Over lunch, I asked my Tory A-list, mom of two colleague if she cooked Indian food. She told me about her favourite recipe. It involved lashings of every imaginable masala combined with pineapple and yoghurt. I had a vision of my dead grandmother churning in her grave.
My colleague isn’t alone. I come across many people who have developed “Indian” recipes that couldn’t be further away from the country if they tried. They involve the most odd, mumbo jumbo combinations of herbs, spices, fruits and nuts imaginable.
Chucking all your Indian spices into a pot does not a curry make. The best chicken curry recipe I have found, is actually the simplest, and it perfectly demonstrates the transition of ingredients that is so fundamental to Indian cooking.
So here is my world’s simplest chicken curry recipe. Three spices only and an end result that will have you licking your plate clean, over and over again.
Peel the ginger and garlic and blitz with the onion in a food processor. I do this to save time, but you could chop them finely if you wanted. Heat the oil in a non-stick pot. When it sizzles around a wooden spoon, add the sugar. This caramelizes to give the curry a lovely red appearance, without the need for added food colour.
As soon as the sugar caramelizes add the onion mixture and cook it on high heat for 10 minutes. You have to watch this because it shouldn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If it does add two tablespoons of hot water and scrape to release.
When the mixture changes colour to a pale golden, add the turmeric, chilli powder and add the chopped tomatoes. Stir for another five minutes and then lower the heat and simmer. Add another few tablespoons of hot water if the masala starts getting stuck
Now you are cooking the spice paste, i.e. masalas. Wait until you see the mixture giving out oil. Little holes appear and oil comes out from the sides as well. Add some more water if it starts sticking.
After 5 minutes, add the chicken. Whack the heat up high and cook, stirring the chicken vigorously to incorporate the masalas. The raw pungent smell of the spices should have given away to a lovely aroma that makes you very hungry! After five minutes, add enough water to cover the chicken, lower the heat to medium and stir from time to time until the chicken is cooked through. This takes a good 20 minutes to half an hour. You will know when it’s ready, because the chicken meat will separate from the bone.
When the chicken is cooked, stir in the garam masala and salt to taste. Sprinkle with some fresh coriander leaves to serve. This is just lovey spooned over rice.