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Tonga Chili-Lime Chicken


With a zesty, spicy marinade including chilli, lime, passion fruit, ginger and coriander, this chicken dish packs a flavour punch.

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The recipe comes from new cookbook Spice Health Heroes, by American chef Natasha MacAller, which features information on the culinary and nutritional benefits of more than 30 spices.

The 100 recipes include MacAller’s own, as well as contributed dishes from other chefs.

She writes of her Tonga Chili-Lime Chicken: “Created at a Tongan vanilla plantation using ingredients available on the plantation, including passion fruit, freshly juiced limes, fresh ginger and vanilla, which I made into a mustard, this dish easily adapts for parties by substituting the thighs and drumsticks with the same amount of chicken wings.”

Tonga Chili-Lime Chicken

Serves 6


750g chicken thighs and/or drumsticks, bone in, skin on
1 small handful coriander (cilantro) leaves, for garnishing

For the marinade:

2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted
½ tsp cardamom seeds, toasted
240ml (1 cup) grapeseed or vegetable oil
60ml (¼ cup) lime juice
½ medium onion (100g), chopped
120ml (½ cup) passion fruit juice (or fresh pineapple juice), or 4 passion fruit, pulped and seeded
1 tbsp coconut or brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
120ml (½ cup) seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard (or Vanilla Honey Mustard – recipe in cookbook)
Large pinch nutmeg
30g (½ cup) fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped
2 fresh red chilies, thinly sliced

Recipe and image from Spice Health Heroes, by Natasha MacAller, published by Murdoch Books, $49.99.

Recipe and image from Spice Health Heroes, by Natasha MacAller, published by Murdoch Books, $49.99.


Cut any excess fat off the chicken pieces and discard, then transfer the chicken to a medium-sized bowl or casserole dish.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic, ginger and coriander and cardamom seeds to make a paste. Transfer this paste to a food processor (or use a stick blender), add all the remaining marinade ingredients except the chilies, and whizz until smooth.

Stir in the sliced chilies then pour the marinade over the chicken to coat.

Cover the dish, or put everything into a zip-sealing bag, and chill for 2–8 hours.

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F/gas mark 4).

Drain the chicken from the marinade and set aside. Bake the chicken pieces for 25 minutes, or until juices run clear. Remove from the oven, transfer onto a serving plate, cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

To serve, reduce the leftover marinade and drizzle it over the chicken, then scatter the coriander (cilantro) leaves, and the chilies from the reduced marinade over all and serve immediately.


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