Chicken Curry

Chicken Curry, with a fragrant and spicy tomato gravy

Chicken Curry

One of these days I’m going to be able to write that I can cook a decent curry. It’s just not today. Yet, this attempt isn’t bad. It’s more aromatic than spicy, partly as I verged wide on this side of caution. My first attempt with this recipe earlier in the week was a little short of being bombastic in flavour. Better the aromatic version, then. In retrospect I could be kicking myself for not visiting Kerala, South West India (4 years ago) when the intention of doing so suddenly evaporated overnight. I even had the necessary shots recommended by my local surgery to be able to visit the country. What I didn’t have was a visa as I’d planned on travelling to Istanbul, Turkey for a couple of months to learn and write about their local cuisine before heading off to India to do the same. Literally the night before leaving I suddenly changed my mind when I learnt that the weather in Istanbul is similar to London during winter months. Fickle that I am I flew to Seville, Spain instead. And, months later eventually made it to Turkey (couple of photos below). If you click on the link it’s a map that’ll show some of the cities visited, and the rather circuitous route I took: 100cities x 1trip .

Anyway, I had the leftovers for lunch today and, I’m pleased to say it was slightly spicier and definitely moreish – the gravy was sweet and gooey. My only gripe would be that I wanted a double helping of this without the rice. Will definitely make this again, especially as it does need a tweak or two. Really want to include cardamom in this as it’s one of my favourites. This time I didn’t have it to hand. More onion is needed as there just wasn’t enough gravy. Might even buy ground cinnamon to be able to add a pinch more if the very small amount of cinnamon quills/sticks used doesn’t impart enough flavour. The recipe I very loosely based mine on is here. Their recipe sounds heavenly. Two of the problems I’ve had with trying to find an authentic curry is, firstly: they’re usually for 4 – 8 portions which is difficult to alter for two, especially as I know so little about cooking Indian cuisine. Secondly, there are loads of videos out there. Yet, my laptop (a bit like myself) is normally out of touch with all of the necessary apps and stuff needed to view them. Inevitably, only the first minute or two will load. Yet, I’m sort of happy with some of the cooking methods that I’ve used here. Have to admit I’m too nervous and inexperienced to feel confident with using so many spices. Need more practice!

I’ve just had a look at Claire’s site for her restaurant Ganapati specialising in Keralan cuisine as she used to cook an authentic chicken curry with tomatoes and cassia (absolutely delicious). Alas, it’s not on the menu now. I was hoping to get the proper name for it as that eases the pain of searching online. I’m also going to search for a delicately spiced side dish to include peas or okra (lady’s fingers or gumbo) for summer – if that ever arrives!

Update: Thrilled to be able to write that having cooked this a third time, and feeling a little bit more confident, this turned out great. To the extent that if I was proffered this in a restaurant I’d be perfectly happy. OK, it’s not the best curry I’ve had. That’s partly as I worked front of house for an extremely talented chef. To be fair Claire has had years of experience within cooking Keralan cuisine. I haven’t. And yet, this reminded me of one of Claire’s recipes that used to be on her menu.

Some changes made from last time, mostly minor. I’ve upped some of the spices a little. This dish tastes complex and spicy so if you want less spiciness cut back on the black pepper, cinnamon and ginger. The cardamom adds beautifully to this. Although I bought ground cinnamon I didn’t need to use extra before serving. This is an easy recipe to cook, yet it is best to stay with the pans at all times, until ready to pour in the stock. Like last time the longer this is cooked the better. I couldn’t wait that long today. Oh, and there are new photos below instructions.

Chicken Curry, with a fragrant and spicy tomato gravy


  • 1 x heaped teaspoon coriander seeds, dry roasted and ground
  • ½ x teaspoon cumin seeds, as above
  • oil, either coconut, mustard or what you have to hand
  • 200 – 300g (7.05 – 10.58 oz) x onion, tops sliced off, peeled and grated (the more onions used will yield more sauce)
  • 2 x medium garlic cloves, trimmed, thinly sliced or crushed/minced
  1. 1 x clove
  2. 2 x green cardamom pods, kept whole
  3. ¼ x 2.5cm (1 inch) cinnamon quill/stick, I used 5 thin pieces of just over 2.5cm (1 inch) in length
  4. 1 x dried bay leaf, ripped
  5. ¼ x teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  6. 1 x green finger chilli (Scovile heat rating: 50,000), washed
  7. 2 – 3 x salad tomatoes, washed and cut in halves (cooked separately)
  8. 500g (17.63 oz) x chicken pieces, either legs or thighs, skin and excess fat removed and discarded
  9. 1 x 2.5cm (1 inch) piece fresh ginger (or 1½ x heaped teaspoon), peeled and finely grated
  10. 1 x level teaspoon red pepper flakes, less or more to personal taste
  11. ¼ x scant teaspoon turmeric, or less to personal taste
  12. 1 x heaped tablespoon tomato purée
  • up to 200ml (0.422 pt US Liq) x water

If you want to keep this vegetarian:

  • 1 x 410g or 246g drained weight (14.46 oz or drained weight 8.67 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed

Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.


  • Put a large heavy-based saucepan or pan/skillet on electric heat No 3 (out of 6) and, when hot enough and the onions are ready, add a good glug of oil. Get the onions in and stir often for about 6 – 8 minutes, or longer to get them golden in colour.
  • In a heavy-based saucepan put on heat No 4. When hot pour in a good glug of oil. Add the clove, cardamom pods, cinnamon quills, black pepper, chilli and bay leaf and allow to infuse for 1 minute. When the chicken is ready add them to the saucepan, shaking the pan initially to prevent the chicken from sticking. This took me about 15 – 20 minutes.
  • If using fresh tomatoes then add them to a heavy-based saucepan with a little rapeseed oil. Put on heat No 2 and allow them to caramelise. This will take roughly 30 minutes on electric, less on gas. When thoroughly melted rub through a fine wire metal sieve into the chicken mixture after adding the tomato purée, allowing the latter to cook for at least 5 minutes.
  • In the meantime prep the coriander and cumin seeds. When the chicken pieces are nicely browned add the ginger and cook for around 2 minutes to cook out the sharpness. Don’t let the ginger turn brown as the flavour will be a little weird. Then add the ground coriander and cumin seeds and allow to infuse for only 30 seconds. Add the re pepper flakes and turmeric and allow slightly less for them as, if they scorch the flavour will be a bit odd. Add the tomato purée and allow about 4 – 5 minutes to cook out its raw flavour. Keep stirring this through, turning the chicken pieces over to get them nicely covered with the paste and spices. Don’t let the paste scorch – turn down heat if necessary. Allow to settle, and when the oil separates add the onion mixture and pour in the water. Bring to a boil on heat No 4, reduce to No 2, add a tight fitting lid and simmer for up to an hour if you have the time, stirring through often, every 4 – 5 minutes. Otherwise reduce heat to No 1 and stir through occasionally as this paste/gravy will scorch. The longer this is cooked will give you meat that will be falling off the bone and the tomato paste and spices will be wonderfully sweet.
  • Note: if, like me, you’re going to prep this the night before please do not store with the bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom or clove. Remove them and store separately, then add them to the sauce again to reheat the following day.


Yikes, forgot the black pepper!

There, that’s better.

Browning the chicken pieces.

Adding the ginger, ground coriander and cumin.

Adding the cayenne pepper and turmeric.

Adding the tomato purée.

Before pouring in the stock.

Couple of photos below from my 100cities x 1trip.


Seville, Spain (Sevilla, España)
Barrio de Santa Cruz is a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys dating back to the old judería (Jewish quarter). Dating from around the 13th and 14th centuries the neighborhood, during the 18th century, underwent a major process of urban renewal.


Istanbul, Turkey (İstanbul, Türkiye)
The Blue Mosque, The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) – built between 1609 and 1616.
Photo taken within one of the courtyards.
UNESCO World Heritage Site

All photographs within (Todas las fotografías dentro de) FTP:
All rights reserved (© Todos los derechos reservados) – Copyright © Johnny Hepburn

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5 responses to “Chicken Curry

  1. I appreciate your modesty, but this looks delicious! And I will stick to the chicken version, thank you very much. ;)

  2. Looks very delicious, I love Indian food. And I’ve also made a few recipes from Soma’s ecurry blog, very good instructions and great recipes. As is this. Will definitely try this as I was planning on another Indianen dinner for friends sometime soon.

    • Well, I would practise this before hand. I think this needs tweaking considerably. Please let me know if you make any changes. I really want to have a curry that’s not only tasty but relatively easy to make, which this was. My favourite I can’t make as I can’t get my hands on Spanish saffron. That recipe was from the veritable food writing goddess:

      Oh, I think the recipe was called a dry chicken curry with cardamom and saffron.

  3. Thank you for that link! Haven’t heard of Charmaine before and am happy to learn more.

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