Koli Bas saaru - Chicken and lentil stock curry

Here is an all time classic chicken curry made in South India, especially Karnataka. It is made from cooked chicken and lentil stock mixed in with hot red chilies and spices. This recipe is one that has been handed down for generations. My mom's hand-me-down recipe follows.

What you need: Serves 4
2 lb/1 kg whole chicken cut into 2 inch pieces
2 cups brown chickpeas / chana dhal /  kadale kalu
Salt to taste

For the masala:
2 Tbsp poppy seeds/ khus khus
2 Tbsp fresh or dry coconut powder
2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tsp finely chopped fresh garlic
1 tsp turmeric
4 dry red chilies OR 1 tsp red chili powder
4 tsp coriander seeds OR 2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp whole spices (2 cardamoms, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 4 cloves and an inch of dry cinnamon bark)
1 cup ripe red tomatoes diced
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro/coriander leaves

For the tempering:
2 Tbsp vegetable oil or ghee/clarified butter
1 cup white onions chopped into chunks
A sprig of curry leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 Tbsp raw rice
4 dry red chilies

Soak the whole lentils in about 8 cups of warm water. Let it soak overnight or 8 hours. Add a teaspoon of salt and cook it over medium heat until they are cooked, but firm. Drain and set aside. Save the drained lentil water.

Wash and drain the raw chicken pieces and set aside.

Dry roast the poppy seeds, red chilies, coriander and whole spices on medium heat. Add the chopped ginger, garlic and coconut. Turn off the heat. Add the remaining masala ingredients and  grind them in a blender. You can add the lentil broth into the masala when grinding, for a thinner consistency. Once the masala is well ground, set the paste aside.

In a heavy bottom skillet or cooker, add in the cooked lentils, 1 cup of masala, chicken and any remaining lentil broth. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through. Let is simmer on medium heat for about 20 minutes.

Drain the cooked chicken and lentils, and set the drained stock aside. Now we will be tempering the stock into a curry.

In a pan, add a teaspoon of oil, when it begins to shimmer, add in 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, and curry leaves. When the spluttering of the mustard seeds subside, pour in the drained chicken stock and the raw masala that you had set aside. taste a few drops of the curry and add more salt if needed. Let it cook on a low simmer until the raw smell of the masala turns into a cooked aroma of spices. I would give it about 10 minutes.

In another pan, we will now temper the drained chicken and lentils into a stir fry.

Dry roast the raw rice and chilies in a skillet or wok. Coarsely powder it in a processor or coffee grinder. Set aside. Follow the same tempering style as the curry above. Once the spluttering of the mustard seeds subside, add in the onions and cook for about a minute on high heat. 

Toss in the drained chicken and lentils. Saute for about 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle the rice and chili powder. Cover and turn off the heat. Serve the curry and stir fry hot with steamed rice or ragi mudhe (steamed millet dough, recipe here). Enjoy!