chettinad and saag

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feed the hungry summary: chettinad – our new favourite curry; making substitutions in palak paneer: using rapini rather than spinach and omitting the paneer – it’s fabulous; thoughts about hunger and food freedom day (click on images for larger views)

chettinad Every week in its TV guide, the Toronto Star publishes a recipe from a local restaurant along with a brief piece about the chef. Damu Rengasamy (Madras Masala) was featured in early January. The recipe was “Chicken chettinad”.

It sounded delicious. We’ve not made many South Indian curries and were really intrigued by the use of the curry leaves. And we just happened to have some curry leaves in the fridge.

Chicken chettinad is spectacular!! Even better than we thought it was going to be. And we already thought it was going to be wonderful.

It was so wonderful that we had it again a couple of nights later with pork instead of chicken. And that version was just as wonderful as the previous time when the chettinad was made with chicken.

Here’s how we made chettinad:

based on a Damu Rengasamy’s recipe for Chicken chettinad

masala paste . curry

Please note that these measurements should be taken with a grain of salt. T didn’t actually use spoons to measure the spices….

Masala Paste

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 4-5 dried red chillies
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 one-inch piece cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp dried unsweetened coconut
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 two-inch piece ginger, minced
  • 4 Tbsp sunflower oil
  1. Put spices and bay leaf into small cast iron frying pan over medium heat. Toast spices, stirring with a wooden spoon, until you can smell them (3 to 4 minutes). Transfer to dish to cool and set aside.
  2. Put coconut into the pan and dry toast, stirring with a wooden spoon until it is just starting to turn light gold and aromatic. Remove to the spice dish to cool. Use a coffee spice grinder to finely grind the coconut and spices. Transfer to small bowl.
  3. Stir in garlic, ginger and 2 Tbsp of the oil to make a paste. Set aside.


  • good shot of pork shoulder, cubed ¹
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • good shot (handful) of curry leaves ²
  • 2 large onions, chopped finely
  • masala paste from above
  • 2 plum tomatoes, chopped coarsely
  • 1 c water
  • coriander leaf (cilantro)
  • green chilies, optional
  1. Put pork into a bowl and season with turmeric and salt.
  2. Heat the remaining oil in a large pot, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add the curry leaves. When they begin to sizzle, add onions and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the onions are golden brown.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and stir in masala paste and pork. Continue cooking and stirring for about 2 minutes.
  4. Add tomato and water. Cook, stirring for about 4 minutes.
  5. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until pork is tender. Check for seasonings.
  6. Just before serving, garnish with coriander leaf and green chilies.

We served ours with plain basmati rice. Rengasamy suggests eating it with rice or naan.


1.) Pork: The original recipe calls for chicken. We have made it both ways and secretly, I prefer it with chicken because the chicken gets nice and soft. This is precisely why T prefers it with pork because it holds its shape after being simmered for a long time.

2.) Curry Leaves: We get curry leaves from any of the Indian grocers. They usually keep them in plastic bags in the refrigerated areas of their stores. There has never been much more than one branch worth in the bag. But a branch of the curry leaf tree has enough leaves for a enough chettinad to feed a large party. The leaves tend to dry out quite quickly, so it’s a good idea to use them all immediately. (Please read more about curry leaf (Murraya koenigii)).

saag To go with the chettinad, T made saag with rapini rather than spinach. Look at the colour! We’re thinking that we will always use rapini rather than spinach to make saag.

Mmm… chettinad and saag. Oooh, can we have this again soon please? Let’s try it with naan. :-)

If winter ever ends so we can ride our bikes again, we really must try Rengasamy’s restaurant. I’d love to try his dosas!

  • Madras Masala, 796 Bloor Street West, Toronto


feed the hungry Does Indian food make you hungry? And then does it make you think of those who are truly hungry?

Just a couple of weeks ago, I heard on the radio that it was “food freedom day” in Canada.

Food Freedom Day Sat. Feb. 12, 2011 mark[s] the calendar date by which the average Canadian will have earned enough to pay the entire year’s grocery bill.

– Canadian Federation of Agriculture: Canadian farmers look forward to Food Freedom Day, Feb. 12 [2011]

I wonder how many people in the world can never hope earn enough to be able to celebrate Food Freedom Day?

I came across the following when looking at one of the links on AlertNet: food and hunger

Despite significant economic progress in the past decade, India is home to about 25 percent of the world’s hungry poor. […] According to government figures, around 43 per cent of children under the age of five years are malnourished.

– UN World Food Programme – Fighting Hunger Worldwide, India

empty bowl Of course, we know that it’s not only in India that there are chronically hungry people. In fact, when searching the “food and hunger” section of the crisis centre of AlertNet, India is not even listed.
Yes, that’s right. Even people like me with their heads almost always buried safely in the sand cannot avoid realizing that there is an inordinate number of people who cannot adequate feed their families, let alone themselves.

Here’s an interesting thing. According to the calculator at WeFeedback: social networking for social good, for the cost of our chettinad dinner, we could feed 28 meals to 28 children worldwide. Talk about a little going a long way!! red cup WeFeedback’s mission is to enlist your help and the help of your social networks in the fight against the chronic hunger that burdens families all over the world. […] You choose your favorite food, put it into the Feedback Calculator along with the estimated cost, and then calculate how many hungry children this would feed. The next step is to donate exactly that amount.

– WeFeedBack: Social Networking for Social Good

Please remember that there are increasingly more impoverished and chronically hungry people everywhere in the world. Happily, there are also many reputable organizations working to feed these people. Here are just a few possibilities. Please look in your community for others:

Please remember when giving your donations to ensure that the relief agency you have chosen already has operations set up in the area. Also, it’s a good idea to ask their advice about whether it is best to specify “greatest need” on your donation. They know best where the moneys really need to go.

And don’t forget about these sites online.


Bloggers Against Hunger
Working together with the
World Food Programme
to prevent hunger

(If you have something to add or say about stopping world hunger, please remember to post your thoughts and ideas on your blog, facebook, at work, etc. etc.)


This entry was posted in food & drink, hunger, Indian, main course, posts with recipes on by .

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1 response to “chettinad and saag

  1. oumou

    hello this is a nice recipe. Thanks for sharing but i cant find some fennel seeds can you suggest me something else to substitute.Thank you.

    If you don’t have fennel seeds, you could try anise seed or dill seed.
    They all have a licorice flavour. Anise is a little stronger and sharper in flavour than either dill or fennel. You could probably also use star anise but be very sparing with it. Star anise is very strong. -ejm


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