I'm surprised by how hard I'm finding it to write about this simple chicken curry recipe. I think of it as the first recipe that I really developed on my own, but it's also a recipe I strongly associate with my Mom. When I was 19 and getting ready travel around the world, with a 3-month stop in India, Mom thought I should probably try Indian food before I left. We ended up at a little Indian place on Broadway (where there is now just an empty pit waiting for a train station). I don't really remember the food, but I remember how much she wanted me to be happy and fed on my long trip. We worked on this recipe together when I got back. I found several empty cans of the spice mixture (that I gave as gifts one Christmas) among Mom's things. I was gone for 9-months in the end and tried so many types of food, but the foods of France and India are the ones that have stayed with me.
I'd hate to make this curry for someone who really knows Indian food and find out that it is terrible. This has become a comfort food for me. It works just as well in the slow cooker or bubbling away for an hour on the stove top. Make up a batch of the spices and use it to coat potatoes before roasting or chicken before grilling.
Simple Chicken Curry
1 T whole mustard seed
1 T whole cumin seed
3 T ground cumin
1 T turmeric
2 T coriander
1/2 t cayenne (which makes it a little spicy)
1 large yellow onion, diced
6 chicken thighs or 3 breasts
3 T butter
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 T tomato paste
1 15 oz can of Garbanzo Beans, drained
1 cup of stock (or even better a stock paste like Better Than Bouillon)
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the onion and saute until the edges are just starting to brown. If you worry that the butter is starting to scorch, add a little oil (anything but olive) and this will stop the butter from browning.
- Have your tomato paste and canned tomatoes ready to go, but first sprinkle all the spices over the sauteed onion. Stir the onion and spices until the bottom of the pan is starting to get coated with brown (usually the mustard and cumin seeds will just start to pop), then add the tomato paste and cook all of this until you're worried it will start to burn.*
- Add the chicken (this should add enough juice to prevent burning, but if you're worried add just a little of the liquid from the tomatoes) and stir this for a few minutes to coat the chicken with spices.
- Dump in your cans of tomatoes and Garbanzo Beans. If you have liquid stock, add 2 cups now. I always prefer to use a paste stock like Better Than Bouillon because then the water can come from the rinsed out can of tomatoes, the packaging is way less than liquid stock, and I can control how much I add much (I always start by making it half strength and then add more if needed).
- Once this has started to bubble you can either put it in a slow cooker for about 6 hours on high, or reduce the heat to a simmer and let it cook on the stove for about an hour (stirring a few times to be sure it doesn't stick).
- Serve with plain, full-fat yogurt and Basmati rice.
Remember, big T is tablespoon, little t is teaspoon.