RECIPES: Recipe Details

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Indian Chicken Curry

When Naveen invites Anna over for dinner in The Secret of the Nightingale Palace, he cooks an elaborate chicken curry. Standing in his cramped kitchen in small-town Indiana, he manages to reproduce the fragrance of India by pounding spices with a mortar and pestle. The recipe I’m offering here allows less-ambitious cooks to enjoy home-made curry, too. Though the preparation is less complicated, I think it offers comparably delicious results.

Serves 4 to 6 people

4 tbl. vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 tbl. Curry powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. paprika
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger root
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size pieces
2 tbl. tomato paste
2 cups plain yogurt
1 ½ cups lite coconut milk
juice of one lemon
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups frozen peas, defrosted

Optional ingredients to pass around at the table:

Toasted slivered almonds
Golden currents
Plain yoghurt
Mango chutney
Coriander chutney


1. Stir together tomato paste, yoghurt, and coconut milk. Add chicken pieces, mix, and allow to marinate for at least an hour (if longer, refrigerate).

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together garlic, curry powder, cinnamon, paprika, bay leaves, ginger, sugar and salt. Set spice mixture aside.

3. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until soft.

4. Stir in spice mixture and continue cooking for two minutes. 

5. Add chicken and its marinade. Bring to a boil, stirring carefully so as not to burn the bottom of the pan. Once it begins to boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked through. Remove bay leaves. Add peas, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper. 

6. Simmer 5 more minutes. Serve over steamed rice.


This recipe creates a fairly spicy dish. A dollop of plain yoghurt and some chutney will cut the heat, but you can also use less curry powder and cayenne pepper if you like a milder taste.