Mild chicken-based curry

Strangely, chillies are not everybody’s idea of a good time. The veldfire in the mouth is held in low esteem, despite the endorphine lift that so joyously follows. Here we have a curry in which chillies are only an accent, that exalts the battery of spices that thrust this outstanding menu item into the culinary stratosphere.

mild chicken-based curry

To make this mild chicken-based curry for four heat-resistant diners, you will need:

  • 8 – 10 chicken thighs
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 90ml coconut or canola oil
  • 50mm fresh root ginger
  • 2 sprigs of curry leaves
  • 1 onion
  • 1 teaspoon of Thai tamarind paste
  • 5 cardamoms
  • 5 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 2 large green or red chillies about 40mm long
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground coriander seeds (dhania)
  • ½ teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground fennel seeds
  • 6 sprigs fresh coriander (dhania) leaves
  • 60mm piece of fresh cinnamon
  • 1 cup roughly chopped green beans
  • 2 cups of green peas

As with many Asian dishes, preparation requires greater time and focus than cooking. Crush, peel and mince the garlic, peel and thinly slice the onion, and finely chop the fresh ginger, peeled or unpeeled.

Now for the two whole chillies. Cut these in half along their lengths and, with the tip of a paring knife, scrape out and discard the pips, and finely chop them. Remove the curry leaves from their stems.

Some cooks prefer to remove the skin from the chicken pieces. Others rather like the flavour additions that come with chicken skin.

If you leave the skin on, brown the thighs first to nominally crisp up and brown the skin. Otherwise, remove and discard prior to cooking.

Heat up the oil of your choice in a large heavy-based frying pan. When at a moderate temperature, add the whole peppercorns, cinnamon, star anise, cardamoms and cloves.

Add the sliced onion and curry leaves and let them sweat until the onion is soft and translucent. At this point, add the chillies, ginger and garlic, and stir-fry for 90 seconds.

Now for the second tranche of flavour: add the ground coriander seeds, tumeric and fennel along with 30ml of water.

Add the chicken and stir well to coat with the spicy mixture. Pour in sufficient water to half-submerge the chicken and reduce the heat to a simmer.

Fit the lid and let it cook for 20 minutes, checking from time to time. Add three tablespoons of coconut milk, marginally increase the heat and reduce the liquid, stirring frequently.

When the chicken is completely cooked, add the rest of the coconut milk, chopped green beans, fresh peas and tamarind paste.

Taste, add a little salt, and stir while simmering for the last few minutes. Serve with basmati rice garnished with hand-torn dhania leaves.

David Basckin is a freelance journalist and videographer.