Mum’s Chicken Curry

This is basically what my mum invented as a curry, so while it’s Bengali-influenced, it’s not a dogmatic rendition of a particular regional recipe.

Sized for 3 chicken breasts. I tend to use free-range so the things do have some texture, in which case I chop them into thumb-tip sized chunks. If using supermarket chicken, mince it coarsely.

Remove skin, wash in cold water to remove hormones, chemicals, etc.


¼ tsp salt, ½ tsp turmeric, 1 tbsp yoghurt, ½ tsp cayenne pepper, 4 cloves pounded garlic, 1 tsp grated ginger, ½ medium red onion grated. Pound the last 3 items into a paste. Mix all together, and coat the chicken. Marinate for 2 hours in frigo.


Cook it:

Heat in a large heavy pan, 1 tbsp oil (I use EVOO, but you can probably get more temperature with veg oil). Chuck in 2 dried chilis, fry til dark.

NB: see variations, I use potatoes
NB: see variations, I use potatoes


Add 1 onion, chopped finely, let soften until golden. Adjust heat to avoid burning.

Turn up heat to high, move onion to a side of the pan, and put in the chicken (not any juices from the marinade) onto the bit of the pan that is hottest. Don’t touch it for a minute or so. Get the chicken to brown all over, then add marinade and 1/8 tsp sugar (I use a little balsamic vinegar). Use marinade (or a little water if there’s not enough) to deglaze the pan. Add ½ tsp ground cumin seeds. Heat to medium.

NB: see variations, I use lamb spices with chicken
NB: see variations, I use lamb spices with chicken


Cover until gravy has reduced. Add 1 tea-cup of water, and let the chicken cook. The flavours will eventually meld, losing the turmeric rawness. It’s done at that point. Add 2-3 chopped up green chilis, 1 tomato quartered.


Take it off the heat, and add some coriander leaves.

Serve with rice & lime on the side.


I use mum’s spice mix in the marinade, see other posts

I add potatoes when the onions go in, and cook until the potatoes are done. Ideally they brown a little.

I tend to use the lamb variation (ie what one would do with ground lamb rather than chicken). When the onions fry, I add a pinkie-tip sliver of cinnamon, 1 green cardamom pod whole, 2 cloves whole, lots of grated ginger, ½ bay leaf, and 2-3 black peppercorns. I find this gives it that exotic, smoky, northwest Indian flavour that is perhaps a bit more complex than the recipe above. The lamb version is pretty awesome, incidentally, best to ask for lean leg meat.

To drink:

The usual – Riesling or similar aromatic white; Pinot Noir should work in red; I found Gamay, of the natural wine/funky variety isn’t too bad; I guess, but haven’t checked, Lambrusco should work.