Chicken Curry (Mum's) &Variations
Chicken cooked this way is a favourite of both my daughters Kavita and Neeta; they call it mum's chicken curry. It is not too highly spiced. It can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for a few days. It freezes well too. If freezing, make sure that the chicken is slightly under-cooked, so that it doesn't get overcooked and fall apart when you defrost and reheat it. Serves-4
Edited and Pictures changed July 2018
500 gm. chicken pieces, with or without bones. I use small thigh pieces or small drumsticks, mixed half and half. You can use chicken pieces of your choice, even cut up a whole chicken.
2 tbsp. cooking oil
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 large or 2 small onions (200-225 gm.)
1/2 inch piece of ginger
2-3 cloves of garlic
250 gm. tin of chopped tomatoes or 2-3 medium sized fresh tomatoes or 2-3 tbsp. tomato puree/sun-dried tomato pure. You can use 1 cup of thick yoghurt instead. See notes.
2 tbsp. dry fenugreek or methi leaves (optional)
1 bay leaf*
1-2 pieces of cinnamon stick*
2 large cardamoms*
3-4 small green cardamoms*
5-6 black peppers*
*These spices make Garam Masala, when ground together-if you do not have whole spices, use 1 1/2 tsp. of ground garam masala instead, but add it at step 15.
1 level tsp. turmeric powder
2 round tsp. coriander powder
1 round tsp. sweet paprika powder for colour (optional)
1/2 tsp. chilli powder or to taste. Chillies vary in their heat. So always start with less and add more at the end, after tasting.
Salt to taste
A handful of fresh coriander leaves
1/2 tsp. Garam Masala.
Remove skin from chicken pieces, wash and leave to drain.
Peel onions, ginger and garlic and chop finely or grind in a food processor.
If using fresh tomatoes, chop into small pieces or puree.
Clean, wash and chop coriander leaves and keep aside.
Measure whole and ground spices separately.
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed wok or pan.
Add cumin seeds and whole spices*, wait until cumin seeds splutter, but not burn.
Add onions, garlic and ginger mix and fry until onions are quite brown. Ginger often sticks to the pan, so keep stirring or use a non-stick pan. If it is stuck too much, sprinkle a little water and then scrap it off into the mix.
Add all other spices and stir for a few seconds to allow flavours to come out.
Add tomatoes, and methi leaves if using. Cook stirring frequently, until oil separates. If using yoghurt instead of tomatoes, add here.
Add chicken and stir to coat. At this stage, you can transfer it to a slow cooker and leave for 5-6 hours. Otherwise, cook on medium-high flame, stirring frequently until it is well coated.
Cover and cook on low-medium flame until tender, approximately 15-20 minutes. Cooking time depends on the quality of chicken. Make sure it is cooked through.
Add water, only if a thinner gravy is required. Usually there is enough water in the chicken.
Turn off heat.
Sprinkle garam masala and half of coriander leaves & stir. Cover and leave.
Sprinkle rest of the coriander leaves as garnish, before serving.
To cook in a slow cooker, place everything including chicken and excluding whole spices, in a bowl and mix well. You can leave it in a fridge for a couple of hours. Transfer to a slow cooker, adding a cup of water and switch to Maximum. Heat 2 tbsp cooking oil in a ladle, add whole spices and when cumin seeds crackle, pour over the chicken in the slow cooker, stir it in. Cook according to your cooker instructions. I mostly cook it on high, because I am round watching it.
Shop bought garam masala has a less intense flavour because it is bulked up with fillers such as cumin and coriander. If using shop bought one rather than the home made one, you may need to use a little more.
For a more exotic taste, add 2-3 tablespoons of any of these-cream , sour cream, creamed coconut or a cup of red wine-towards the end of cooking and mix thoroughly. It is difficult to specify the exact amount, adjust to taste after adding initial 2-3 tablespoons.
Add a bunch of fresh fenugreek leaves while meat is cooking. Fresh leaves have to be de-stalked, washed and chopped roughly.
Add a cup of chopped fresh spinach or 1/2 cup tinned spinach.
Add potato pieces to the curry.
Tips for cooking with yoghurt:
It is better to use full fat yoghurt and add it towards the end. Skimmed milk yoghurt sometimes curdles during cooking. If you wish to use low fat yoghurt, add 1 heaped teaspoon of plain or corn flour per cup of yoghurt and mix it well.
Make sure that yoghurt is at room temperature. If yoghurt is cooked straight from the fridge, it may curdle.
When adding yoghurt during cooking, take out a few tablespoons of the hot food in a bowl, mix it with yoghurt, warming it a bit and then stir it back into the hot dish.