black pepper in a non-stick pan set over high heat.  Stir-fry until fragrant - just a couple of minutes, then remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and brown the chicken and onions (you may have to do this in batches).  Add the spices, stirring until fragrant, and making sure all the chicken and onions are well coated with the spice mix.  Season generously with the salt.  Add the coconut and 2 cups water, bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring from time to time.  Cut the cashew nuts in half, add to the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes.  (Tessa suggests adding more water, if it looks as though it needs it - I think that's unlikely, if anything I found it too watery)

Lastly, stir in the yoghurt.  Simmer for another minute or two without allowing it to come to a boil.  Serve with steamed, buttered, basmati rice.

My recommended changes:
  1. Replace ground spices with whole spices
  2. I would suggest replacing the nutmeg with a cinnamon stick, and substituting the ground pepper with half a dozen dried red chillies.
  3. Cut the onion back to just one, but add a dozen garlic cloves and a knob of ginger, to round out the flavour a bit more.
  4. Increase the amount of coconut - probably about double, and increase the amount of cashew nuts - again probably at least double.
  5. Dry roast the wholes spices, along with the coconut, ginger and garlic over low heat for about 5 minutes, and then add about a third of the cashews and the onion, and continue to roast for maybe another 10-15 minutes.  Allow to cool completely, and then grind up in a blender with some water until you have a smooth, fine paste.  This should extract maximum flavour and help to get a thick, emulsified gravy.
  6. Then heat oil in a large pot, and fry this spice paste for around 10 minutes, before seasoning with salt, add the chicken, and fry for a few minutes making sure chicken is well coated with spice mixture.
  7. Add water, and simmer for about 10 minutes before adding the rest of the cashew nuts, and continue simmering until the chicken is cooked through.
  8. I would leave the yoghurt out, but maybe add some lemon juice and grated lemon zest to the rice.
As I mentioned earlier, I'm going to try out these changes next week, so I'll let you know how it works out, but I feel pretty confident it will deliver I better balanced flavour, and a good, thick gravy.

Chicken, Coconut & Cashew Nut Curry 3

If you would like to get to know Tessa a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...

IHCC Tessa Kiros Button

... or check out Falling Cloudberries and many of Tessa's other great titles available from Amazon or Fishpond NZ.



I'm also sharing this at Cookbook Sundays, where my friends are delving into their cookbook collections and sharing some of their recipes.  Do stop by to see what they're cooking - you might even feel inspired to link up a recipe from one of your own cookbooks.


  1. looks wonderful I make a similar combination with meat looks wonderful

    1. Thanks - I could imagine these kind of flavours working with lamb, but maybe without the cashews :-)

  2. Ohh, bummer when a recipe by someone you love isn't everything you think it will be. All the ingredients sound delicious, but all that water would concern me a little. Your changes sound just right.

    1. I know - so disappointing. Expected it to be good from the ingredients used - I think the problem lies more in the technique, and just needs a few other ingredients to balance out the flavours more.

  3. Shame it didn't turn out as you expected - I love Tessa Kiros too. It's really funny - I was thinking of making Swedish cardamom buns too (but didn't)!

  4. Eventually I will make it into a Cookbook Sunday! Give me time :-).
    In regard to you comment on Venezia, I answered you but I will copy here for convinience:
    I think that you would love Venice Sue, I hope that you can make there one day, and FYI the guy that owns the B&B (the link is in the post) also teaches yoga, a Tibetan type!


    1. Thanks Alessandra - I checked out the B&B website - it looks love. I'd totally love to go there and do some yoga with the owner :-)

  5. It looks and sounds wonderful. I make a lot of curries too and I'm sure your additions would really improve it. I am often disappointed when making a curry from a well-known writer who doesn't do a lot of Indian food as the flavours seem to be less intense than I would like.

    1. I guess, having been brought up on Indian food, I probably found this as disappointing as someone would who was raised on Italian food and tries one of my "Italian-inspired" recipes :-)

  6. I was paging through falling cloudberries just two nights ago and this definitely caught my eye! How sad that it was a bust. I'm going to have to try your spruced up version!

    1. Yes, disappointing, but I haven't given up on it yet, and there have been so many other recipes from Falling Cloudberries that I've loved, so don't think I have too much cause for complaint.

  7. Bummer =( Oh and learn, huh? I can't wait to see how your version comes out- it sounds fantastic!

    1. Exactly - live and learn, and often what we learn from the failures outweighs what we glean from all the successes. Gee - just thought - hope my version comes out ok, or I'll really have to eat my words!!

  8. You have me laughing at the picture w/ your reflection. I once posted a picture only to later say to myself: I can totally see up my own nose.

    Sorry this dish disappointed. I have no doubt that you can coax it along.

  9. Looks lovely - thanks for the recommendations! I have chicken thawing to make this tomorrow night. I'll come back to remind myself of your tips.
    Then I am coming over to steal all your beautiful Indian dishes! ;-)
    (I'll be the Canadian who is clinking as she exits your back window.) ☺

  10. Bummer..I'm sorry it fell short, but as you said in an earlier and learn. I've gotten to where I'm okay with the failures because I learn the most from them. I do like your suggestion of adding a dozen cloves of garlic though. I think garlic would remedy almost any dish.

  11. It is so annoying when that happens, but what I love about curries you can adjust & add a little more of what you like :)

  12. It's too bad it didn't turn out as expected. I'll be interested to see how you like it with your changes. On paper it seems like a great dish. ;-)

  13. No worries, we learn from our mistake. If we don't stop trying, will definitely get it right soon. I have experienced recipe like this before too. Can be frustrating.

  14. Woooooow , i taste it from here

    its good i wanna try it this week


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