the following is a very basic indian type curry and the first of several curry dishes i will add over time. a staple dish in my home, this understatedly simple chicken curry is fantastic and takes little time to make — especially if you've spent a few minutes to get everything ready beforehand. it freezes well and is good for a few days in the refrigerator where it improves the longer it sits. often, i'll measure out all the ingredients and prepare the chicken the day before i cook, making cooking a less arduous task the day of.
you can make this curry in two ways, each having its own character. you can try this plain, as is, with its very flavourful sauce or you can add coconut milk and have a much richer sauce. sometimes, if i am making this to serve to guests, i'll take half out and add coconut milk to the other half and have two versions.
both ways are sure to please.
chicken curry in a hurry
4 good sized whole chicken legs, cut into drumsticks and thighs or,
8 thighs or 8 drumsticks
(don't use boneless chicken, much of the flavour comes from the bones)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 large onions, minced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/3 c water
1 large tomato
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 1/2 c water
1 c regular or thick coconut milk (cream), opt.
3 pods of green cardamom
2 inch piece cinnamon*
*there are 2 kinds of cinnamon: here i use cassia, the asian variety, which is more like tree bark (see photo below). you can use the quill (rolled) type if this is not available to you or already ground cinnamon. cassia can be found in indian stores under the name dalchini or in asian shops.
remove skin from chicken. the dish will not be good if you keep it on as there will be too much fat.
chop the onion and mince the garlic and ginger. chop the tomato and set aside for later.
measure out the cumin, chili powder and turmeric in a small bowl. add the 1/3 c of water and make a slurry or paste. set aside.
heat the oil on medium low heat add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook for 15 to 25 minutes until it caramelizes/browns in a dutch oven or heavy pot. the colour should be golden brown and not black. if the heat is too high lower it. the long cooking time is tedious but necessary for the success of the curry. stir often. you may want to add a 1/2 tbsp of sugar half way through to help the onions brown.
once browned, stir the spice slurry and add it to the onions. cook over medium heat until the water is almost fully gone.
add the chicken pieces and coat them well with the onion mixture.
add the chopped tomato and the salt and pepper and cover the pot (you don't need to mix right now). cook this on medium heat for 15 minutes. don't peek!
after 15 minutes, remove the lid and stir everything well. add the 2 1/2 cups of water and cover the pot.
cook, covered for 40 minutes, over medium low heat.
while the chicken is cooking, grind the whole cardamom pods and cinnamon until it is powdered. set aside for later. you can use equal amounts of powdered cardamom and cinnamon (a little less than 1/2 tsp each) but it is not the same as using the whole spices.
after 40 minutes, remove the lid and place the chicken pieces on a plate and put aside.
stir the curry sauce well. if the sauce is thick already, skip this step. if not, turn the heat up to high and boil the sauce until it thickens to your liking. stir while it is boiling. it may take up to 10 minutes, depending on how much liquid there is. if using coconut milk, boil the sauce a little thicker as you will be adding coconut liquid afterwards. now lower the heat to medium low and proceed.
once thickened, you can add 1 cup of coconut cream or milk, or just keep it as is (just as delicious!). add the cardamom and cinnamon mixture and stir.
put the chicken back in the sauce and stir. let the chicken cook in the sauce for 10 - 15 minutes on low heat, covered.
it's even better the next day.