I’m not sure exactly what it is about Indian cuisine that I find so appealing. It’s intrinsically comforting for me due to my background – growing up with an Indian mother, my diet was heavy on the curries and chapatis, among a few other things. But my love for the stuff is more than just nostalgia. Indian food is so vibrant and diverse, attractive to all the senses. I don’t think I could ever stop getting excited about it. And with a stock of a few core ingredients you can be pretty much guaranteed to make something wonderful, with so many options to choose from. I keep my curries healthy, holding back on the ghee and oil as much as I can (the fat-heavy stuff is what I indulge in when we go out to eat.) But my curries never skimp on flavour. This one is a favourite in our house – it’s filling with the yoghurt and chicken, and so incredibly satisfying, flavour-wise – tangy, fruity and aromatic. It’s based on a recipe by Anjum Anand (you can find her recipe and a review of the book it features in here.) I don’t have her book but at some point acquired a few photocopies of her recipes. This is the dish I’ve made over and over again, over time adjusting the spicing to suit my taste.
The version I’m posting here departs even more so from Anand’s original recipe. I usually add a chunk of raw mango which gives a delicious sour edge to the finished dish, but didn’t make it to the grocers to pick some up, so substituted two teaspoons of lime pickle instead, which gave a similar effect (a bit of tamarind would probably work equally well.) Also, I used a whole can of tomatoes, which made the curry much richer in colour and flavour. I went easy on the chillies, and finally, did something I’d never tried before in a curry – I threw in some pink peppercorns. They’re a relatively new thing to me – although I’ve been seeing them popping up in recipes for some time now, I ate them for the first time a few weeks ago, as an ingredient in a smoky aubergine dip. The taste was amazing, so I had to get some and try them out for myself. I could eat them straight, one at a time – they’re fruity, lemony and a little sweet (to my taste buds, at least.) I thought that they’d work well with the Indian pickling spices this dish uses, and I was right, they add an extra layer of flavour. They do have a very distinctive aroma, though, and have potential to overpower, so I think half a teaspoon is a good amount to use. If you like the flavours of Indian pickles, you may well like to have a look at this recipe, which would compliment the chicken beautifully. I hope you like the look of this curry, and if you do, do try it – you won’t regret it!
About 4 large chicken thighs/drumsticks, or 6-8 small
1 can tomatoes
1 medium onion, diced
10 – 12 cloves garlic
1 piece ginger, 4cm long
1 red chilli
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/3 tsp. ground turmeric
2 tsp. lime pickle or half a small raw mango
2 tsp. fennel seeds
2 tsp. nigella seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp. pink peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. garam masala
A handful fresh coriander, chopped
Half a lemon
2 tsp. rapeseed oil
First, toast the whole spices in a large, dry pan. Remove from the heat when they start to pop and jump. Set aside the cinnamon stick, then use a pestle and mortar to start to break up the seeds (you don’t want them finely ground, so just a little bashing will do.)
Next, heat the fat and fry the onion over a medium heat. Keep stirring so it doesn’t catch on the pan.
Put the yoghurt, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, pickle/mango, ground spices (except the garam masala) and half the chilli into a blender, blitz until smooth. Once the onion has turned golden brown, add this mixture to the pan and cook, stirring every so often, for ten minutes.
Now you can add the chicken. I add about 350ml water, too (especially if I’m using large pieces of chicken which will take some time to cook.) Coat the chicken in the sauce, then cover the pan loosely with greaseproof paper and allow to cook on a medium heat. Do check and stir every ten minutes or so to make sure it’s not sticking on the base.
When the chicken is cooked (about 30 minutes for small drumsticks, up to fifty for large pieces) stir through the garam masala, coriander, and lemon juice to taste. Garnish with the remainder of the chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped. Great with plain rice.