A few years ago, Sean bought me a recipe book of Indian curries. As with most recipe books I own, I eagerly read every page and never cooked a single thing. I’m a reader, not so much a doer.
A year later, Sean decided to browse through it himself. With him being less of a reader and more of a “Let’s do this!” type person, he began experimenting with the curries. It became a hobby we all enjoy – as in he enjoys cooking, and I enjoy stuffing my face.
(Pssst … I have a friend (Molly, it’s Molly) who dislikes backstories in recipes. If you are like (or actually are) Molly, click here to get straight to the recipe!)
His curry turned phenomenal after a crash course from one of our visiting Indian friends. We had an excellent time with them; food, parties, and weekend road trips all crammed into a short business trip. Whew!
After perfecting and serving this dish up to friends and family, Sean and I received numerous inquiries about how it’s made, so we thought we’d share here. I took photos, Sean did his delicious thing and voila! We have a breakdown of Sean’s Basic Chicken Curry. It may not be culturally accurate, and to be honest, it varies a bit depending on how lazy we’re feeling. But it’s damn good every time, so feel free to take this recipe and play around with it to your liking.
And with that backstory out of the way, here’s Sean with his recipe.
STEP-BY-STEP WITH PHOTOS
Great curry starts the night before with a chicken marinade. You could marinate for only a couple hours, but trust me, it’s better if you start the previous night. Mix together some turmeric, coriander, cumin, garam masala, salt and pepper. If you’re craving heat, throw in some red chili powder. I have chili powder already mixed into my garam masala.
I use this mix from our local Indian market. You can find it on Amazon here* or (preferably) check your own local market.
Dump that package into a large mixing bowl and add water, ginger garlic paste (I use this stuff*), greek yogurt and ghee. Ghee is just clarified butter, which you can make easily at home, but we’re lazy and just buy large containers of it. It’s amazing, try cooking your next grilled cheese with it, seriously.
If you mix that together with your hands, you’ll be able to feel when all the clumps are smoothed out. Buuuut, any mixing utensil works just fine.
Add your spice mixture, plus some lemon and mix well. I recommend a wooden spoon that you (or your SO) aren’t especially attached to. It’s going to get yellow … in fact, a lot of things are going to get yellow. Maybe just listen to some Coldplay and roll with it.
Throw in cubed chicken, throw on a cover and throw back a cold one because you’re done for now!
Give yourself 60-90 minutes to prepare your curry the next day. Start by chopping up 1-2 onions, depending on the size of the onions, mood, desire to chop and mascara situation. Remember that the amount of onions you chop up, will affect your cook time. Browning these suckers takes up a lot of the cooking tonight.
Once you’ve cried your share of onion tears, melt some ghee in a pan and start browning the onions on medium heat.
After about 5 minutes of browning, add some minced red pepper.
… and keep browning, stirring occasionally. You’ll probably have to adjust the temp often; if these onions brown too quickly they will burn. You want them to turn pale, then translucent before browning. It should take 20-30 minutes for them to turn mostly golden-brown in color.
Once they look like the pic above, start adding spices. This is going to turn your onions into a thick, spicy sludge and you’ll honestly wonder if you’ve done something wrong. Don’t worry, you’re gonna add water to thin it all out.
First up is turmeric: add to the onions, mix and wait one minute.
Then add some ginger/garlic paste, mix and wait one minute.
In comes the coriander! Mix … and yes, wait one minute. Do the same with the cumin, masalas and optionally more red chili powder if you and your loved ones are really into pain.
After you’ve waited your final one minute, lower the heat just a bit, add 3/4 cups of water and mix well. Let it cook for about 5 minutes.
Mix in tomatoes and let it sit for 5 minutes.
While you’re waiting those 5 minutes, blend shredded coconut with a 1/2 cup of water and add to the pan. Stir well.
Pour everything from the pan into the blender along with one cup of water. Blend until smooth and add it back to the pan on low heat.
You’re almost done! Grab the marinated chicken from the fridge and add it to your sauce. Let it cook uncovered for 20-25 minutes. If rice is your preferred side chick, this is probably a good time to get that going.
After around 20 minutes pull out a piece of chicken and double check that it’s cooked through. Once you’re like 88% certain that you’re not in danger of salmonella, heat up some naan (Trader Joe’s ftw!) and dish up. Top the curry with cilantro if you’re into that, and enjoy!
BASIC CHICKEN CURRY
Time: Day 1 – 30 mins, Day 2 – 90 mins
1.5 Tbsp turmeric
1 Tbsp coriander
1 Tbsp cumin
1.5 tsp garam masala
⅛ tsp red chili powder (exceptionally optional, very hot!)
Few cranks of black pepper
Few cranks of salt
1 pkg chicken curry sauce mix*
1 tsp water
2 scoop yogurt.
1 scoop ghee
2 scoops ginger garlic paste* (maybe even a little more to taste, dayum)
1 tsp lemon juice (About triple of this “fell” in mine and was just fine.)
2-4 chicken breasts cut into ~1″ cubes
1-2 onions, diced
1 dried red chili pepper, diced
1 Tbsp turmeric
1 Tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 Tbsp coriander
1 Tbsp cumin
.75 Tbsp garam masala
.75 Tbsp meat masala
.75 Tbsp chicken masala
.5 Tbsp veggie masala
2-3 tomatoes. (Fresh, canned, or tomato paste equivalent have all worked for me.) Diced or roughly chopped.
Frozen shredded coconut
Optional toppings and sides:
salt to taste
- Start your marinade at least 2 hours, and preferably 24 hours, before the curry.
- In a small bowl, mix the spices together: turmeric, coriander, cumin, garam marsala, chili powder, salt and pepper.
- Mix the curry chicken mix, water, yogurt and ghee in a large mixing bowl. I prefer to mix this with my hands because it’s easier to feel when all the clumps are stamped out.
- Add the spices and lemon to the bowl. Stir all of it well with a wooden spoon/mixing device of your choice, remembering that whatever you use will almost definitely become stained yellow.
- Add diced chicken and mix. Cover and store in your refrigerator until needed for curry.
- Start your curry the next day by browning onions and dried chili pepper in ghee on med-low heat until they are almost uniform in golden brown color. 20-25 minutes. (They should look like this.)
- Leave the heat on med-low and mix in turmeric, ginger garlic paste, coriander, cumin and masala spices. Add them one at a time and wait 1 minute between each ingredient. Optionally, add more red chili powder if you like painful heat.
- Add 3/4 cup water and lower temp a bit. Let cook for 5 mins.
- Mix in tomatoes and cook another 5 mins.
- Blend ½ cup of water and shredded coconut. Add coconut mixture to the pan and mix well.
- Transfer everything from the pan into a blender, along with 1 cup of water. Blend well and add back to the pan on low heat.
- Add marinated chicken and cook on low for 20-30 mins, or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Sample, add salt, spice as desired. Top with cilantro and serve with rice, naan or both!
*This post contains Amazon affiliate links, denoted with an asterisk. Purchasing Amazon products from those links creates a small monetary kickback to us at no cost to you! Pretty cool, eh?