Wednesday 18 March 2015

Chicken Xacutti

Chicken Xacutti ~ Chacuti  ~ Shakuti

The Indian Sub-continent was colonised by the Portuguese dating back to the 1490's. It was established in the territory of present day Goa  in India. Its cultural and culinary influence remains historic and strong. Goanese cuisine is defined by this indelible era.

The local language of Goa is Konkani and yet besides English and Hindi people continue to speak Portuguese. The cuisine has a love of mixing lots of spices in their food with generous amounts of vinegar (coconut vinegar is the local staple) and dry red chillies. Some of the most popular dishes are  a pork Vindaloo, Balchao - a seafood curry and Sorpotel - a meat dish.

Xacutti is a less known Goan delicacy. Pronounced as sha-ku_tea - the origins of the word Chacuti is Portuguese. Xacutti is a blend of spices cooked with chicken, lamb and even fish. The thick gravy is mopped up with the traditional rolls of bread called Poi or Pao.

The Portuguese continue to prepare Chacuti. They add potatoes and pearl onions to their recipes and d serve it with plain boiled rice. 
I share my version of it with a touch of Parsi flavours and the local Italian crusty roll from my supermarket!

                                                    Xacutti served with Goan Poi is traditional. 

Serves 4 to 6

1 kg chicken in 8 pieces  - I used thighs.
1 tbsp oil
2 finely chopped onions - fried
1 cup fresh grated coconut


Grind together
(lightly toast before grinding it)
4 large dry Kashmiri red chillies
1 tsp sesame seeds
2 tsp khuskhus / poppy seeds

#2 Add to the grinder and make a paste from

1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp corriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp crushed ginger
1 pod of fresh  crushed garlic
2 tbsp vinegar
1/2 tsp tamarind paste
1  tsp salt 
1 tbsp scraped jaggery

2 cups coconut water

Heat the oil and sweat the onions until golden brown.. Add  the chicken and brown all over. Add the blended spices and stir fry for a minute or two. Add the coconut water. Mix well, bring to a boil, cover and lower the heat. Cook for 30 minutes.  
Check for the doneness of the chicken. Continue to cook until its cooked through.
Before serving - on a high flame boil the gravy until its fairly thick and all the water has evaporated.  

Serve this with warm crusty bread rolls. Alternately fresh chapatti, naan or rice.


An added step of frying the chicken pieces and keeping them aside adds to the flavour if its whole bone in pieces and not smaller boneless pieces. 

The garam masala is made up of equal quantity of black pepper, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. you may add them whole for the flavour if you do not have any in your pantry.

"Toasting" the spices simply means heating them in a fry pan over a flame. The warmth releases all the oils of the dry spice rejuvenating the aroma and flavours from within the spice after storage.

Using an extra tbsp or two of vinegar can be a substitute for the tamarind paste.
Goanese food uses a fruit vinegar but any rice wine vinegar can be used.
Brown sugar may be used instead of jaggery.

Freshly grated coconut is available in the freezer sections in most Indian markets. 
Desiccated coconut is a close substitute. 
Please note that the texture of this dish is NOT smooth but rather chunky.

Read more about Parsi Food and its history and origins in the cookbook  The Art of Parsi Cooking; reviving an ancient cuisine . You may also like The World of Parsi Cooking: Food Across Borders.

Photo courtesy Niloufer Mavalvala

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