When I got home from work I could smell the most divine from-scratch-curry smell coming from my upstairs neighbours – very hard to resist the temptation to walk to their door with an empty bowl, attempting to look as emaciated and malnourished as possible, hoping for a hand-out.
This recipe is kind of like me. It’s curry but its not a from-scratch authentic Indian recipe. I have a nose-piercing and a punjabi outfit, but I am not a from-scratch authentic Indian. I like this analogy.
Anyway, it is very hard to mess this recipe up even if you make a concerted effort. I have made it hundreds of times making substitutions and variations and somehow it always comes out the same. The only way you could really bugger up is to leave out the chicken. Its thick and rich and creamy, so it won’t run around your plate or fall out the end of a roti, and it shouldn’t eat through your stomach lining.
(A note about wooden spoons – if you plan to use one for anything currylicious, it will need to be your designated curry-wooden-spoon happily ever after because it will turn bright yellow and absorb all the spicy aromas. This is not a bad thing; it will add character to each successive curry).
Michelle’s Version of Chicken Curry:
What you will need (I have no idea how many servings this makes – when I used to make curry regularly it seemed like a bottomless pot):
4 large skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
A splash of sunflower oil (olive oil would be wasted on this recipe, since you won’t taste it)
1 large onion, diced
3 teaspoons of crushed garlic
2 Serrano chillies, finely chopped (the long green ones)
1 Tablespoon hot curry powder (preferably the secret blend type from a smelly Durban market stall, Rajah is a last resort)
1 Tablespoon chilli powder (same comment as above)
1 Tablespoon decent garam masala (yep, same comment)
4-5 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 chicken stock cube
2 bay leaves
1 small can tomato puree (not paste)
125ml plain unsweetened yoghurt
A handful or two of roasted cashew nuts, roughly smashed to small bits (not a fine powder) with a mortar and pestle
Optional: steamed potato chunks (raw potato cubes don’t seem to cook in this curry and you will crack your teeth on them).
Heat the oil in a sturdy pot and fry the onion until soft, then add the garlic and chillies and fry for another minute or so (don’t let the garlic burn). Add all the spices, mix well and stir-fry for a minute. Add the tomatoes, cover, and simmer until they lose their shape (add a little water if it gets too thick and starts to stick on the bottom). Add everything else except for the yoghurt and nuts, and allow to simmer until its all cooked and thickened (30 minutes maybe? I don’t know. When someone knocks on the door with an empty bowl in their hand and sucking in their cheeks, its probably ready). Add the yoghurt and nuts and simmer (not boil) with the lid off to thicken up. Check the seasoning since it will probably need salt.
Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve with basmati rice, buttery naan and sour milk mixed with finely chopped coriander leaves (this acts as a fire-extinguisher).
Insist that everyone at least try to eat with their hands, it tastes better that way.
PS: Depending who you are serving you can omit the very hot ingredients, and serve pickled chillies on the side for those who do like a bit of heat. It’s not fair to make your friends sweat and pant and keep asking for water. Send them home with a chilled roll of loo paper anyway.