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Cook: 45 mins | Servings: 4-6 portions


  • 1 ½ – 2 kg of chicken, cut into largish even pieces, bones in, well washed
  • 2 tablespoons oil of your choice, I prefer coconut oil
  • 1 large finely chopped onion (the more onions, the more gravy)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground soomph, known as fennel seeds in English
  • ¼ teaspoon khas khas, known as poppy seeds in English
  • 1  cinnamon stick
  • 2 elaichi pods, known as cardamom
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 stem curry leaves
  • 1 star aniseed
  • 1 teaspoon crushed ginger and garlic
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, skins removed and chopped or pureed
  • ½ teaspoon sugar, optional
  • 3 tablespoons hot masala (I use a 50/50 blend of kashmiri and mother-in-law as named at the spice shops) or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • water, as needed
  • garam masala for sprinkling over at the end, optional
  • fresh chopped dhania, known as corriander, for sprinkling over at the end, optional
  • 4 medium potatoes, halved, or fresh double beans or 4 hard boiled eggs, optional

Add  the onion, soomph, khas khas, cinnamon stick, elaichi pods, bay leaf, stem curry leaf and star aniseed to cold oil and let heat with oil on medium heat.
Braise till onions become translucent and then add ginger and garlic and allow to cook for a minute.
Add the masala and stir to keep in motion, so the masala roasts but does not catch, for another minute. 3 tablespoons are used in this recipe as it’s deliberately hot so you may adjust to less if you wish.
Add the chicken and the salt and stir to coat all the pieces well with the spices. You may add a little water to make this easier but the chicken does release some water so I don’t for the first few minutes of this process.
If you believe that salt toughens meat then you can add the salt later in the cooking process however adding it now will carry the spices into the chicken.
Close the lid and allow to cook for 5 minutes then add the tomatoes and stir. At this stage the sugar can be added if using as it assists in easing the acidity in the tomatoes.
Add enough water that the curry does not catch, shake the pot to distribute, replace lid and allow to cook.
If you are adding potatoes they can be added after 15 minutes of cooking time and the curry should be fully cooked about 20 minutes thereafter. You may continue if you wish the chicken or potatoes to be softer.
If using double beans they only require about 10-12 minutes cooking time so adjust accordingly.
Boiled eggs will only require being halved and placed at equal distances apart in the pot for appearance and will absorb some flavour while standing.
Finish with an optional light sprinkling of garam masala over the finished curry and an even sprinkling of chopped dhania for an aromatic and buttery flavouring.

In our home this is served with side dishes of pumpkin, braised in butter and mustard seeds, and split pea dhall.

Recipe by Shirley Peter
Recipe tested by and pictures by Leora Nair

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