Amma, is my daughters’ Indian grandmother, or to put it simply, my mother-in-law. She is originally from Bengal, or to be precise, Calcutta, or Kolkata as it is now known. Bengali’s are passionate about food, whether its talking about it, preparing it or eating it, so being married to one suits me down to the ground as this mentality pretty much sums me up as well. Amma has been my guide over the last decade to a wide array of wonderful Indian dishes, passed down to her by her mother. My repertoire is still growing, but a firm favourite which I like to cook and devour is her chicken curry recipe. With all her recipes she never measures any ingredient or follows a recipe, so I have tried to write down approximate amounts for the curry. It doesn’t matter if you put a little too much of one ingredient and a little less of another. Experiment and see what flavours you like to enhance more or less.
The big trick with cooking Indian food is that you cook it on the bone. ‘On the bone’, I hear you say, ‘its less attractive on the bone’. Well aesthetics aside it tastes a whole lot better, I assure you. Get your butcher, or yourself if you are buying it straight from the supermarket, to cut up your chicken into 12 pieces or more if you can. Then when you go home try and remove as much of the skin as possible. Once this has been done you are ready to prepare the dish.
Amma’s Chicken Curry
1 large chicken
1 onion, chopped
1 generous tsp of turmeric
1 tsp of chilli powder
1 tsp of sugar
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
2 dsp of tinned tomatoes
1 tbsp of yoghurt (optional)
8 garlic pieces, peeled and kept whole
2 inch piece ginger, grated
1 tsp Patak’s tikka paste
2/3 potatoes (optional)
carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces (optional)
1 piece (4 inches) of cinnamon bark
1 tsp salt
a little mustard oil
1. Heat some mustard oil in a large casserole pot and fry the chopped onion gently.
2. After 5 minutes place the chopped chicken pieces on top of the onion and put the lid on the pot. Turn the chicken at intervals so that it whitens all over.
3. Once all the chicken pieces have turned from pink to white (this should take no more than 10 minutes), add the turmeric, chilli powder, sugar, ground cumin and ground coriander. Turn the pieces of chicken over into the spices and then add two large dessert spoons of tinned tomatoes and the yoghurt. You may find that a little water is needed to moisten the dish and to create more of a gravy.
4. Place the garlic pieces and grated ginger into the curry and add the salt. Amma also tends to put in a tsp of Patak’s tikka paste. It is equally delicious without, but see which you prefer.
5. I often like to add a few quartered potatoes at this stage, so that there are 6 or so pieces in the curry. Now is also the time to add the chopped carrots, cut to about 1-2 inches in length. Again I would not put anymore than about 7 carrot pieces in the curry.
6. Keep the curry on a low heat and gently turn the chicken pieces and other ingredients around in the pan so that all the juices blend in together.
7. After 30 minutes slightly open the cardamom pods, break the cinnamon bark into smaller pieces and place the cloves into the pot. Again if a little more water is needed just add where necessary. The water will reduce when cooking, however, it helps the potato and carrots to soften.
8. The curry should be cooked in about 50 minutes. If the carrots or potatoes are still hard, continue to cook for longer. This curry often tastes better if you cook it in advance, even the day before, and let it rest.
9. To serve sprinkle coriander leaves over the curry, with a wedge of lemon and rice. I like to cook basmati rice with a few cardamom pods and cloves in it. It exudes a wonderful aroma.
Cooking this curry is not an exact science. I find that each time my curry tastes a little different from the last depending on what emphasis I want to give it – more chilli, less garlic etc.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do……let me know.