There are thousands of Indian-style chicken curries, but this is my favourite. The chicken is finished off with a small amount of dried fenugreek leaves, which adds a subtle complexity to the dish which goes very well with the tomato base.
Dried fenugreek is called “Kasuri methi” and can be found in Asian stores. It keeps infinitely and is therefore a good addition to the Indian spice cupboard. It adds a lovely earthy flavour to tandoori style marinades and also tastes excellent added in small quantities to Indian style spinach dishes. Always add it towards the end of the cooking process.
If you don’t stock the ingredients for the whole garam masala, skip adding the whole masala at the beginning and instead substitute with a teaspoon or so of powdered garam masala, and add it at the end of the cooking process.
If you do have access to fresh fenugreek, feel free to us that instead. Add it chopped after the chicken is partly cooked.
The original recipe is by J. Inder Singh Kalra, who’s book “Prashad” is a veritable repertoire of authentic, if slightly complicated Indian recipes.
I have made a few some changes to the recipe by cutting the amount of fat. Although a lot of chicken curry recipes simplify the recipe by using a combination of chicken legs and breasts, I think it’s more authentic and wholesome to cook the whole bird (cut up of course) as every part contributes a different flavour and there’s no waste. A butcher would be able to skin and cut the bird. Use the skin to make crispy skin (under tab “Waste Not”).
Indian Chicken with Fenugreek
A delicious, if not an everyday recipe for the simple reason that making a proper “curry” needs time. If you don’t cook out the masala, the flavour won’t be right. A lot of Indian spices “bloom” in hot oil hence it’s important to add them at the right time. The recipe needs a lot of onions, so it’s a good time to take out your food processor to chop them, tearlessly. And while you have the processor on hand, make a simple dough for roti or parantha to accompany the chicken. Your family will be grateful.
A few hours before cooking, marinate the chicken. Whisk yoghurt in a large bowl, add salt & turmeric. Add the chicken and stir until all the pieces are well coated. Leave the chicken in his marinade for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours.
When ready to cook, heat the oil & ghee in a large wok or deep saucepan. Add the whole garam masala ingredients and stir over medium heat until you can smell the masala and it begins to crackle.
And onions together with a little salt, and sauté until golden brown. Then add the grated garlic, ginger and green chilies and stir for 2 minutes. Mix the dry masalas – turmeric, coriander powder and chilli powder and stir into about ¼ cup water and add to the onion mix and fry for a minute.
Add the sliced red pepper if using, and fry for a 2 minutes.
Next, add the tomatoes and fry on medium heat (patiently!) until the tomatoes are reduced and appear shiny. The term often used is “fat leaves the masala”. This is a key part of any curry making. If you don’t fry the masala properly until this stage, the finished dish will lack in depth and flavour. As I have cut the amount of fat, the fat “leaving” the masala will be less visible, but still evident. You will find that the paste is more cohesive and doesn't stick to the wok.
Add the chicken with the marinade and fry for 5 minutes on high heat. Add about ¼ cup of water and cover and simmer until the chicken is almost fully cooked. Take off the lid and if the sauce is too thin, cook off the extra water on a high heat. At this point the masala should look shiny again (fat leaving the masala). Add the dried fenugreek leaves, and cook covered for a further 5 minutes.
Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves before serving. Eat hot with rotis, paranthas or rice.