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So this recipe was an undertaking I did not see coming, but as the latest edition of my Better Than Takeaway series, I’m pretty damn proud of this Garlic Chilli Chicken Curry recipe.
Garlic Chilli Chicken, or sometimes Garlic Chilli Lamb is the curry J usually orders when we get Indian food, leaving me to order some combination of lamb biryani, chicken passanda and dhal depending on what I know is good from each place we order from. But, when I started searching for recipes both in my books and online (when I’m developing an old classic from scratch I like to cook a couple of existing recipes first so I can see what the commonalities are, what differences I think worked and which did not, etc.) they’re pretty thin on the ground: it turns out that Garlic Chilli Chicken, or at least in the form we all know and love is not so much an authentic recipe, but more a recipe that is authentic pretty exclusively to British curry houses. Which, I suppose explains why versions I’ve tried differ so wildly from each other.
There were, however, a few recipes out there, mostly found by taking a deep dive into curry enthusiast forums and finding methods posted by actual chefs in British curry houses. This is where I hit another snag: they all required a base sauce.
Now, especially when it comes to weeknight cooking I’m an inherently lazy person. Yes I’ll put together a feast of a couple of easy Indian dishes on the table to replicate the takeaway experience on a Tuesday night, but just how I always use bought in lasagna sheets even though I know perfectly well how to make them from scratch, in the 8 years since I started cooking Indian food at home I’ve never wanted to take the plunge and make a base sauce.
For the uninitiated, base sauces are where most British curry house recipes start. They’re basically a rich, aromatic, spiced gravy which forms the base for most of the curries on an average menu, and most experts say are essential to getting that authentic British curry house flavour at home.
Okay, so I pretty much only cook with homemade stock at home, but that is because I make it in the slow cooker or the warming oven of the AGA. I’m too lazy for anything else, and I’m too lazy to make a proper base sauce. And if I’m too lazy to make a proper base sauce, and after asking you guys on Instagram in a poll if you’d prefer a 100% authentic recipe over something with a quick but delicious shortcut, it seems an overwhelming number of you are too!
So, this curry. It took a couple of tries to get right, incorporating the spices and elements of what I think can’t be missed from a base sauce into a vague scribbling of what usually goes into a garlic chilli curry based on those curry chef recipes, and a magic secret ingredient: Patak’s Garlic Pickle.
You see, my mission to recreate Garlic Chilli Chicken at home started with one particular Garlic Chilli Chicken from a curry house called Little Raj in Ashford. What it was about this curry that was so brilliant was the many, many, wonderfully addictive whole pickled garlic cloves in the sauce (you just need to spend about 5 minutes on food internet at the moment to know how popular pickled garlic is right now!) and from there I realised also that most good Garlic Chilli Chicken recipes contain a generous few dollops of of garlic pickle, an aromatic blend of garlic and spices. And, just how I was not going to be baking a base curry from scratch, while its on my list, for this I did not want to make the garlic pickle from scratch either!
I’m specifying Patak’s here because it is the most common and easiest to get here in the UK, but feel free to substitute with another brand (you might want to add a little more or less the second time you make it depending on how bold it is) or a homemade version if you have some to hand.
So, what have we ended up with? A quick, weeknight, 40 minute version of everyones favourite Garlic Chilli Chicken Curry in the type of a British curry house, but with a few cheats thrown in there to make life a little easier – I really hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
This easy curry recipe teaches you how to recreate a British curry house-style Garlic Chicken Chilli Curry in just 40 minutes – perfect to enjoy on a weeknight!
1 head garlic
1 small brown onion
thumb size piece fresh ginger
4 tbsp light oil
4 green chillies
4 green cardamom pods
1 tsp mild chilli powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tbsp tomato puree
6–8 skinless boneless chicken thighs
6 tbsp passata
3 tbsp (heaped) Patak’s garlic pickle
150ml (2/3 cup) water
handful fresh coriander
plain rice, to serve
Peel all the garlic cloves. Set three aside, and thinly slice the rest.
Peel and roughly chop the onion and ginger, before blitzing in a mini chopper or small food processor along with the reserved garlic cloves to create a rough paste.
Heat the oil over a medium high heat in a large frying pan. Add the paste and fry for a few minutes until just starting to soften.
De-seed (if wished) three of the chillies and thinly slice before adding to the pan along with the sliced garlic. Cook for another few minutes to cook until the sliced garlic is soft. It is only if things start to colour a little, but you don’t want to let anything burn.
Stir in the spices and allow to toast for another minute or so while you cut the chicken into bite sized chunks.
Add the chicken to the pan and cook for another few minutes until the chicken has gained some colour. Stir in the passata, garlic pickle and water. Once the mixture is bubbling, reduce to low and allow to simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened a little and the chicken has cooked through.
Finely chop the coriander and stir into the curry just before serving with the remaining green chilli thinly sliced and brought to the table for those who like their curries with a bit more heat!
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