Chicken Massaman

There’s actually a fair amount going on in this dish – chicken in an aromatic, pungent sauce but then there’s potatoes and peanuts and a slight smokiness from the black cardamom.
First you need to make the paste:

  • 2 cloves
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 1 tsp coriander seed
  • Dried chillies – as many as you think you’ll need I used 10, it was reasonably hot. Add as many as you can take.
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • 2 sticks lemongrass, outer skin removed, chopped
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of galangal, chopped
  • A splash of fish sauce.

Roast the spices gently in a dry pan – don’t let them burn. I have an old electric coffee grinder I use to grind my spices. Don’t go using your normal coffee grinder unless you want funny tasting coffee for the next few months. I’d always recommend having a dedicated grinder just for spices.
Once you’ve ground the spices, add them, along with the other ingredients, to a food processor and blitz until you have a well mixed paste (you can add a little vegetable oil just to get things moving if you like).
For the curry:

  • Enough chicken pieces to feed your guests – I used thighs, on the bone. You could use breast but you need to cook this long enough to cook the potatoes so thigh meat, on the bone will cook better and retain moisture.
  • A couple of handfuls of Charlotte potatoes, cut in half
  • A couple of handfuls of shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind – I used the liquid variety
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black cardamoms, I left the husk on
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon peanuts, lightly roasted in a hot oven for a few minutes
  • Vegetable oil
  • A few kaffir lime leaves.

Brown the chicken pieces in hot oil. Do this in batches. Now fry the shallots in the oil in a thick-bottomed pan for a few minutes, now add the paste – fry a minute or 2 longer. Add the chicken pieces and coat in the paste. Add the coconut milk, tamarind, sugar, cardamoms, peanuts, lime leaves and potatoes. Bring to a simmer.
Cook for as long as it takes to cook the potatoes. The chicken will be cooked in this time.
This is important – taste your food. If you think it needs more heat, add more chilli. Consider adding a splash of fish sauce if you think it needs that salty twang.
Fine tune your dish to your liking – I gave mine a squeeze of lime at the end just to finish it off.