A few months ago I was walking around my local shopping mall and came across a large display of Rick Stein’s new cook book “Rick Stein’s India – In Search of the Perfect Curry”. This was the first time I’d seen the book and I’d also somehow missed watching the TV series that accompanied it. After a quick flick through I knew I’d have to break my “no new cookbook” rule and purchase it. As I was paying I noticed a sign saying Rick Stein would be there that very day for a book signing. It would mean wasting another hour window shopping but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to meet one of my favourite chefs. As the time approached the queue became longer and the book signing, once Rick arrived, was fast and furious but he was charming and effusive about his trip to India and even went through my book making large ticks next to recipes that were his favourites. This recipe isn’t one that he ticked but I had all the ingredients handy, the accompanying picture was very enticing and the introduction to the recipe so charming (as are all of them actually) that I decided this would be the first recipe I’d try from the book. Well it lived up to all expectations and if all of the recipes are as spot on as this one then I’ll be mighty pleased. Given the few ingredients I was surprised at how intense the flavours were and the whole house was filled with a wonderful curry aroma. The word “vindail” in the recipe means containing vinegar – a remnant of the French influence left on Pondicherry where this recipe hails from (the French had a base there for 300 years). I paired this wonderful chicken curry with some basmati rice, yogurt and a stir fried okra recipe from the same book which also turned out a treat.
Ingredients – serves 4-6 Adapted from Rick Stein’s India Cookbook
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 medium onions, diced
10 cloves of garlic, crushed in a garlic press or grated
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons Kashmiri chilli powder (see note below)
½ teaspoon ground fenugreek
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
500g tomatoes, roughly chopped
1kg chicken thighs and drumsticks on the bone and skinned – you can use all thighs if you prefer
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Note: Kashmiri chilli’s have an intense red colour but are milder than regular chillies. If you can’t find any you can substitute half ground chilli powder and half sweet paprika. This will give the same colour and mild heat as Kashmiri chilli powder. If you like less heat then add more paprika and less chilli powder.
Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan over medium heat and add the cinnamon, clove and star anise, and fry one minute until fragrant. Add the onions and fry for 10-15 minutes or until softened and golden brown. Don’t rush this step – browning the onions properly is an important step in all curries. Stir in the cumin and garlic and fry for another 2 minutes, then add the chilli powder (see note above), fenugreek, turmeric, and salt and fry for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes to the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes until they start to break down.
Add the chicken and stir everything together, then cover the pan with a lid and cook for 45 minutes, adding a splash of water if it starts to stick to the bottom. Stir in the vinegar and sugar and cook, uncovered, for a further 5 minutes.