Sima’s Chicken & Chickpea Curry

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This recipe comes courtesy of my friend Sima. To be quite accurate it is actually Sima’s mother’s recipe, acquired by me after much pleading and persuading! Like many, I do love a curry but I don’t like the associated fat and greasiness. Sima’s mum is an incredibly healthy Indian cook- no ghee and very little oil, but you would never know it to eat her food- it is so tasty. This recipe is totally authentic- something which has become quite fashionable these days. Of course, it’s lovely to know that it comes from a traditional Indian home, but what’s actually more important is that it works and is really delicious.

Curry seems like such a faff to make at home- especially when the list if ingredients is quite long. It’s so tempting to just pick up the phone and let someone else do it, but this is worth the effort. There aren’t actually many ingredients compared to a lot of curry recipe, it doesn’t take long and gets better if you leave it for a few days. I would always try and make double as it freezes really well. One thing I would say is please don’t leave out the cinnamon stick- it really is essential. I was really surprised when I saw it was even there- the first time I made it myself I thought it would add some sort of sweetness so I left it out. The taste was still great but there was definitely a layer of flavour missing. That, so I’m told, is the real secret to great curry; layers and layers of flavour.

The first time I are this curry I was amazed at how well the textures of the chicken and chickpeas go together. The soft graininess of the chickpeas is just a lovely contrast to the soft meat of the chicken. Having said that, it works equally well with just chicken, or just chickpeas for an amazingly tasty vegetarian option. It also works really well with lamb- shoulder is best but it will need to be cooked a lot longer and slower so it’s really tender.

Please don’t be out off by the fact that this is a ‘healthy’ curry- it is merely a happy coincidence!

Sima’s Chicken & Chickpea Curry

Serves 4 generously

2 tablespoons Sunflower Oil
4 Chicken Breasts or 8 Chicken Thighs chopped
2 tins of Chickpeas drained
3 large Onions finely sliced
8 Black Peppercorns
4 Cloves
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Star Anise

For the Sauce
1 inch of fresh Ginger
4 Garlic Cloves
2 tins of Chopped Tomatoes
1 tablespoon of Turmeric
2 tablespoons of Ground Coriander
1 tablespoon Of Garam Masala
1 teaspoon of Chilli Powder- adjust this to how hot you like it!

To Garnish
Fresh Chopped Coriander
Plain Natural Yoghurt

Method

Heat the oil until it is shimmeringly hot, add the peppercorns, star anise, cloves and cinnamon- stir them around until they start to splutter and pop. Now add your onions and cook until they are quite dark- be patient. I was told the darker the onions, the better tasting the curry is.

While your onions are cooking you can make your sauce. Put the tinned tomatoes in a food processor or blender, add the chilli, ginger, garlic, dried coriander, turmeric and a teaspoon of salt. Whizz up until you have a nice thick, runny sauce.

When the onions are ready, add the sauce. Stand back as it will spit! Add a cupful of warm water, turn the heat down and let it simmer for at least 20 minutes. Add the chicken and let it continue to simmer for about 30 minutes if you are using breast, 45 if it’s thigh. You can add a bit more water if you think it looks like it’s drying out a bit.

Now add the chickpeas and garam masala. Cook until the chickpeas are warmed through. Fish out the cinnamon stick, star anise and cloves- if you can find them!

Serve with brown rice and garnish with chopped coriander and yoghurt.

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