Celebrating the National Curry Week With An Easy Chicken Curry in Yogurt Based Gravy!




What is a curry?

In India I had never been much aware of the term 'curry'. Food was food and each dish had it's specific name and you ate it without much fuss.

In the UK, I was hit by the curry mania. The word is everywhere, from the innumerous Indian take-aways to the curry powders stocked in almost all supermarkets to the newspapers screaming about the great British love for a good curry, to chefs like Gordon Ramsay & Rick Stein going to India in search of the authentic curry.

Sometimes I find it amusing, sometimes I find it annoying but most times I find it baffling. Amusing because the people who actually cook and eat 'curry' on a daily basis would be so very surprised if they got to know about this mania. Annoying because in-spite of all this obsession ninety percent of the curries available in this country are pretty inedible. Baffled because some curries are really easy to make. 


So what is a curry?

The way I understand it, a curry is any dish which is cooked with spices and herbs, it can be wet, it can be dry, the main ingredients vary from meat, poultry, seafood to vegetables, sometimes they are cooked in combinations, sometimes on their own, sometimes lentils, fritters, dumplings are also thrown into the equation. Curry is hardly eaten on it's own, is accompanied by some form of rice or bread.

Each dish/curry cooked in the subcontinent or in Asian cuisine has a specific name but in the West they are clubbed under the broad general term 'curry'.

The curry repertoire is much more extensive than those dishes which are served commercially in the curry houses all over Britain. The dishes made at home are easier to cook, less ingredient heavy and often rather quick. 




Having said all that, so many of my Western friends have told me how intimidated they feel about making curry. Apart from all that patience and hard work, Indian dishes are rather ingredient heavy. If you  cook Indian once or twice a year, I agree that there is not much point in buying masala/spice packets which then languish in your kitchen cupboard. 

Some tips about the spices & herbs:

  • I personally think that the trick is to pick up those spices which you can use in other recipes as well. Spices like cloves, cinnamon, green cardamom can be used in baking, making mulled wine. Spices like cumin and fennel add a lot of flavour to lamb dishes and are used liberally in Asian and North African cuisines as well. 
  • Some spices can be replaced by an ingredient already at home. Like red chilli powder can easily be replaced by paprika or  chilli flakes. A lot of black pepper is used in South Asian cooking and every British home has black pepper.
  • Some curries have mustard sauce, rather than making the sauce from scratch grinding whole mustard seeds, use English & French mustard. It cuts down the effort and the cooking time without compromising on the taste.
  • Also it makes sense to buy spices in smaller quantities and refilling if and when needed. 
  • What they say about spices is true, if you keep spices for a long time they do loose all flavour. 
  • And it is always better to buy whole ones, the powdered ones are rather bogus, though we do use some powdered ones on a regular basis like turmeric, red chilli et al.
  • The most popular herb used in curries is coriander & curry leaves. Mint comes next in popularity. A few days back in my superstore while picking up a bunch coriander, I heard a young couple agonising over whether they should pick up one whole bunch of coriander for just one dish. The guy kept wondering what  they would do with the rest of the bunch, the woman kept saying that the recipe said coriander is essential. I was so tempted to join in the conversation. But of course I refrained. When I face a similar situation, I make a coriander & mint paste and freeze it in small batches. They make great marination for BBQ or can be served as a chutney with starters or used as the base of a sauce of a curry. Mint, apart from adding to the coriander paste, I use a lot to make mint tea. Curry leaves stay for a long time in the fridge, I know some people who do freeze their curry leaves.

Recently Britain celebrated National Curry Week. With some of our Bloggers' Buzz buddies I decided to chip in and add a recipe of my own.

The curry I chose for today is a really simple one. An easy and quick chicken curry which can be made within forty five minutes and the ingredient list is also not as long as your arm.

The curry recipe I am sharing with you starts with marination.

Ingredients:

For the marination:

1. 500 grams of chicken, either with bone or boneless. I prefer using the thigh pieces. If using boneless pieces the cooking time is further reduced

2. 1 heaped table spoon of ginger and garlic paste each

3. Half a cup of yogurt. I use Greek Yogurt

For the curry:

1. Whole garam masala: 2 cloves, half an inch of cinnamon, 4 peppercorns, 2 green cardamoms, 2 dried bay leaves. Crush these lightly before adding.

2. 1 tea spoon of sahi jeera or cumin seeds

3. 1 tea spoon of kasuri meethi or dried fenugreek leaves

4. 1 large onion finely chopped

5. Half a tea spoon of sugar

6. Salt to taste

7. 1 table spoon of sunflower/vegetable oil

8.  Half a cup to a cup of milk

The method:

1. Marinate the chicken the night before and refrigerate. If using boneless chicken pieces 2 to 3 hours of marination is sufficient. For the marination to nicely seep into chicken pieces, please pierce the pieces with a fork.

2. Bring out the chicken from the fridge at least an hour before cooking.

3. On a large pan, heat the oil, once the oil is smoking, reduce the flame and add the slightly crushed whole garam masalas, the cumin seeds, the chopped onion and the sugar. Mix well, increase the flame to medium and fry till the onion turns translucent. Will take around 3 to 4 minutes.

4. Once the onion turns glassy and the nice fried smell starts coming out, add the chicken with the marination and the required amount of salt. Mix well, reduce the flame to medium low, cover the pan and let it cook for 20 minutes or so in case it's boneless, 30 minutes or so in case with bone. Keep checking and stirring in between. The chicken would be releasing a lot of water and some fat. In case it does not and it starts to dry up, add a little water at a time like one fourth of a cup or so and mix well.

5. After the required time, insert a fork to see if the chicken has been cooked. By this stage the curry be slightly dry. Taste the seasoning and adjust.

6. Now you can leave it like this, it's a perfectly good chicken curry. But if you want to take it to the next level, add the milk and let it all come to the boil. The milk makes the chicken curry so very creamy.

7. At the every end add the dried fenugreek leaves and mix well. The fenugreek leaves add a lovely smell and reminds me of dishes served in restaurants.

Serve this with steamed rice, pulao or naan. 

This can be cooked a day ahead for a dinner party. In fact a day's rest helps in incorporating the flavours into the curry.

Now that wasn't too much of a hard work, was it? 


It's World Pasta Day today. I am planning a carb blast for the dinner. Stay tuned folks!

14 comments :

  1. I always find the word curry, when added to a recipe title, so confusing, Suchi. I have a book titled The Complete Book of Curries by Harvey Day and he states the same as you. The freshness of the ingredients is imperative in curry. Your tips are going to be so helpful for the next time I attempt to make a dish of curry. You make it sound so easy, I must give this recipe a try.

    Thank you so much for sharing, Suchi. I didn't know about Britain's National Curry Week so I will be adding it to my calendar. Happy World Pasta Day! The round-up is posted. I hope you will be sharing your "carb blast" with us:)

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  2. thank you for this summary. I heard that in India you cannot really but curry powder and this is an English idea. Although I also always used ready-made curry powders

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    Replies
    1. True Ola, in India if you ask for curry powder people will give you weird looks! LOL

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  3. This looks so yumm n the resent action is great.

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  4. I LOVE curries...any kind, any time!

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  5. Hi Suchi, wow... your chicken curry is extremely awesome, my kind of food too. I don't mind having it everyday. :))
    Lovely presentation and the rice look so inviting, I might need 2 plates. :)) Thanks for sharing the curry info, great posting!

    Have a wonderful weekend.

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  6. Oh wow, this looks SO good! I have only made curry once, but I would definitely want to try again!

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    Replies
    1. Do give curry a try, it's not as difficult as it is made to sound!

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  7. I'm partial to Thai curry but been planning for a while to make at least one Indian dish specifically , curry . So far , I've only have cumin seeds that has been languishing somewhere in the kitchen for nearly a year lol Your curry ingredients look simple enough , I know that I could find everything here :D Thanks for the tips re spices , it will surely help us curry novices !

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