Chicken Spatchcock|Poussin Curry

By Published On: 4 Nov '22Last Updated: 14 Apr '24

This Chicken Spatchcock|Poussin Curry is one of the best ever traditional Mangalorean young chicken curries, given to post-natal women in South India. Delicious, earthy, and coconut free, it also makes a lean addition to any diet. Serve over basmati, brown, jasmine or white Doongara Clever Rice.

★★★★

“Followed your recipe with chicken fillets for lunch today. Fell in love with the authentic aroma ????


– Jennet Menezes

A simple yet tasty traditional Mangalorean Chicken Spatchcock | poussin curry is served to a new mother during confinement or post-partum period. This period of confinement is spent at the natal home and is intended for the mother to recover her physical strength after birth. Confinement or pampering at best could last from 10 days to 41 days or may stretch beyond as per the Chinese practice of zuo yuezi (doing the month). The baby receives the first holy sacrament of Baptism towards the end of the 41 days.

For the first time mother, the transition from pregnancy to motherhood is a time of joy, fear, relief, adjustment and to a great extent sleep deprivation. A new baby comes with a lot of challenges and emotional ups and downs. As the health of the mother and baby are equally important, special attention is given to the health and well being of both the mother (pampering) and baby (many oil massages and warm baths) and that includes a good diet and exercise.

Thanks to my Granduncle, Isidore Coelho, who is the inspiration behind this amazing recipe. My mother taught me some of the best food that I prepare today, but in her absence, my granduncle is such an important part of my life.

Post-partum traditions of india

Being a Mangalorean, I have been a witness to many of the post-partum practices followed by my mother, when my elder sister came home to stay with us during her period of confinement – the savoury and sweet diet, nutrition, coconut oil massages followed by warming baths, sleeping in dark rooms, avoiding exposure to wind and cold, belly binding and many more!! Sounds familiar to some of you, right!!

Maya D’Costa, a Birth Institute student, gives us an insight into the traditional ways in which women in India are supported during post-partum period. Nutrition Care of Rochester is a website specialising in the health of women and children. To learn more about Postpartum Traditions in India, please visit https://www.nutritioncareofrochester.com/article.cfm?ArticleNumber=30

nutrition during confinement

During the period of confinement, in many south-east Asian countries, a new mother whilst being pampered, is also made to observe a very controlled diet. In a Mangalorean home, she is given food that is easily digestible such as spatchcock|poussin or mutton paya (goat trotters or feet) soups or curries, light fish preparations such as kaane nivoll curry or kaane pepper fry along with steaming hot boiled rice. Food considered particularly dangerous such as jackfruit, different varieties of bananas, pineapple, field cucumbers (moghem), buffalo meat were avoided from the post-partum diet.

Spices such as, cumin and carom (ajwain) seeds along with turmeric are included in cooking as they are meant to cool the stomach, rev up digestion and promote production of breast milk. Used in traditional Indian cuisine and ayurvedic medicine, these spices have also shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, in much the same way as turmeric.

This Spatchcock|Poussin curry is authentic old world style cooking, bursting with flavour, that has been enjoyed by many for hundreds of years. It is a traditional Mangalorean way of cooking a young chicken (spatchcock), usually 3-4 weeks of age. As this bird is tender, it absorbs the flavours of the curry very quickly, making it delicious to be served immediately. This curry was cooked by my mother for my sister when she had her babies. It is a must try if you are looking for something original and different whether weekend or weekday, year-round.

Back in the day, country chickens domesticated at home in a natural environment were used to prepare this curry. Many who have tasted a country chicken would agree that the taste of a country chicken is infinitely better than the industrially raised chickens. In modern times, we have to improvise with what is available on the supermarket shelves. Spatchcock is a near enough fit!

what is a spatchcock

Just in case you are wondering what a spatchcock is, well, a spatchcock is a culinary term used in the cookery books of the 18th and 19th century and revived towards the end of the 20th century. It is said to be of Irish origin and carries two meanings:

  • A spatchcock is a young chicken usually 3-4 weeks of age.
  • It also refers to a specific way of preparing the chicken, so it can be flattened to roast or barbecue in half the time.

More clearly, spatchcocking/butterflying is a technique of removing the backbone of the whole chicken in such a way that the bird lays flat or in a sense opened like a book, if you like, and roasted/baked. This technique was increasingly easier to practice on smaller birds, hence this technique became more commonly associated with young chickens over time.

In the recipe that follows, I will not be butterflying the chicken. I am using a young chicken to make a traditional Mangalorean curry without coconut, specifically given to post-natal/post-partum women in India, particularly in Mangalore. This curry is mild, tasty, flavoursome and easy to digest. Although this curry forms a part of the post-natal diet, you can enjoy it any time of the year!

The chicken is cut into pieces and cooked to perfection in a mild earthy sauce packed with flavour. It is not at all spicy and it is suitable not just for the post-natal women but for all who love curries!!! Serve with steaming hot boiled rice (a type of rice) or pan polay (unfermented lacy ice flour pancakes) or neer dosa.

Close up of the freshly cooked Spatchcock curry with the fried onion garnish

ingredients in spatchcock|poussin curry

Let me go through what you need to make this amazing curry!! First, the delicious curry paste that will form the sauce.

the spatchcock|poussin and the curry paste

  • Spatchcock|poussinA spatchcock|poussin is a young chicken around 3-4 weeks of age, weighing approximately 450g – 600g. It is available as a whole bird in Woolworths and Coles Supermarkets. Cut into 8 pieces for making this curry.
  • Alternative cutsChicken thigh fillets will also work well, as would chicken thigh cutlets (use 500g-600g of chicken thigh fillets or cutlets with bone in). Chicken thigh cutlets with bone in, stay tender and juicy when cooked. Remove the skin of the cutlets (if you prefer it that way) and cut the cutlets into two pieces using a meat cleaver. Just look out as there may be some splinters in the curry. I do not use chicken breast, as I find chicken breast a bit stringy when cooked in a curry.
  • SpicesThe whole spices and ground spices in the image are fairly accessible these days in the spice section of large grocery stores in Australia. If you are unable to buy coriander and cumin seeds, you can find at all Indian supermarkets (I buy my spices at Ravi’s House of Spices in West Ryde, NSW) or Asian grocery stores (some have Indian section). Many spices are now available at most Coles grocery stores in their dedicated Indian Section. Click on the link below to see what spices you can buy at Coles https://shop.coles.com.au/a/national/everything/search/coriander%20seeds
  • Peppercorns, ground cinnamon and turmericGives the curry sauce the peppery heat and the beautiful hues of green and yellow.
  • Oil and onionOnion browned in a little oil and blended to form the curry base, gives the curry sauce a rich flavour.
  • Fresh garlicRoughly sliced as we are blending it with other spices to make the curry paste.
  • TamarindFresh, a staple in Indian curries, is added for flavouring and a little tang. It is soaked in a little hot water and only pulp/extract is used.

other ingredients in the curry sauce

Much of the curry flavour comes from the curry paste (above). But there are a couple of extra ingredients used to pep up the base of the sauce flavour:

  • Ghee (clarified butter) A widely used fat in Indian cooking, made from cow’s milk. It is beautifully fragrant and adds a unique nutty taste to this curry sauce.

Find at: Most natural food-stores plus nearly any mainstream grocery store. Look for it with the cooking oils or in the dedicated Indian foods section. Shelf-stable ghee does not need to be refrigerated.

  • Chicken Stock powderIs a wonderful addition to many Indian curries and this curry is no exception. Boosts the sauce flavour beautifully.

step-by-step instructions

The Spatchcock|Poussin curry starts off with a curry paste made by grinding or blending fried onions with some earthy spices and fresh garlic. This paste is then used as a curry sauce before adding the chicken, which is then simmered until just tender.

You will find full instructions and measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of this post. This is the summary of the process to go along with the process photos.

Step 1 – in the recipe card below

Before you start prepping the ingredients, soak tamarind in 3 tbsp. hot water for 15 minutes. Squeeze the tamarind with your fingers, discard the seeds and fibre. Use only the pulp/extract in Step 4

Step 2 – in the recipe card below

Remove the spatchcock from the packet. Rinse under cold running water, drain and blot dry on paper towel

My apologies, I have not included a separate photo of the blot dried chicken, as I have posted the photo with the ingredients above. You get the idea!

Step 2 – in the recipe card below

Using a knife or poultry shears, cut the spatchcock into 8 pieces. Leave the skin intact.

In the image, I have separated the neck and hence you will see 9 pieces! Set aside

Step 3 – in the recipe card below Heat oil, add sliced onion, fry till the edges turn golden. Remove from heat. Cool.

Heat oil in a medium frying pan

Add 1 sliced onion

Fry till the edges turn golden. Cool

Step 4 – in the recipe card below – Add fried onion to blender. Add spices, garlic and tamarind pulp. Blend to a smooth paste.

Place browned onion into a blender. Add spices, garlic and tamarind pulp

Blend to a smooth paste with 50mL-60mL water. The curry paste is ready

Step 5 – in the recipe card below – Heat ghee in a saucepan. Add the remaining onion and fry until golden. Set aside a tablespoon for garnish.

Heat ghee in a medium saucepan on medium

Add the remaining onion. Stir from time to time to avoid catching

Fry until golden brown. Set aside 1 tbsp. for garnish

Step 6 and 7 – in the recipe card below – Add the chicken and brown. Add the blended paste and stock powder. Add the reserved blender water. Stir well. Simmer covered for 4-5 minutes.

Add the chicken. Brown for 4 minutes turning from time to time

Add the blended curry paste and stock powder. Stir to combine

Add reserved blender water. Stir, season and simmer for 4-5 minutes

Close up of freshly cooked spatchcock curry without the fried onion garnish

what to serve with spatchcock curry

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Chicken Spatchcock|Poussin Curry

Catherine Lavina Mendonsa
Delicious yet flavoursome, this Chicken Spatchcock|Poussin Curry is one of the best ever traditional Mangalorean young chicken curries, given to post-natal women.  The earthy taste comes from a freshly blended curry paste of browned onions and pantry friendly spices.  This coconut free curry makes a lean addition to your weekly diet, year-round. Serve over basmati, white, brown, jasmine or Low GI white Doongara Clever Rice.  Also pairs well with panpolay or neer dosa. You may want to save this one as a favourite because you will come back to it!
4 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 minutes