This recipe is a simple chicken curry done homestyle. This is a truly approachable curry recipe. It’s still work – Indian cooking is not simple – but I made this on a Tuesday night in about an hour.
The web is full of “simple” chicken curry recipes. Simple chicken curry recipes that have you shopping for spices you’ve never heard of. Toasting and grinding whole spices. Not so simple chicken curry.
Or worse, they tell you to mix some garam masala with some yoghurt and cook your chicken in that. I’ll take over complicated before I’d make that. No contest there.
Let’s pretend these garam masala and yoghurt recipes don’t exist. They shouldn’t really – so it’s not that much of a stretch. Let’s focus on as close to authentic as we can get without going crazy. But I warn you. Once you get started, it’s a slippery slope.
The ones telling you to work really hard are right. To get the depth and flavour you need to walk the walk.
In fact, if you want to replicate the tastes you get in an Indian restaurant you need to forget everything you know and learn about pre-cooked meats, curry bases and blazing hot stoves.
How do you think they make a curry in 10 minutes? It’s not by making big pots full and hoping somebody will come along to buy it.
If you’re interested in learning how they do it in Indian restaurants read this primer on Indian restaurant cooking techniques. It’s a whole different world of Indian cooking.
But this is about simple chicken curry. Something you can make without killing yourself. But true to Indian cooking. That’s what this is.
And it’s a baseline really. Once you get this down, you can go all sorts of places. All kinds of different chicken curries.
Want something dopiaza like? Fry up some biggish chunks of onion before starting this recipe and toss them in with the green chilies.
Jalfrezi? Add some pre-cooked green pepper and don’t mince the green chilies so fine. Add some curry leaves if you can find them. A big whack of coriander leaf and lemon juice. Lots of possibilities.
This simple chicken curry is what I grew up on. Not crazy hard. Not restaurant style. But not grossly oversimplified either. It’s good. It’s really good. I can cook curry with the best of them. Look around this blog. But I come back to this one. Often. Homestyle. Comfort food. Just really good.
- 1 Tbsp coriander powder
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2-1 tsp chili powder depending how hot you like it
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp kosher salt to start
- 3 Tbsp vegetable oil plus one Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 2 inch piece of cinnamon bark or cinnamon stick
- 8 green cardamom pods
- 1 large cooking onion finely diced
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 1 inch piece of ginger
- 2 plum tomatoes seeded and diced
- 3 green chilis seeded and diced (or 1 jalepeno, seeded and diced)
- 8 chicken thighs bone-in, skinless
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- Make your mix powder. Combine all the ground spices with the salt.
- Use a food processor to finely chop the onion. It takes two seconds and it works way better. You are looking for a really fine dice. Almost a paste.
- Now use your food processor (it's already dirty so this comes for free) to make a garlic ginger paste. Combine the garlic and ginger with a bit of water and whiz until you have a puree. If you have a big food processor you may have to make more to get it to work or use a blender (more dishes though).
- Heat 3 Tbsp oil in a 4-5 quart pot. Add the cinnamon and cardamom and cook about 20-30 seconds. The spices should sizzle.
- Crank up your fan hood to max. Really. Full blast time...
Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until they take on a golden brown colour. You want them soft. Really soft. Take your time here. This is the critical step.
- Add the 4th Tbsp of oil and your spice mix. Watch the heat. You don't want your spices to burn. Stir constantly for about a minute, then add the tomato paste and garlic ginger paste.
- Continue to stir and cook another minute.
- Add the skinned chicken thighs to the pot, stir and add 1/2 cup of stock or water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 25 minutes - until the chicken is cooked through.
- Adjust salt to taste. I expect probably another 1/2 tsp if you are using kosher salt. Probably not at all if you are using table salt.
I use an Indian chili powder called mild kashmiri. If you can't get that (or don't want to bother) go with 1/3-1/2 tsp cayenne topped up with enough paprika to make 1 tsp.