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Chicken in a Coconut Sauce (Kukupaka)

A creamy East African-inspired coconut chicken curry recipe with a kick of green and red chillies. This spicy dish, which uses whole chicken legs, is finished with a squeeze of lime.

From the book


This is a mixed dish. ‘Kuku’ means chicken and ‘paka’ is coconut. Serve it with rice and vegetables.

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For the marinade:
1 tsp finely chopped hot green chilli
1 tsp peeled, finely chopped root ginger
1 tsp finely grated or crushed garlic
¼ tsp salt
For the rest:
2 whole chicken legs, skinned, scored 3 or 4 times across both thigh and drumstick
3 tbsp olive or sunflower oil, plus more for the chicken
6 tbsp very finely chopped red onion
1½ tsp crushed or finely grated garlic
1½ tsp peeled, finely grated root ginger
1 tsp finely chopped hot green chilli
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
¼ tsp ground cumin
¾ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp chilli powder
¼ tsp salt, or a bit more, to taste
250ml coconut milk, from a well-shaken can
1 lime, cut into 4, to serve
A few coriander leaves, to serve


Mix all the marinade ingredients together and rub well into and over the chicken legs in a non-reactive container, making sure to go into the slits. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Lightly brush the chicken with oil, then place on a baking tray. Slide the tray into the middle of the oven and cook for 30–40 minutes, or until done. (Pierce the thickest thigh to check: the juices should run clear with no trace of pink. Cook for a little longer if needed.) Remove from the oven and rest for five minutes.

Meanwhile, put the 3 tablespoons of oil into a medium-sized frying pan, about 20 centimetres (8 inches) in diameter, and set it over a medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onion, frying for about five minutes or until the pieces brown at the edges. Add the garlic, ginger and green chilli. Stir for a minute. Add the tomato and cook until soft, about three minutes. Add the ground cumin and coriander, the turmeric, chilli powder and salt, stirring all the while. Mix in the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Cook rapidly over a medium-high heat, stirring, until the sauce thickens a bit. Place the chicken in the sauce to heat through, spooning the sauce over it. Remove from the heat. Take the chicken pieces out, put them on a warmed serving plate and pour the sauce over the top. Serve with the lime wedges and garnish with the coriander.

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From the book: Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Nation

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