Basic Indian-style curry

Peter Flynn

This is a simple and virtually foolproof Indian-style curry which can be done with chicken, lamb, vegetables, or fish — just vary the cooking time. I’m sure my Indian friends will laugh themselves silly at this, but it’s one of those derivative things that suits our pale northern European tastes.

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Serves 4. Heat your (fan) oven to 200°C. Prep time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 1 hours.


  • 1 large onion
  • 3 fat cloves garlic
  • large knob of ginger
  • 1 medium red chili | seeds and ribs removed
  • 1 medium green chili | seeds and ribs removed
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 200 ml stock
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 3 tbsp curry paste [eg Patak’s or similar, but paste, not sauce]
  • 4 chicken breasts | skin removed (or 8 chicken thighs or equivalent in meat or veg or fish)
  • 500 g basmati rice | soaked in cold water


  1. Chop the onion, garlic, ginger, red chili, and green chili very fine, and fry gently in the oil, stirring occasionally until the onion goes translucent (about 5 mins). Use the mild ‘Dutch’ chilis if you prefer a lighter flavour, but feel free to use anything stronger if you have the mouth for them.

  2. While this is cooking, mix the peanut butter and curry paste thoroughly in an ovenproof dish (one with a lid) and stir in the stock (or mash in a cube, and use water).

  3. When the onion and spice mix is done, tilt the pan to let the oil drain to one side (keeping it for the meat or veg), then take out the onion mix into the main dish and stir everything together very thoroughly.

  4. If you're using chicken breasts or other large pieces of meat, cut them into smaller chunks. ‘Oyster’ thighs must be skinned but can be left whole.

  5. In the oil you left behind in the pan, fry the meat or vegetables, stirring well. Meat should be fried until pale golden brown, vegetables need much less time.

  6. Add the chicken breasts or veg to the dish, mix well, cover, and cook for about 45 minutes (for chicken breasts; much less for vegetables, maybe 15 minutes; but more for lamb or chicken on the bone, a bit over an hour). Check and stir at the half-way stage. Fish cut in pieces takes far less time and can be added after the sauce has cooked for 10 minutes, and will take about 15 minutes more.

  7. When the meat is very tender (or the veg or fish cooked) and the oil has all risen to the surface, spoon the oil off carefully and discard. Stir the curry well but gently and put back at 150°C while you cook the rice.

  8. Rinse out the rice to get rid of any excess starch (so-called ‘fast-cook’ rice doesn’t need as much rinsing, but tastes of nothing). Boil in plenty of water for about 6 minutes (for Basmati) or a few minutes longer for other types like Patna.

  9. Drain the rice very well. Take out the curry and spoon off any remaining oil from the surface, and stir.

Meat or Veg or Fish: instead of chicken you could use chopped mixed vegetables (onion, peppers, celery, aubergine, courgettes (zucchini), carrot, parsnip, whatever you happen to have) — fry carefully to brown them without overcooking, and shorten the oven time; or you could use diced stewing lamb or beef, or turkey breast, or any other meat (kid and rabbit are excellent). Fish is lighter and needs less cooking time.

Curry paste: Patak’s are the best I have found, but make sure you get the curry paste, not the sauce. Curry powder is different: if you can’t get the paste, use three tablespoons of curry powder instead.

A good raita (sauce) to go with this can be done by slicing and chopping radishes or a cucumber very finely (tiny dice, fine brunoise), draining and patting well on a few layers of kitchen towel to get rid of the excess moisture (cucumbers are mostly water anyway), and then mixing with a big handful of finely-chopped mint and a medium carton of thick plain Greek-style yoghurt (crème fraîche would also do, but the zero-fat Greek-style yoghurt works well and makes the fat unmeasurable).

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