When Narayani Nayak wrote the book [Cookery Craft in mid-20th century], the average housewife in India spent almost the whole day in the kitchen, cooking from morning to night, for her husband and family…The day began with a cooked breakfast, carried on to a hot lunch and ended with a large dinner, interspersed with helpings of snacks and sweets as well.

Ways of cooking and eating have changed today. Most people can find time to cook just one or two main dishes and these must provide all the nutrients necessary for healthy living. Besides changing from the old measures of tola and seers to grams and cups, I have rewritten most of the recipes [from Cookery Craft] to increase or decrease the amount where necessary, suggested substitutes if the main ingredient is not easily available, shortened the preparation time by using modern appliances, and given alternatives to those who do not have the time or energy to start from scratch.


  • 1 kg chicken pieces, washed
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled (optional)
  • 2 sprigs of curry leaves (about 30)
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water

For Masala

  • 8 peppercorns
  • 6 cloves
  • 2-6 red Byadgi chillies, broken into bits
  • 1 cinnamon, 2-inch piece
  • 3/4 coconut, grated


  1. Roast the masala ingredients one by one, separately, till light brown.
  2. Grind the roasted masala in a blender till smooth, adding 1 cup of water to make a fine paste.
  3. Heat 2 tsp of oil in a saucepan and fry the cumin seeds and curry leaves. As they splutter, add the chopped onion and sauté till soft and translucent.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes become a paste and the oil separates from the mixture.
  5. In a separate pan, heat 12 tsp of oil and when smoking put in the chicken pieces. Stir over high heat till the pieces change colour. Add to the tomato-onion mixture.
  6. Now add the coconut masala paste and sauté, stirring constantly till the colour changes. This takes about 2 minutes. Add ¼ cup of water and the salt and cover tightly.
  7. Cook for 25 minutes till the chicken is done. Serve hot with rice.

Excerpted with permission from The Classic Konkan Cookbook, Jyotsna Shahane, HarperCollins.

Jyotsna Shahane

Jyotsna Shahane

Jyotsna Shahane is a filmmaker with an interest in Indian food. In 2004 she started her blog The Cook's Cottage, one of a handful of bloggers on the subject at the time. She was chosen as one of the world's great food bloggers by Saveur, the gourmet food magazine. Jyotsna lives with her husband in Pune.

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