Monday, 10 January 2011

The best curry in the world

A thing I swore I'd do, when I decided to learn to cook was to stock up on stuff. You know what I mean - all those ingredients that you never have, like fenugreek, tamarind paste, white pepper and fish sauce. It would make the difference, I reasoned, between staying within a limited zone of recipes I could attempt, and really going wild.

Even then, I still hesitated often at the spice rack in Waitrose over a glass jar of coriander seed, or turmeric, thinking "Am I really going to buy this? I'll only use it once, probably."

But eventually I bought it all. I've even got some star anise, although I'm not sure when I'll use it. They all sit in my "Curry Box", which is a large tupperware box I put all my curry spices in so that they don't stink the place out or lose their zing.

And I'm so pleased I do have my vast collection of spices, because it meant that when I came across Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe for Murgh Makhani (that's Butter Chicken to you and me) I had absolutely eveything I needed to make it, despite the jaw-droppingly long list of ingredients and the instruction to marinade stuff overnight (BORING!)

And my GOD GOD GOD this is an amazing curry. Yeah, fine, my Curry without the Bleurgh is perfectly okay if you're looking for a quick, simple spice hit of a weeknight.

But in fact, this is what you really want.

This is what you're craving in those moments when you really, really want a curry. This is like the kind of curry that arrives at your door on a wet winter's night from the slightly-more-expensive curry place round the corner and you carefully lift up the white lid from the aluminium tray while someone else runs to the kitchen for plates and cutlery and beer and you look at what's inside and you think "Oh my god... this is going to be special."

So my advice to you, if you like curry that is, is to use making this as an excuse to go out and raid the spice rack of your local supermarket, because basically once you've got all you need to make this, you can make pretty much any curry there is, probably. And this curry is so gorgeous, so rich and aromatic and cosy and pleasing that you'll want to make it again, loads and to hell with whatever Madhur Jaffrey thinks she's got to say.

So here goes. Ready? Try not to be scared. Have lots of sits-down and drinks of water. This sauce makes enough to cover an entire chicken, or 2 small pheasants. But don't fret about making too much, because you can freeze the leftovers to have with lamb or beef or some more chicken or whatever some other time.

If you're using chicken, get a lot of boneless thigh and breast pieces, because you don't really want to de-bone them after they've been roasted because they'll be covered in curry marinade. Alternatively, leave the bones in and eat round them. Anyway, you get the picture, you're a grown-up. I'm just limbering up to patronise a child for the next 40 years.

For the Tikka Marinade:

1 tsp salt
2 tbsp plain yoghurt
1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice (this is about half a lime/lemon)
2 tablespoons garam masala (you can make your own, or buy it)
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp fenugreek
1 golfball-sized piece fresh ginger, grated
1-2 tbsp groundnut/sunflower oil
3 fresh chillies, finely chopped. Seeds in or out, up to you

Tired yet? Bit more to go...
For the Tomato Sauce:

2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes and their juices
thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, squashed
2 fresh chillies, chopped, ditto thing about the seeds
5 cloves
1 tsp salt
175ml water

Last lap...

For the Makhani Sauce

125g butter
2tsp ground cumin
2 tsp tomato puree
4 tsp honey
150ml double cream OR yoghurt
1 tablespoon fenugreek
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tsp black pepper

PHEWEEEEE. But please, please, I'm begging you - don't be put off. I know it's a lot of stuff but honestly, that really is the heavy-lifting over and done with. The rest is just an assembly job and it's an AMAZING curry.

So here's how it's done (if you're using chicken, I recommend taking the skin off first, because this is quite a rich dish anyway and you don't want the skin schmaltzing everything up).

1 Make up the tikka marinade and leave your chicken pieces in it all day or overnight.

2 Put the chicken in a roasting pan, marinade and all, cover with tin foil and roast for for 5 mins at 220C and then 20 mins at 200C

3 While that's happening, make up the tomato sauce and simmer on the stove for 20 mins

4 While THAT'S happening, melt the 125g butter in a pan or casserole big enough to hold all your chicken pieces, then add the 2tsp ground cumin and leave to foam gently.

5 Pass the tomato sauce through a sieve directly onto the butter-and-cumin mixture. Once the chicken's had it's turn, switch off the heat but leave it there while you finish off pushing the tomato sauce through the sieve.

6 Now add to the tomato-and-butter mixture the rest of the Makhani sauce ingredients and simmer together for 5 mins. Now take your chicken out of the oven and add that, tikka marinade and everything, to the tomato sauce. Cook all this gently for another 8-10 minutes.

Then congratulate yourself. You have just made one of the world's greatest curries.


  1. Wow! This really sounds like a great curry. I made my first ever curry last year and was smugly pleased with myself but as with this dish I did have to prepare for about a month before! The one you've done here does sound extra special though. I may try a veggie version. Re Star Anise. I followed a Jamie recipe for gravy which uses star anise ( you just pop it in to the pan whilst reducing) and it was one of those 'never look back' moments. Amazing! X

  2. I love, love, LOVE this curry - which is very bad news for my local takeaway! I made it a couple of weeks ago after seeing it in the Guardian magazine - really is worth the effort.

  3. Looks lovely... I confess I tend to always go to my mum's (Indian home cooking recipe) website when I want a curry recipe, there's nothing like a taste of mum's cooking!

    I ought to try some of the really well-recommended recipes though - like that lamb saag that Rick Stein got from some guy called Mumtaz that owns a restaurant somewhere. That looks good too.

  4. My husband said his mouth was watering reading this, we now have an Ocado basket full of spices ready to try it out!

  5. This curry is legendary, now is the season to try it with pheasant instead.

  6. Sorry. I passed out at fenugreek. It does sound amazing though.

  7. How crucial is fenugreek - anyone? I don't even know what it is, so pretty sure my local poxy sainsburys won't have it. Got everything else

    1. Fenugreek is very important in this recepie and available in most super markets. It comes in both leaf and seed and has a great aroma.

  8. I think it'd be fine without fenugreek. Although having made it once, I'm sure you'll make it again and by that time you might have passed a shop that sells it. x

  9. Oh I love Star Anise. Try them with sticky ribs. I normally shove some ribs in a freezer bag with a few star anise in, some fennel seeds, maple syrup, soy sauce, ketchup. Lovely!

    You should get yourself down to an Asian Supermarket. Much more choice of spices and better value too. x

  10. Wow, just discovered your blog (love it; love your writing!) and this amazing curry recipe; can't wait to try it. Lame question you think I could substitute chicken for shrimp? Ya, I know. Don't hate.

  11. yeah sure, use whatever you like, I'm sure shrimp or any kind of fish would be nice x

  12. Hi Esther, I've been a convert to homemade curry for a few years now.I'm a curry fanatic & I live in a remote area so don't have access to restaurants or takeaways.When in the city a couple of times a year, I buy my spices in 1kg bags from a spice market. My favourite meat for curry is lamb neck, on the bone & I always purposely make too much. So the following day I layer the leftover curry with cooked & cooled rice in a casserole dish & bake it, as in biryani. Try it sometime, I bet you'll love it, great for a dinner party too as all the work is done before anyone arrives, your house will smell fantastic & the dish can be brought straight to the table for everyone to help themselves.

  13. Thanks Fiona! Great tips, all. And I'm glad the chicken pie worked out for you. Good to know about the blind-baking soggy bottom - I'll do that next time. Can't have too much pastry, that's my motto.

  14. Just eaten this curry - WOW !!! My children are most upset they weren't included and will be restricted to leftovers tomorrow. I have bought Hugh's Meat book based on this - any other recommendations ?

  15. I read the preamble, then felt pathetically delighted with myself that I had all the ingredients except the fresh ones in stock. Oh dear :(

  16. Made this yesterday and now have the scent of fenugreek seeping from every pore, but totally worth it.


  17. We are having this tonight, Cannot Wait!!!

  18. I'm making this on Friday as I've finally got organised sufficiently to get everything together to make it.

    Fenugreek was a pain in the backside to track down. Surprisingly, I got it in M&S when I couldn't get it in Sainsbury's or Morrisons.

    Really looking forward to it. I'll probably be making double just to ensure we have some left over.

  19. Toasting the Fenugreek seeds has made the whole kitchen smell amazing.

    I was wondering how long the marinade might keep if you made it in a bigger batch?

  20. Wow! That was delicious. Amazingly, there was some left over.

    We just had it again for dinner and, like many such stews, casseroles etc, it was better the next day. Although, I defy anyone to make it and not make a start on it as soon as it's ready!

  21. Just made this and it totally was delicious. Quite a lot of work and, sweet jebus, so much washing up (poss because I also made daal and pilau rice?) but totally delicious. Thanks!

  22. I made this, finally, tonight, after marinating the chicken for two days, due to forgetting I had a dinner date yesterday!

    My husband, two wee sons and I have just demolished a whole pan of this between us, and will be having it again when we have our friends over for a curry evening in March.

    So thank you loads! And congrats on your lovely daughter!

  23. made this for a dinner party on friday night - it was a HUGE hit! not just with my friends, also with me. love love love it. (although when sieving the tomatoe sauce, i have to say, i had my doubts.... was proven very, very wrong. i'll never doubt you again.) also made the feta and chilli salad as a side dish, and even if it sounds like an odd combo, it went super well with the curry. think it may be the chillis. so, to summarise, thanks to you i give the illusion of being a master chef! THANK you!!!

  24. i made this but it tasted more thai than indian i dont know were i went wrong it was still lush though will make it again and would appreciate some more curry recipies on here please


  25. Loved this, great flavour and hot enough for curry lovers without being unadjustable for the kids. After a trial run served it at New Year Party for 24. Rogan Josh served as an alternative, had to freeze the RJ afterwards as lots left over! Chicken dish was scraped clean...... Easy to adjust with fineness of chilli chopping. Thanks for a great recipe that's quickly established itself as a fave!

  26. husband said it was the most authentic amazing curry he has tasted , better than the indian restuarants here in perth, one question though, the fenugreek is it powdered, fresh or seeds?

  27. Hi,my mouth is still watering just thinking about your curry.For those thats strugglingto find fenugreek,it's allso sold as methi,wayne

  28. Hi What sort of chillies did you use?

  29. Just some ordinary-looking chillies I found in waitrose

  30. OMG I made this curry on the weekend in preperation for a curry nite that we are organising for our sailing club.
    It was amazing I have never mada a curry completely from scratch before, have always bought jars & tweeked, never going back.
    thank you for the recepe it is a gift.
    Wendy Perth Western Australia

  31. Just put chicken into marinade ready for the main event tomorrow. If this tastes as good as my taste buds are thinking at this minute im going to have a warm smile on my face. Thanks for making me salivate. B-)

  32. This is a fantastic curry, next time I will add a little Tuermic and Star Anais. I used organic ghee and i did not discard the tomatoe mixture , I pureed it and added it back to sauce for a thicker consistency. Went down a bomb with my guests.
    Thanks so much for sharing.

  33. Amazing!!, the only thing I did different was to liquidize the tomatoes, which meant that the water was omitted, however it did end up a bit runny, so an extra 15 minutes in the wok was all that was required. The result is a rich red curry that I will do again- - and again.
    Thanks a lot for this.
    Regards, Peter Somerset UK

  34. If you really are into curries the best book for authentic Indian food has got to be INDIA COOKBOOK by PUSHPESH PANT. There are some amazing recipes in there. Its available from AMAZON. I've purchased two copies for my daughters for Christmas so they can make their own instead of pinching mine.

  35. I had this dish tonight, must say, a pucka finish, and lovely taste, one i will definitly do again.

  36. Just just made this and it was delicious. I couldn't find fenugreek. When I googled it, it said it had an aroma of maple so I added a couple of 'glugs' of maple syrup - tastes great!!

  37. it was not so good

  38. i love curry its amazing

  39. Ok, I did it and WHAT A CURRY!!!! All the faff was SO worth it. The depth of flavours was like nothing I have ever tasted before and my partner was so impressed, he said I have earned an extra week (cheeky git!) All I can say is DO NOT be daunted by this, It is so worth it. I promise you, home made curry will never be the same.....Thanks so much for sharing this. I am hooked xxxx

  40. Still no answer on the fenugreek - powered spices can be far more powerful in powered form than the seeds.

  41. Hi I think it's ground fenugreek as I've seen Hugh's recipe on the Guardian website. Oh, and the chillies are green.

  42. hi,could some body tell me what sort of mixed spice i put in the marinade.


  44. thanks,wikipedia says mixed spice is also called pudding rice is this the one i use.

  45. it was horrible,dont waste your time.

  46. Cooked this a few times now... is a house favourite. I do like to make mine a bit spicy though! Following this recipe, is nice, and will appeal to anyone as it's not that hot.

    I also go with half the butter, no reason to use 125g, 60 does just fine.

  47. Having this tonight! Chicken has being marinading 36 hours so far!

  48. not many agree but I too found it absolutely disgusting...I make all my curries from scratch, usually Madhur Jaffrey, but I had my suspicions about this with tomatoes and cream which I thought would make it pink and it does - and the look just puts you off - in the bin most of it went.