This is rich and fragrant, and the chicken is nice and tender, but is better for standing 30 minutes after the initial cooking so that flavours can develop, or make it the day ahead and let the flavours mellow. Serve the curry on its own with steamed rice or roti, or make it go further by serving with Indian vegetable dishes.
12 skinned and boned chicken thighs
12 cardamom pods
3 Tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp peeled and finely chopped ginger
1 medium hot red chilli, finely chopped (remove seeds if you prefer)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seed
1½ tsp coriander seeds, crushed (see Recipe Notes below)
3 whole cloves
400g (14 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
¼ cup water
½ cup coconut cream
2 Tbsp chopped mint or coriander (cilantro), or use both
Plain unsweetened yoghurt for serving
1 Remove as much fat as possible from the chicken thighs. Crush cardamom pods lightly with a mallet and extract seeds.
2 Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large frying pan (skillet) over medium heat. Add chicken thighs smooth side down and brown quickly; this is just to develop colour and flavour, not to cook them through. Transfer to a plate and season with salt. The chicken thighs can also be browned on a preheated-to-hot oiled barbecue hot plate (griddle), which is my preferred way as it saves all the splattering going around your kitchen, and it develops great colour. If you do cook them inside, use a splatter screen (see Recipe Notes below).
3 Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan with onion, ginger, chilli and garlic. Turn heat to low and cook very gently for 10-12 minutes, until onion is very tender but not browned. If you have cooked the chicken thighs outside, cook these ingredients in a pan (skillet) with 2 tablespoons of oil.
4 Add chilli powder, cumin seeds, crushed coriander seeds, cardamom and cloves and let the spices heat through. Add tomatoes and water. Bring to a gentle bubble then lower heat and cook gently for 10 minutes.
5 Stir coconut cream into sauce, and add chicken thighs, turning them to coat in sauce, and tucking them into the sauce. Cover pan with a lid and cook gently for 20 minutes, turning them half-way through cooking, or until they are cooked through. Keep pan covered and let curry rest for 30 minutes. Remove chicken thighs to a plate and heat sauce gently until bubbling. If necessary, reduce it until thick. Return chicken thighs to pan and let them heat through. Sprinkle with mint or coriander and dollop with yoghurt. Serve with rice or roti.
Crush the seeds in a small grinder (I use a coffee grinder for spices, never for coffee!). Otherwise, protect the seeds with paper towels and bash them with the end of a sturdy bottle.
A splatter screen is a fine meshed screen with a long handle that you lay over the top of the pan. It knocks back 70% of splatters, but doesn’t cause the food to steam. Genius.
Leftover coconut cream can be used up in rice dishes. Another idea is to make a quick sauce with it adding a few squirts of lime juice, a little grated squeezed ginger juice and a little crushed bird’s eye chilli. Bubble it up and serve with steamed fish.