Chicken Cafreal is a delicious Goan dish with distinct Portuguese influences. Traditionally, this dish is deep fried but personally - I prefer to either bake or grill the chicken for a healthier meal. It also allows me to make this dish more often without all the “deep fried” guilt.
The key to this recipe lies in the highly aromatic marinade and more specifically the use of mace. Mace is a spice, it is actually the bright red lacy outer covering of the familiar nutmeg. Mace is usually available in its ground form, it is similar to nutmeg but stronger in flavor and also slightly sweeter. This totally underused spice is a wonderful addition to your spice collection and will definitely enhance the flavor & taste of any meal.
I am usually a big fan of using boneless/skinless chicken in most recipes, but for Chicken Cafreal – I highly recommend using bone-in chicken legs & thighs.
1½ lbs bone-in chicken legs & thighs (I used skinless pieces)
For the marinade
2 cups cilantro leaves (or mint leaves or a combination)
5-6 small green Thai chilies (to taste)
1½” piece of ginger, rough chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, rough chopped
5-6 black peppercorns
1” piece of cinnamon
1 tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp turmeric (haldi)
½ tsp smoked Spanish paprika
½ tsp ground mace
salt, to taste
juice of ½ lime or lemon
1 tbsp lime or lemon zest
2 tbsp oil, vegetable or canola
lime or lemon wedges for garnish
Using a spice grinder or a clean coffee grinder, grind together the whole spices (black peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves & cumin seeds) into a fine powder. Set aside until needed.
Now using a blender or food processor, combine the cilantro leaves along with the chilies, ginger, garlic, lime juice, lime zest & 1 tbsp of oil. Next add the freshly ground spice powder along with the turmeric, paprika, mace & salt. Then blend all of the ingredients together into a smooth thick puree.
Next, marinate the chicken pieces making sure each piece of chicken is evenly coated with the marinade, overnight is best.
When you are ready to bake the chicken, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the chicken pieces on a foil lined baking sheet & drizzle with the remaining oil. Let cook for 15-18 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked yet still moist & tender. Alternatively, this can be done on a grill as well. Garnish with fresh lime wedges & serve hot with warm chapatis & fragrant Basmati rice.
Feel free to make this dish using fish, shrimp, paneer or even vegetables if you like. Then simply marinate the fish or seafood for just 15-20 minutes and if you are using paneer or vegetables, you can marinate these ingredients for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Then remember to adjust the cooking times accordingly as well.