Sunday 20 January 2013

Chicken Sukka 

Well, well, well, look whose 5th birthday it is this month? 

Yep, five whole years have passed since I created this website and made my first tentative post. And from those early years, look how much this baby has grown! Its only a month younger than Aditi (although, looking back, I have no idea how on earth I managed a blog and a baby... I guess it was football that helped me through, haha) It feels weird to think that not only did I managed to sustain this site for five years, but also, looking back on my older posts, I am constantly amazed that I actually managed to grow it the way I have. I think I had about 50 visitors for that first post... and all of them just wanted that recipe I made on Masterchef, and weirdly, all of them arrived from that addictive forum, Digital Spy. 

From that point to where I am now is just crazy and I am so hugely humbled that so many of you read my idle meanderings and share in my world. Its been a rollercoaster ride from Masterchef contestant to stay-at-home mom recipe blogger to good home cook to sous chef and full time chief leftover scrounger at Get Cooking.

I never ever thought that my love of cooking would lead me to a real career in food, but it has, and I am just so grateful to be doing something that I love, enjoy and am truly passionate about. Its not many people in the world who love doing what they do, but I can attest from experience that when you do find the one thing in the world that you can wake up in the morning and be constantly excited about what you're going to be doing that day, well, its a joy that's second to not very much in this world. 

While there are many people in the world that have inspired me, I have a lot to thank my dear husband for. I probably don't give him enough credit on this blog (and I do think many a time I've complained bitterly about him  too, cause he can also be a pain in the behind too, haha) but he has been a real support and my rock at many a time when I've wondered what the heck I've been doing with my life and my world and where I fit into all of it.

Chicken Sukka

OK, OK, though, before this post turns into an awards ceremony, I better get on with the real reason you're all here... and that's the food, of course! 

To commemorate my fifth blog anniversary, I decided to revisit another one of my Masterchef dishes, and also one of my favourite dishes. This recipe is from my very good friend Vijay. Vijay and I are childhood buddies in the truest and weirdest sense. We were both born at the same time on the same day, same year and in the same hospital. We ended up in the same kindergarten, the same college and then for a few years our ways parted, with him heading off to Australia and me to England. But again, in the weirdest of co-incidences, Vijay ended up in Manchester while I ended up in London... and then, oh surprise, we both ended up moving to Liverpool! Sadly, we had to part again when I moved here to Edmonton, but I am sure its only a matter of time before I convince him to move to Edmonton (tbh, fat chance, my best friend hates the cold, and can barely survive in Liverpool, haha) 

This was one of the first dishes that Vijay made for me when I visited him in Manchester. I was still a cooking greenhorn then, and Vij had just graduated in hotel management from Australia. I kept bugging him to make me a comforting dish from our hometown, even though all that poor lad wanted to do was go and have some sushi instead. But all my pestering paid off and we had this lovely chicken sukka, that almost forcibly dragged my memories back to my mum's kitchen back home in Mangalore, to the swaying of coconut palms and the warm sea breezes that wafted by with hints of smoke, herbs and spices

And so, when John Torode told me that I had to stay true to my roots in the Masterchef kitchen, I knew almost immediately that this chicken sukka was the dish I was going to make. And to be honest, this dish was so well received by both John and Gregg, that it even made it into the Masterchef Cookbook. Now that is definitely an achievement for Vijay's chicken sukka. 

Kashmiri Chillies, Cassia Bark, Black Pepper

I love the combination of spices, coconut and curry leaves in this sukka. The word 'sukka' essentially translated to 'dry'. So, unlike a fair few curries in India which are quite saucy, this one is a dry curry, and the primary focus of the grated coconut is to absorb the sauce and keep this dish dry, yet flavourfully moist. The coconut also tempers the fiery spiciness of the bafat spice mix (or bafad masala/ bafad pito) that is the primary spice blend in this dish. 

Bafad pito, or bafat powder, is the closest any Mangalorean or Goan will come to a curry powder. There are huge variations in how each household makes their own. Mine is fragrant with cassia bark and cloves and fiery red and flavourful from the Kashmiri chillies. I love using this blend in many other dishes, including my classic Mangalorean dishes like chana sukka, dukra maas and boti. I also chuck it in pretty much anything I want to have a zing of flavour and heat. Its really easy to make your own, and of course, like most homemade spice mixes it really does take your cooking to a whole new level. 

Once you have a batch of this simple spice blend made up, then this dish is super quick to put together, so quick that you could even have it as a weekday dinner that you can prep for less than 30 minutes. And of course, once you taste the flavours in this dish, it is incredible addictive and you will be coming back for more...  so of course, you've been warned. I certainly turn to it when I am in the need of a best friend, and like I always mention in my posts, its amazing where the fragrance of a dish can take you. 

Its been a good five years, and here's to many more of the same. And finally, thank you, my readers and friends. I don't know if I say it often enough, but if I don't, I should. Thank you. Thank you to those who've been with me since the first day I posted up my recipe and thank you to those of you who have joined me along the way. I hope that we will all get younger together and that life is good to all of you, because you make my life good. Sappy, perhaps, but not a truer word has been said! 


500g chicken, cut into bite sized pieces (I use a combination of thighs and drumsticks)
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons coconut or unscented oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 – 2 bird’s eye green chillies, finely chopped
2 fresh tomatoes, diced
½ cup hot water +  a little extra, if required
½ cup grated coconut (fresh, frozen or unsweetened dessicated)
Salt to taste

For the tempering –

2 tablespoons coconut or unscented oil
1 garlic clove, smashed, but left whole
1 sprig (8 – 10) curry leaves
2 long, mild red chillies (I like to use Kashmiri chillies)


Rub the chicken pieces with the turmeric, and keep aside.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan, and add the onion. Fry on a medium heat for about 4 – 7 minutes, until it softens and is just beginning to colour. Add the ginger, garlic and green chillies and sauté for an additional minute.

Add the tomatoes and bafat spice mix. Stir and fry on a medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the masala begins to thicken slightly. Season with a little salt.

Add the chicken pieces, and stir to coat them well with the onion-tomato-spice mixture. Cook for a few minutes, then add ½ cup hot water, cover and cook for an additional 15 – 20 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken pieces, or until they are cooked through. Check occasionally, adding more hot water if the curry is drying out too much.

Taste and adjust seasoning to your taste.

Stir in the grated coconut.

To make the tempering, heat the oil in a small pan, and add the garlic, curry leaves and whole chillies. Sizzle for about 30 seconds then pour the whole lot into the chicken, and cover to trap the aromas. Stir together before serving. 

  Chicken Sukka


  1. Congratulations on your 5th blogging anniversary! I've only just started my blog, and it's a real inspiration to see how successful one can be if you stick with it. I look forward to reading your future posts :) Best wishes, Rebecca x

    1. Thanks Rebecca, yes, I encourage you to stick with it. Its so much fun getting to know new people, and while blogging is strictly a hobby for me, it did lead to my new career. So who knows where it will take you? Cheers!

  2. Congratulations. Wow, five years - I'm very impressed. That chicken looks great - I'm getting seriously hungry. Thanks for your recipes and spice mixes over the last five years - you've genuinely been an inspiration. These days when I want to reproduce a dish that needs a bit of clever spicing then my first thought is 'What would Michelle do?' Here's to the next five years.

    1. Phil, you have no idea how much your encouragement has kept me going... you are my inspiration :) So thanks. Many times I've thought I can't balance this, and my first thought has been how disappointed you'd be, so I plod on! See what I mean? LOL!

  3. Congrats! And this looks wonderful, am pinning now. I finally found frozen shredded coconut, so I am excited to have some recipes to use it with.

    1. Thanks Laura, its certainly been a journey! Glad you found coconut, I love fresh, but frozen or dessicated works just as brilliantly in this recipe.

  4. Happy 5th birthday! Lovely photos in this post Michelle!

    1. Thanks Melissa. You're my creative inspiration, you know that right? :)

  5. Deepa@onesmallpot
    Congrats on 5 years Michelle! Your blog is lovely and once of my inspirations for me starting my own blog.
    This chicken dish looks fab. My husband's background is Manglorean and this would be right up his alley!

  6. Loved this post and the recipe. Stay Blessed and congratulations!!


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