Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chicken Curry in Yogurt sauce

I want to share with you one of the recipes I have adapted from the delicious Indian dinner we had to celebrate Litto’s graduation. Two of Litto’s friends from school came to visit and see the graduation and they did most of the cooking for the dinner. I watched her wonderful and talented friend Nahid prepare Chicken Curry and it was truly the best Indian Chicken Curry I have ever enjoyed!

However, I am a little nervous in posting this. One reason is that my pictures do not do it justice. I think I understand why baked goods and desserts are posted much more often in the food blogosphere. They look so much better in photos than saucy, soupy dishes!  The other thing that makes me nervous is that I am not very knowledgeable about Indian food. I wanted to adapt this recipe to what most American households can find at their local grocery store and to try some different things. I have changed it just a bit from Nahid’s version. However, I worry that it is either not authentic enough or confusing. Please let me know if you try this or have any issues with the recipe.  

This recipe may seem complicated but really is easy to cook and I think it is very delicious. The texture of the sauce and the tenderness of the chicken are what makes it stand out among curries. The tastes is simply wonderful. The photos…well, ya can’t have everything. Make it, it looks much prettier in person!

Thank you Nahid !!!

Chicken Curry in Yogurt Sauce

Adapted by Denise Birdsall from recipe by Nahid Ahmed

 1- ½  large onions, halved & thinly sliced
6-8 chicken thighs, bone in* (or boneless or you may use 4-6 chicken breasts)

2 -3 cups plain yogurt  (Low fat calories is fine but whole is really good in this )

2 tsp crushed garlic paste

2 tsp crushed ginger paste

2-3 potatoes, quartered lengthwise and cut in 1/2inch chunks

Spice**:  2 large bay leaves   2 tsp cumin, 1 ½  -2 tsp coriander, ¾ tsp turmeric, ¾ tsp ground red pepper, 1 ½  tsp garam masala powder,  ¼ tsp cinnamon(optional),  ¼ tsp ground cardamom,  1/8   tsp cloves ( Optional) [ OR you may use whole spices, see note below**]
Salt and pepper to taste,
2 tsp brown sugar, optional
Canola or vegetable oil

About 5-7  black prunes or 1/4 cup golden raisins  and/or 3 tbsp plain apple sauce to bring sweetness, complexity and reduce heat  of spice, optional

Chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

* Nahid made this with bone-in Chicken thighs and they were great. You could also make this with chicken breasts but may need to adjust cooking time. I want to try it with boneless chicken thighs and see if it works as well.

1   Begin by heating enough oil to lightly cover the bottom of the large pan (such as a big dutch oven). Put in sliced about ½ of the slice onions in the pan and fry on medium heat, stirring frequently for even cooking until golden brown and crispy.
Mmm, curry goodness. This is enough spice for a double batch

2   While the onions cook, place yogurt in a very large a mixing bowl. Okay, here is Nahid’s short cut. Rather than cook the spices she added them right to the yogurt. Since you do cook the yogurt they do have time to meld and it turned out awesome. Add ground spices, salt and pepper, garlic and ginger paste directly into the yogurt and mix well . Remember you may adjust the spices to fit your palate. Add a little less if you are not sure and check it now but also check again after it is almost ready. You can add more spice later but now is the best time. If you get too much spice, you can try to cool it of by removing a little sauce and add in more plain yogurt and a bit of sugar.

(Note: If you prefer, you could add the spice, garlic and ginger to the pan of onions and sauté for about  4-5 minutes then then add them along  with the onions to the yogurt.)

3      When onions are done, remove with a slotted spoon to the bowl of yogurt,  leaving the oil in the pot for the chicken. Mix together yogurt, spices and onions.

4      Heat pan again and add extra oil if needed. When the oil is hot add the chicken, cooking in batches if necessary so that it has plenty of room between pieces. This helps it brown better. Add the bay leaf (see note on using whole spices, if you are using them, add them now.) Cook on medium until chicken is lightly golden brown on both sides , don't fry them too long, a few minutes per side should be sufficient.

5         If there is a lot of oil, remove and disgard a spoon or two. Add the yoghurt mixture and stir thoroughly to evenly coat the chicken. Put the chicken on low, cover and let cook.  It should take between 20 and 28 minutes for this step

6              While the chicken is cooking, brown  the potatoes and the other half of the onions . Heat some oil in a separate frying pan. When it is hot, add the potato pieces and sliced onion. Put on medium-low to medium heat, and fry until all the potatoes are evenly golden brown then lower heat till they are tender but not too soft or mushy. (take your time with this- don’t let the potatoes cook too quickly). They should not break up easily. This can take about 15 minutes or more. They will finish cooking with the chicken.

7          Make sure to stir the chicken occasionally to ensure even cooking .  Once the potatoes are done,set aside for a little later.

8            After the chicken has cooked about 10 minutes ( 5 if boneless) you may add prunes or apple sauce if you are using it. These can help add flavor and tone down heat of the spices without lessening flavor.

9          At 20-25 minutes (10 minutes for boneless) begin to  check if chicken is ready for next step. Chicken will be tender and if you cut into a piece, it should not be pink inside.

10          Okay, this is an optional step I added. When chicken is  almost done, remove all the chicken to a bowl or the pan with potatoes. Remove bay leaves and discard. Let the sauce cool a little. Using a hand held emulsion blender (or a food processor in small batches),  blend yogurt sauce until smooth. Return sauce to pan.
11           Add chicken back in pan along with potatoes and reduce heat to med-low. Heat everything for about 20-30 or so  minutes more, until chicken is thoroughly cooked, easy to take off bone and soft enough to break apart with the wooden spoon. Potatoes should be very soft. This step may take longer.

Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice. This recipe may be doubled but you may need two pots for all of the chicken.

****Note on whole spices--- You may use whole spices for authenticity although I don’t use them because we don’t usually have them and we prefer to use ground versions, but Nahid used them and it was awesome so your call. If you use whole spices, skip the garam masala powder, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves in recipe above.   

Whole spice version- 2 large bay leaves   1 ½  -2 tsp cumin, 1 ½  -2 tsp coriander, ¾ tsp turmeric, ¾ tsp ground red pepper, 2 cinnamon sticks broken up, 3-5 cardamom, 2 star anise, 4-5 black cloves, 4-5 black peppercorns (everything after cardamom is optional)
Add the whole spices when you are browning the chicken. One other note, if you use whole spices, do not puree the sauce is with a emulsifier or food processor, just skip that step.


  1. I have never made curry but do enjoy eating it! And I know what you mean by photos of baked goods versus savory dishes...they are much less appealing in photographs!

  2. I have been reading up and learning about lighting but I need a different lens. Plus, I almost always shoot pics while I am serving up food to hungry guests and family so it is just not easy to get the great shots. But at least the food tastes good :-)

  3. Ohhh! Do you think that's why most people post desserts? I feel like I'm the ONLY one who don't bake in food blogs world... Anyway, I love this recipe and I already bookmarked this. Don't worry about the look because your creditability is good enough! ;-)