Maunika Gowardhan's Goan Chicken Xacuti

Xacuti (say: shakooti) is a traditional curry that’s rich and full of flavour. Roast the coconut until it is golden; it gives the gravy its deep red colour. 

  • Preparation time: 20 minutes
  • Cooking time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Total time: 1 hour 25 minutes

Serves: 6


4 chicken legs (about 1kg)
1 tsp ground turmeric
3 tbsp vegetable oil
230g onion (about 1 large), thinly sliced
1 heaped tsp ground paprika
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3½ tbsp tamarind paste

120g fresh coconut pieces
2 tsp dried chilli flakes
2 tbsp coriander seeds
5cm cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
4 cloves
2 star anise
1 heaped tbsp poppy seeds
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped


1. Remove the skin from the chicken, then separate into drumsticks and thighs by cutting through the central joint. Rub the turmeric and a pinch of salt into the chicken pieces and set aside while you make the paste.

2. Heat a dry frying pan over a low heat and toast the coconut for 12-14 minutes, until it starts to brown; tip out and set aside. In the same pan, toast the chilli flakes, coriander seeds, cinnamon, peppercorns, cumin and fennel seeds, cloves and star anise for 5 minutes, stirring well. When it starts smelling fragrant, add the poppy seeds; toast for 3 minutes. Cool, then whizz with the coconut pieces, garlic and 3 tbsp water in a blender. Add another 3 tbsp water and whizz again to a thick, smooth paste. It might seem a little dry but you don’t want to add too much water.

3. Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the onions. Fry over a medium heat for 12-15 minutes, until they soften and start to turn light brown. Add the xacuti paste and stir-fry for 5 minutes, making sure it doesn’t stick. Turn the heat up slightly; add the paprika and 50ml water, scraping the spices from the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken and fry for 5 minutes, coating it in the paste.

4. Add another 300ml water, stir and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Add the nutmeg and tamarind paste and simmer, uncovered, for a final 7-8 minutes. Serve, scattered with fresh coriander, if liked.