Black-spiced chicken and whole grain rasam

Black-spiced chicken and whole grain rasam

Anjum's Quick & Easy Indian
Lisa Linder

This spicy, hearty soup is based on a popular recipe from Chettinad, a region known for its black peppercorn dishes. The spices give the broth a dark colour but they are not as strong as they look. It is the ultimate comforting chicken soup, with the added benefit of having filling and nutty whole grains thrown in. I often buy a packet of mixed pre-cooked whole grains from the supermarket. If you only have raw farro or spelt, add in half the weight of the cooked grains used below at the same time as the chicken (check the cooking times on the packet though). As with all chicken soups, I use whole joints so they add their goodness to the dish.

For the spice blend


Quantity Ingredient
1 star anise
1 3/4 teaspoons black peppercorns
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
3 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
4 cloves
2.5 cm shard cassia bark or cinnamon stick

For the rasam

Quantity Ingredient
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, finely sliced
10 fresh curry leaves, (optional)
5 fat garlic cloves, grated
25g root ginger, grated, (peeled weight)
5 large skinless bone-in chicken thighs
500ml chicken stock
250g whole grains, pre-cooked
3/4 teaspoon tamarind paste, or to taste


  1. Grind together all the whole spices for the spice blend to a fine powder.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan. Add the onions and curry leaves and cook until the onions are golden brown on the edges.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and cook gently for one minute before adding the spice blend with a good splash of water. Cook for another three or four minutes, then add the chicken thighs, stock and some salt. Pour in 500 ml of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked, giving the pot an occasional stir. Pierce the largest chicken thigh; the juices that emerge should run clear with no trace of pink. If not, cover and cook for a few minutes longer, then check again.
  4. Remove the chicken from the pan with a slotted spoon and add the grains to the soup, keeping it on a very gentle simmer. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, tear the meat from the bones in large chunks and stir it back into the pot. Stir in the tamarind, taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve.
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