My Gran’s Chicken Curry

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There are hundreds of recipes for chicken curry. This is the stuff I was brought up on.

Think aromatic delicately spiced meat, chunks of tender, melt-in-the-mouth potato in a thin and deeply savoury gravy. The complex layers of flavour are born from a very specific mixture of whole and ground spices. This recipe was my late grandmother’s – she passed it on to my mum who passed it on to me. It’s been tweaked a little over the years (my gran would use skinned chicken pieces and just add them to the spiced onion mix) but that’s the beauty of curry, you can always experiment and make it your own.

If you want to make like a proper Bengali housewife, then be sure to make this in the morning and leave it all day to allow the flavours to marry. If you can leave it overnight so much the better.

Ingredients

4 free-range organic chicken drumsticks or thighs – skin on
4 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and halved
3 onions
A large (2 ½ inch) piece of ginger, peeled
4-5 cloves of garlic
½ inch cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
*Panch phoran (1 tsp each of fennel, mustard, cumin, nigella and fenugreek)
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp blade mace
A few curry leaves (optional)
2 cardamom pods
100g rice flour
1 tsp each of curry powder and salt
½ tbsp oil
½ tbsp ghee
½ fresh green chilli, finely chopped (optional)

*Panch phoran is a five spice mix commonly and almost exclusively used in Bengali cooking. Traditionally it’s made from fennel, mustard, cumin, nigella and fenugreek, but I’ve seen versions that use aniseed, cassia leaves and even mace. The spices are usually fried in hot ghee or oil until the flavours are released.

Method

• Blitz the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli if using in a food processor or blender.
• Grind together the panch phoran spices in a pestle and mortar or coffee grinder.
• Heat the oil and ghee in a large saucepan.
• Combine the rice flour in a shallow dish with the salt and the curry powder.
• Dredge each chicken piece in the seasoned flour and fry over a high-ish heat until golden all over.
• Drain on kitchen paper and turn the heat down to medium.
• Add the bay and curry leaves, mace, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods to the pan.
• Fold in the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli mixture and cook for a few minutes.
• Stir in the panch phoran mixture and the potato chunks, ensuring everything is well combined.
• Add the chicken pieces and stir for about 8-10 minutes. If the mixture starts sticking to the bottom of the pan, just add a touch more oil.
• Add a pint of water and lower the heat slightly.
• Check the seasoning and cover the pan with a lid. Simmer for an hour and a half.
• Check and stir the curry every so often, adding more or less water depending on how thin you like your gravy.
• When the chicken is falling off the bone and the potatoes are tender, turn the heat off and leave for as long as possible before reheating with plain steamed rice or some parathas.

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13 comments

  1. Dan

    Oh wow – a proper family curry recipe. I love things like this, the passed down recipes are always gold dust.
    Thanks for posting this, I’m definitly going to give this a go next week.

  2. gastrogeek

    Thanks Dan – I’ll probably get a clip round the ear from my mum for sharing the closely guarded geek family recipes. Let me know how you get on!

  3. gastrogeek

    Speaking of passed-down-the-generations recipes, this one looks pretty tasty!

    http://essexeating.blogspot.com/2009/05/recipe-passed-down-generations-bread.html

  4. Pingback: Old School Parathas « Gastrogeek

  5. Dear Gastrogeek, I’ve just come across your blog and am enjoying reading the archive!
    I too am very fond of the curry recipes my mum has passed down to us. Infact, our request for her recipes is what lead, over time, to the creation of Mamta’s Kitchen, which is a site that is all about sharing one’s home-cooking recipes.
    Your gran’s recipe sounds delicious!

  6. gastrogeek

    Hi Kavey

    Thanks for your comments, am glad you like the blog.

  7. Simon, Bristol

    I’ve been looking for a decent curry recipe like this one for ages. I’m going to try it this week. Can you get most of these spices and ghee from a supermarket? Once I’ve sourced these and made it, I’ll let you know how it goes!

  8. gastrogeek

    Hi Simon – thanks for dropping by! You can indeed get most (if not all) of the spices from your local supermarket. Looking forward to hearing how it turns out!

  9. These kind of recipes are the most important. I think that for many people food and family are inextricably linked. So many of our memories are centred around food.

    There’s a reason for this – food is evocative, and has the power to take us to a different time and place. Food is loaded with meaning, and recipes handed down through the generation have great power and symbolism.

    A couple of years before she dies, my Grandma gave my sister her special recipe for Christmas mince pies as a gift. It came written neatly on a piece of paper in a plastic box with just the right amount of flour, mincemeat, butter, etc to make the first batch. The recipe is perfect.

    For me, that was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever seen anybody give or receive.

    BTW, I’ll cook your curry, for certain.

  10. It’s always great to find new chicken curry recipes!
    I have one handed down from grandmother and mother, but as with everything, each generation modifies it slightly. I like to think the character is retained though.
    It’s good to know about Panch phoran (although I’m currently banned from frying fenugreek seeds in the house because the smell is impossible to get rid of.. :) )
    Great blog… swap blogroll links?

  11. Really great blog GG, and agreed the soul is always in there somewhere…umm what sort of a fascist household do you live in?!

  12. Ha ha.. well, in a previous flat (my girlfriends, not even mine) I think I rendered it virtually unrentable after she moved out because of all the fenugreek seed frying I’d done with the windows closed. It was embedded in the walls, you could smell it as soon as you walked in!
    Maybe I’ll try again, but without saying anything… besides, we have an extractor fan now, so I may just get away with it :)
    You’ve been added to my blogroll by the way….

  13. gastrogeek

    Oh I see! Well, that’s different. In fact it sounds pretty bad, I can see why she’s inflicted the ban :)(PS thanks, will do the same)

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