7 April 2012

North Indian Chicken Curry - light & healthy!

As it had been ages since I had made a curry, I thought it was about time.  However, I hadn't quite banked upon this curry being quite so healthy!

Poor hubby was hoping for a lovely rich curry with a thick covering sauce involving coconut somewhere along the line.  What he got was a very well flavoured, hot and lively chicken curry that used the minimum of oil, no dairy products or other fats - but which had a somewhat watery sauce.  Having said that, the sauce wasn't "watery" in that it was thin and flavourless, it was just water-based as opposed to oil-based.

Once he'd got over his disappointment, I think he enjoyed the curry.  After all, what's not to like as it used ten different types of spice (quite apart from the Garam Masala) along with fresh tomatoes and coriander - and lo and behold, you find you've made a real proper masala as you go along.  Because I'd used a fresh chilli instead of the prescribed chilli powder (I just prefer the flavour of a fresh chilli), it was also hot and - for me - required the help of some Mango chutney to calm the occasional spoonful.

The recipe is one of Anjum Anand's and I have come to trust her recipes.  You can find it on the web here on the uktv.co.uk website.

I notice that on the website, there is a comment saying that the sauce was both bland and watery - which indeed it would be, if you don't ensure that you reduce it as far as you can.  Interestingly, I notice that the recipe makes no mention of reducing, it simply states that it takes between 15 minutes and 30 minutes for the chicken to cook, depending on the type of chicken you're using.  Now, in that time, the sauce will have had time to reduce - however, because the reduction is so important to the sauce, I have set out the recipe below and taken that into account.

I also included a lot more onion than is specified by the recipe.  This was really just because I'd over-bought on onions and had three bags (three!) of the little devils in the cupboard.  So I included three smallish onions in the recipe and I'd say they added both flavour and a bit of additional texture to the dish.  Hence, I've included them in the recipe below.

Not only that (and this is me "not titivating around with the recipe at all"), but I reduced the amount of ginger that was used.  Hubby has a sensitivity to ginger, so I reduced it by a half a tablespoonful to just the one tablespoonful.  The turmeric got a makeover too, I used one whole teaspoonful instead of just the half, purely because I had a cold at the time and I know turmeric is good for reducing inflammation.

So it is completely up to you as to whether you follow the original recipe from the website as given above, or my adjusted version, below!

CLASSIC NORTH INDIAN CHICKEN CURRY  based on the original by Anjum Anand  (serves 3-4)

Ingredients :

3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 green cardamom pods, squashed before adding to the pan
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 small to medium onions, halved, cut into three and sliced thickly
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
6 cloves garlic, sliced finely
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp ground coriander
half a hot red chilli, sliced
2 large tomatoes or 8 cherry tomatoes (I used cherries)
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
half a tsp garam masala
a handful of coriander leaves, chopped finely.

Method :

1.  Using a hand-held food processor in a jug-like container, puree the tomatoes and chilli.

2.  Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan or wok and add the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom pods and cumin seeds.  Fry for around 20 seconds or until aromatic.

3.  Add the onion and cook on a gentle to medium heat for around 10 minutes until golden brown, stirring regularly to prevent the onions burning or colouring too much.

4.  Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, for 40 seconds before adding a pinch of salt and the ground spices (you might want to take the pan off of the heat - or reduce it - as you do this, to prevent anything burning) and stir for 15 seconds or so as the spices cook.

5.  Pour on the tomato and chilli mixture and cook on a medium heat for around 10 minutes or until the moisture has left the pan and the oil is beginning to separate from the dry masala (which is what you have in the pan).

6.  Add the chicken and brown over a high to medium heat (turning the heat down as the chicken heats up).

7.  Add around 350ml of hot water and stir well.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has reduced as far as you are willing to let it go.  The slower it cooks, the better it tastes - so allow up to half an hour for this stage.

8.  Add the garam masala and fresh coriander and stir through.  Allow a few minutes for the rawness of both to be cooked out, then serve with steamed rice or indian flatbreads.



  1. That looks good. To increase the gravy {or to keep it getting too watery} you can puree an extra onion with the tomatoes if you like. If you are OK with dairy, then some whipped Greek yogurt or a dollop of sour cream might also add some body.

    1. Thanks for that Deeba! Hubby was after my including some cream, but I wanted it to stay as light and healthy as possible. I like the idea of the onion and in fact I got close to that, as I chopped one half of the onion very finely so that it would disappear into the sauce.


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