Meera Sodha’s Chicken Curry

I received a rice cooker for Christmas! I had to make some sort of chicken dish to serve with my perfectly cooked rice. 🙂

This comforting chicken curry was very thick and hearty. The recipe was adapted from Made in India: Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen by Meera Sodha. I also included some of Sam Sifton’s adaptations from The New York Times.

The dollop of yogurt on top was essential. We also ate it with warm naan, roasted cauliflower and steamed spinach.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • 2 T unsalted butter or ghee
  • 1 T neutral oil, like canola
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, approximately 2 inches long
  • 2 large white or yellow onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 2 1/2-inch piece of ginger, peeled with a spoon and grated or minced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 green cayenne or jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced (or 1 tsp chili powder)
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons strained or puréed tomatoes (I used Pomi)
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 3 T whole-milk yogurt, plus 1 cup to serve with the meal
  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 T ground or slivered almonds
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • pinch ground cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups brown Basmati rice, rinsed and cooked per package directions
  1. Melt the butter or ghee in the oil in a large Dutch oven set over medium heat, and when it is hot and shimmering, add the cumin seeds and cinnamon sticks. Cook for a minute or two, stirring often, to intensify their flavors.
  2. Add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are golden, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, put the ginger, garlic and chilies into a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt; smash them together into a coarse paste. (You can also do this on a cutting board, with a knife.) (I had a bit of a struggle with this! May try the cutting board method next time.)
  4. Add the paste to the onions, and cook gently for 2 minutes or so, then pour in the tomatoes, and stir. Allow to cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture thickens.
  5. Add the tomato paste, ground cumin, ground turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon of salt; stir to combine.
  6. Add the yogurt slowly to the mixture, using a wooden spoon to whisk it into the sauce. It may be quite thick. When it begins to bubble, add the chicken.
  7. Lower the heat, put the lid on the Dutch oven and allow the curry to cook gently for 30 minutes or so, or until the chicken is cooked through.
  8. Add the almonds and the garam masala, along with a pinch of cayenne, and cook for 5 minutes more or so. Taste and adjust seasoning, as needed.
  9. Serve with basmati rice and/or naan, and the additional yogurt for topping at the table.

Curried Parsnips with Basil

I have one more root vegetable side dish to share. This dish was a flavor-packed way to enjoy the parsnips from my CSA share. The honey and coconut oil enhanced the natural sweetness of the parsnips.

The recipe was adapted from 177MilkStreet.com, contributed by Rose Hattabaugh. I omitted the coconut topping and modified the proportions. The original recipe advises not to use very large parsnips because they can taste bitter.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, preferably unrefined
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon yellow or brown mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick on a sharp diagonal (I used 8 medium parsnips)
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil, torn or chiffonade
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened wide-flake coconut, toasted, optional (see note)
  • Lime wedges, to serve, optional
  1. In a large Dutch oven over medium, combine the oil, honey, mustard seeds, turmeric and curry powder. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add 1 1/4 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper, then bring to a simmer.
  3. Stir in the parsnips and return to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until the parsnips are almost tender, 5 to 7 minutes. (*Don’t stir more than once or twice while the parsnips are simmering in the covered pot. Lifting the lid allows heat and steam to escape, which slows the cooking and may cause the pot to run dry.)
  4. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the water has evaporated, the parsnips begin to sizzle and a skewer inserted into the largest piece meets no resistance, another 3 to 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Transfer to a serving dish and spoon on any liquid remaining in the pot. Sprinkle with the basil and coconut, if using; serve with lime wedges, if desired.

Note: To toast the coconut, spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350°F until light golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

Ginger-Curry Grilled Chicken Kebabs

This recipe was included in the “Tuesday Nights” column of Milk Street magazine. Kebabs are a big procedure on a Tuesday night! 😉 Although the time commitment was misleading, the finished dish was absolutely worth all of the work.

We ate the kebabs with brown Basmati rice, warm naan, and Greek Tzatziki. They could alternatively be served with a drizzle of plain yogurt. The kebabs are an adaptation of mishkaki, grilled skewers of marinated meat from the islands of Zanzibar. According to the article, the islands’ cuisine is a fusion of Persian, Portuguese, and Arabic from the people that once colonized or settled in the area.

This recipe was adapted from “Feast: Food of the Islamic World” by Anissa Helou, via Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street magazine, contributed by Courtney Hill. Fabulous.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 T grapeseed or other neutral oil (I used canola)
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus lemon wedges to serve
  • 1 T finely grated fresh ginger
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, finely grated or pushed through a garlic press
  • 1 T curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts), trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks (see Note)
  • 1 medium red, orange or yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  1. Trim the chicken and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the oil, tomato paste, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, curry powder, turmeric, cayenne, 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
  3. Add the chicken and mix, rubbing the seasonings into the meat, until evenly coated.
  4. Marinate at room temperature for about 30 minutes while you prepare the grill or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. (I marinated it for about 3 hours.)
  5. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. For a charcoal grill, ignite a large chimney of coals, let burn until lightly ashed over, then distribute evenly over the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents. For a gas grill, turn all burners to high. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the grate.
  6. While the grill heats, thread the chicken, alternating with the pepper and onion pieces, onto 6 to 9 metal skewers.
  7. Place the skewers on the pre-heated grill. Cook without disturbing until lightly charred on the bottom and the meat releases easily from the grill, 3 to 4 minutes.
  8. Flip the skewers and cook, turning every few minutes, until charred all over and the chicken is no longer pink when cut into, another 8 to 9 minutes.
  9. Transfer to a platter and serve with lemon wedges, as desired.

Note: Don’t worry if the cut pieces of chicken are irregularly shaped. As long as they’re similarly sized, shape isn’t important. Don’t crowd the skewers on the grill grate. Allow some space between them so heat circulates and the chicken cooks quickly and without steaming.

Mixed Vegetable Curry (Mix Sabji)

This dish could be made with any assortment of leftover vegetables in the refrigerator. It was healthy and flavorful.

The recipe was adapted from Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian: Quick and Easy Everyday Meals by Chetna Makan. I must mention that prepping all of the vegetables was not taken into account when including this dish in a 30-minute meal cookbook! I did double the recipe though. It was worth the extra time.

I served it over brown Basmati rice with warm naan on the side. Topping it with cucumber raita was also suggested in the original recipe.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 4 T canola or sunflower oil
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 large yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded, if desired
  • 6 garlic cloves, grated or pushed through a garlic press
  • 2-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp amchur (mango powder) or tamarind concentrate
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 3 large tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 200 ml (7 oz) boiling water

For the Vegetables:

  • 4 T canola or sunflower oil
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 12 oz green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

To Serve: (as desired)

  • brown Basmati rice
  • warm flatbread such as naan
  • cucumber raita or whole milk plain yogurt
  1. If desired, mince the jalapeños and garlic in a food processor; remove and set aside. Chop the onions in a food processor; set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan (with a lid available) and add the cumin and mustard seeds as well as the bay leaves.
  3. Once the spices start to sizzle, add the chopped onions with the jalapeños and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until golden.
  4. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the oil for the vegetables in a large frying pan.
  6. Add all of the vegetables and cook them over medium to high heat for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly colored.
  7. Stir the salt, ground spices and sugar into the onions with the tomatoes and cook for a minute.
  8. Add the vegetables and pour in the boiling water.
  9. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes until the cauliflower is tender.
  10. Serve with rice and/or flatbread, as desired. Top with yogurt or raita, if desired.

Kuku Paka (Chicken & Coconut Curry)

I was happy that the weather cooled down a little bit so that I could sneak this dinner into our springtime menu. The sauce was beyond creamy and delicious. Typically, this dish is prepared with charcoal-grilled chicken; I loved that this recipe was adapted to make using the broiler instead- perfect in cooler weather.

This recipe was adapted from Let’s Eat by Zaynab Issa, via Bon Appétit. It is a wonderful version of this popular East African-Indian chicken curry. It gave my son, who is studying World History in high school, a moment to review the impact and influences of the Indian Ocean trade routes prior to 1450 with our family. 😉 In Swahili, the trade language formed across the Indian Ocean, Kuku means chicken and Paka means to smear, to spread, or to apply.

The original recipe recommends using boneless thighs but notes that any cut of chicken, or a mix of breasts, tenders, or drumsticks (with pieces of similar size), could be substituted. A mix of vegetables can also be used in lieu of chicken to create a vegetarian version. I served it over rice with steamed spinach. Fast and fabulous.

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings

  • 3 to 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 lemons, divided (one for marinade & one for serving)
  • 1 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt, divided, plus more (or 2 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt)
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika or Kashmiri chile powder
  • one pinch or dash of cayenne pepper (omit if using Kashmiri chile powder)
  • 2–3 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 8 to 10 large)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 plum tomato
  • 1 medium jalapeño or 1–2 green Thai chiles, seeded and ribbed
  • 1/4 cup (packed) cilantro leaves with tender stems, plus more for serving
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 can (13.5 oz) unsweetened coconut milk
  • 4 T (1/4 cup) heavy cream (can substitute nondairy milk or additional coconut milk)
  • Basmati rice and/or crusty bread, for serving
  1. Finely grate the garlic cloves into a large bowl with a Microplane; alternatively, a garlic press can be used.
  2. Cut 1 lemon in half and squeeze juice into the bowl; discard seeds.
  3. Mix in 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt (or 1 tsp Diamond Crystal) and the smoked paprika and cayenne pepper (or Kashmiri Chile powder).
  4. Add the skinless, boneless chicken thighs (I used 10) and toss to evenly coat.
  5. Cover bowl and let sit at room temperature 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the curry base.
  6. Coarsely chop the onion, tomato, chile(s) (depending on how spicy your chiles are and your heat tolerance), and cilantro. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend or process until smooth. (I used a Vitamix.)
  7. Place an oven rack in the highest position. Heat the broiler. (I set my oven to Broiler+Max at 500 degrees.)
  8. Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a high-sided skillet or large pot over medium. (I used a large, low, and wide enameled cast iron pan.)
  9. Add ground coriander, ground cumin, and ground turmeric. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  10. Pour in purée and add 3/4 tsp Morton kosher salt (or 1 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal). Stir to combine and cook, stirring occasionally, until raw onion smell subsides and curry is paste-like in consistency, 15–20 minutes.
  11. Arrange chicken on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet and broil until cooked through, charred in spots, and a thermometer inserted into the thickest parts registers 165°, 14 to 20 minutes. (I placed the chicken “skin side down” for 7 minutes, flipped each piece over and cooked an additional 7 minutes.)
  12. While the chicken is cooking, shake the can unsweetened coconut milk to ensure coconut cream is incorporated, then add coconut milk to curry and stir well to combine. Curry should be pale yellow. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until warm and slightly thickened, 5–10 minutes.
  13. Once chicken is finished, add chicken and all of the pan juices to the curry and reduce heat to low; mix well to combine. Stirring constantly to prevent curry from breaking, dribble in the heavy cream.
  14. Taste and season with more salt, if needed.
  15. Serve the chicken and sauce over Basmati rice garnished with additional cilantro.
  16. Cut remaining 1 lemon into wedges. Serve kuku paka with crusty bread and lemon wedges for squeezing over at the table, as desired.

Coconut Chicken Curry

This dish was a home run in my house. Everyone really enjoyed it. I served it over brown Basmati rice with warm naan and steamed spinach on the side. Perfect weeknight comfort food! It does take a while to cook but it is mostly unattended. Letting the finished dish sit for 20 minutes after cooking allows the flavors to soak into the chicken- perfect.

This recipe is from Desmond Tan and Kate Leahy of Burma Superstar in the San Francisco Bay Area and their book “Burma Superstar,” via The New York Times, adapted by Genevieve Ko. I used Maharajah curry powder and additional garlic. I also had Greek yogurt available to temper the spice.

Yield: 8 servings

Pressure Cooker Butter Chicken (Chicken Makhani)

One more Indian dish to share… for now. 😉 This is another wonderful pressure cooker version of a classic Indian dish. A pressure cooker is a great tool to use when making Indian food.

This recipe was adapted from The Essential Indian Instant Pot Cookbook: Authentic Flavors and Modern Recipes for Your Electric Pressure Cooker by Archana Mundhe of Ministry of Curry. I used my stove top pressure cooker instead of an Instant Pot. I also modified the proportions and omitted the sugar.

I served this wonderful, saucy chicken over brown Basmati rice with warm naan and steamed beet and turnip greens. Full-flavored, fast and fabulous.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 T ghee
  • 2 large yellow onions, finely diced
  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, halved and patted dry
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes or tomato purée
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 T grated fresh ginger
  • 5 to 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp ancho chile powder, Kashmiri red chile powder or another mild red chile powder
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 cup canned coconut cream
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 T dried fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • brown Basmati rice, for serving (stove top: 1 1/2 cups rice & 3 cups chicken stock)
  • naan, for serving, optional
  1. Heat the ghee in a stove top pressure cooker or on high sauté in an Instant Pot.
  2. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken, crushed tomatoes, water, ginger, garlic, Chile powder, salt, garam masala, and turmeric; stir to combine.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the rice in a separate pot. (If using an Instant Pot, stir 1 cup rice, 1 1/2 cups water, and 1 tsp kosher salt in a stainless steel bowl that will fit in the IP. Place a tall steam rack in the pot, making sure the legs rest on the bottom, and place the bowl of rice on the rack.)
  5. Secure the lid of the pressure cooker or Instant Pot. Cook at high pressure for 5 minutes.
  6. Let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes, then vent manually to release any remaining steam. Open the pot. (Remove the rice if using an Instant Pot.)
  7. Add the coconut cream, tomato paste, and fenugreek and stir to combine.
  8. Sauté until the curry comes to a boil and is heated through, about 2 minutes. (At this point, I removed the chicken and continued to reduce the sauce for an additional 4 minutes.)
  9. To serve: Spoon the rice onto plates and label the curry over the top. Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with naan on the side, as desired.

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