Fried Whole Chicken with Spicy Sauce

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This dish is impressive: a whole chicken is boiled, marinated in spices and deep-fried, then served with a spicy tomato sauce. The double cooking results in a really tender, flavoursome chicken. It’s a bit nerve-racking deep-frying a whole chicken, but it’s not as hard as it sounds, as long as you use a decent-sized wok and don’t fill it more than one-third with oil. Fareena served the chicken whole and we tore off pieces, adding it to the biryani as we ate. It was delicious, but to be honest the biryani already has a lot going on and the flavours got a little lost. Try serving the chicken on its own with samba rice.

Ingredients

  • 1.6 kg (3 lb 8 oz) whole chicken
  • 3 teaspoons ground turmeric salt
  • 2 teaspoons egg yellow powdered food colouring* and/or a good pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (1 tablespoon if only using saffron)
  • 10 cm (4 inch) piece lemongrass, white part only, very finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 cm (¾ inch) piece ginger, thinly sliced
  • 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) vegetable oil, plus 1 tablespoon extra
  • 1 red onion*, sliced
  • 1 long green chilli*, sliced lengthways three-quarters of the way, keeping it whole
  • 1 sprig curry leaves, leaves picked
  • 8 green cardamom pods, bruised
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) roma tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 small chicken stock cube, dissolved in 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) boiling water
  • 165 g ( oz/1 cup) cooked, drained and rinsed chickpeas (or tinned chickpeas), puréed with a little water
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons roasted curry powder (store-bought)
  • 125 g ( oz/½ cup) curd* (or thick, natural yoghurt)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped mint
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped coriander leaves
  • 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) coconut oil*, for deep-frying

Method

Place the whole chicken in a stockpot, breast-side up, and cover with water. Add the turmeric and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer for 50 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked. Cool slightly, then carefully remove the chicken from the pot and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Combine 1 teaspoon salt, the food colouring and saffron (if using) with the lemon juice in a small bowl, then pour over the chicken. Wearing gloves, rub the marinade into the chicken, then place in the refrigerator to marinate for 2 hours.

To prepare the sauce, use a mortar and pestle to pound the lemongrass, garlic, ginger and 1 teaspoon salt into a paste. Set aside.

Heat 60 ml (2 fl oz/1/4 cup) vegetable oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and chilli and cook for 2 minutes, or until the onions are just starting to turn golden. Stir in the curry leaves and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and fenugreek seeds and cook for 1 minute. Add the extra tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add the lemongrass, garlic and ginger paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes over medium heat, then stir in the chicken stock and chickpea purée; simmer for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, put the garam masala, ground coriander, cumin, curry powder and a little water (about 1 tablespoon) and mix into a thick paste. Add to the sauce and simmer over low heat for 3 minutes. Stir in the curd, 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) water and the mint and coriander leaves; bring to the boil. Cover, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced and thickened, stirring occasionally so the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Check for seasoning and add salt to taste (and if you find that it’s too spicy, add a little extra curd).

When ready to serve, heat the coconut oil in a large wok to approximately 160°C (315°F) (a cube of bread dropped into the oil will brown in 30 seconds). Add the chicken, carefully lowering it into the oil, with the cavity facing away from you. Using a large spoon, baste the chicken with the oil every couple of minutes. It is important that the chicken heats right through as well as fries on the outside. After 7-8 minutes, carefully turn the chicken over to brown the other side. Take care with this, as the oil can splash when you turn the chicken. Cook for a further 8-10 minutes. When the chicken is golden brown with slightly charred edges, carefully remove from the wok and set aside.

Place a couple of spoonfuls of the sauce on a shallow oval-shaped dish, then carefully place the fried whole chicken on top, spooning over the remaining sauce. Serve with chicken biryani or fragrant samba rice.