Mum’s chicken curry

Penguin asked me to write a little bit on what my mother taught me when it comes to cooking for their food-focused website, ‘Happy Foodie’. Click on the picture to go through to the original article or scroll down to read. As special treat, there’s ‘Mum’s Chicken Curry’ recipe from my book, ‘Made in India‘. A wonderful curry it is too.

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“My mother taught me how to enjoy food and how to share it. She’d regularly invite everyone – from my father’s banking colleagues, to local farmers – into our house in the Lincolnshire countryside to eat our Indian food with us. No matter what time of day, or the nature of the visit, a warming and delicious feast would suddenly appear and no one would leave hungry.

So when I left home at the age of 18 to go to university, the lack of readily available good food was a sudden shock. Halls canteen food was awful and the food in the Indian restaurants on Brick Lane was nothing like our home cooking. I used to dream about mum’s chicken curry at night and regularly make the 4 hour journey back home just to eat it. Over the years, since mum taught me how to make it, it’s become my favourite dish to cook and share with friends – and for some, it has become one of their treasured dishes too”.

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(Photograph taken by the magical David Loftus)

Mum’s Chicken Curry 

  • 2 tbsp ghee or unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 x 4cm cinnamon sticks
  • large onions, finely chopped
  • 6cm ginger, peeled and grated
  • cloves of garlic, crushed
  • fresh green chillies (or 1 teaspoon chilli powder)
  • salt
  • 200g tomato passata
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 3 tbsp whole-milk yoghurt
  • 1.2 kg skinless chicken legs, or 800g skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 3 tbsp ground almonds
  • 1 tsp garam masala

Put the ghee and oil into a wide-bottomed, lidded frying pan on a medium heat and, when it’s hot, add the cumin seeds and cinnamon sticks. Let them infuse in the oil for a minute, and then add the onions. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.

Meanwhile, put the ginger, garlic and green chillies into a pestle and mortar with a pinch of salt and bash to a coarse paste.

Add the paste to the pan and cook gently for 2 minutes, then pour in the passata and stir. Cook the passata for a few minutes until it resembles a thick paste, then add the tomato purée, ground cumin, turmeric and ½ teaspoon of salt (or to taste).

Whisk the yoghurt and add it slowly to the curry. Cook it through until it starts to bubble, then add the chicken. Pop the lid on the pan and continue to cook on a gentle heat for around 25 minutes. Add the ground almonds and the garam masala and cook for another 5 minutes.

Serve with a tower of chapattis, hot fluffy naan bread or rice, and offer yoghurt at the table.