Archive for October, 2010

Chicken Saag

The Big 8 – The only curry recipes you’ll ever need!” – Part 7/8

Indian Spices

Saag makes a really nice change from tomato-based curries, whether in a restaurant or cooking at home. The word “saag” typically refers to “greens” and not just spinach. In India, it would often comprise a mixture of spinach, mustard greens and fresh fenugreek leaves. Given the lack of availability of mustard greens and fresh fenugreek in Dublin, this interpretation uses spinach along with dried fenugreek (kasoori methi) for flavour.

As with most curry gravies, it is best to make the sauce in advance and allow it to cool. Then we can add our chicken and finish the sauce with the spinach. Simples.


  • 6 free-range chicken breast fillets (or use bone-in chicken thighs)
  • 2-3 tbsp sunflower/groundnut oil
  • 500g onions, chopped (about 3 large onions)
  • 10 cloves  garlic, peeled
  • 50g root ginger, peeled and chopped roughly (about the size of a golf ball)
  • 2 tsp of each of the following: ground cumin, red chilli flakes, ground coriander, garam masala
  • 1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 green cardamoms, lightly crushed
  • 4 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 300g baby spinach leaves (or use regular spinach, stalks removed)
  • handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
  • natural yoghurt, to serve


  1. Combine the ground spices listed above and set aside. This is our “masala”.
  2. Place a deep cast-iron casserole (or large saucepan) on the hob and heat the oil. Add the onions and cook them gently for around 30 minutes until soft and light brown in colour.
  3. In the meantime, blitz the garlic, root ginger and tomatoes in a blender until smooth. Add a little water to loosen if necessary. Remove the browned onions from the casserole using a slotted spoon and add to the blender. Blend again until very smooth.
  4. Put the casserole back on the heat and add the onion/tomato mixture to the casserole. Then add the ground spice masala, chicken stock and salt. Stir to combine and bring up to a gentle simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer very gently for about 45 mins.
  5. The sauce is now done. At this point it is best to leave the sauce to cool for a few hours (or preferably overnight). This really develops the flavour of the gravy and allows the spices and onions to mellow. You can skip this step however – it will still taste great.
  6. Bring the gravy back up to a gentlest simmer and add the cubed chicken. Cook for about 20 minutes (45 minutes if you’re using chicken thighs. Just remember to verify the chicken is cooked before eating.)
  7. Rinse the spinach in cold water and add two thirds of it to another saucepan. Cover with a lid and cook over a high heat for a minute or two until the spinach is wilted. Transfer the spinach to a clean blender and puree.
  8. Transfer the puree to the curry and add the rest of the spinach leaves. Cook for a minute and stir through a handful of  chopped fresh coriander. Drizzle over some natural yoghurt before serving. This goes really well with chapattis and plain basmati rice.

Serves 6.


Vegetable Makhanwala

The Big 8 – The only curry recipes you’ll ever need!” – Part 6/8

Vegetable Curry

A vegetarian curry? You might think I’ve lost my marbles here, but trust me, this is really good.

I used 2 large carrots, 3 small yellow courgette, 200g green beans, 3 large tomatoes. You could also use broccoli, cauliflower, peas, broad beans, spinach, aubergine or okra. Cooked chickpeas would also work very well with this. Dice the vegetables according to cooking time – for example, carrots should be cut smaller than broccoli etc. Use your own judgment here.


  • 1-2 tbsp sunflower/groundnut oil
  • 2 red onions, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced
  • 2 x 400g canned tomatoes
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp of each the following: ground coriander, garam masala, paprika, turmeric
  • 800g fresh vegetables, diced
  • 1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • black pepper
  • 100ml cream
  • 50g butter
  • 3 tbsp honey


  1. Place a large pot or casserole on the hob and heat the oil. Add the onions and cook the onions gently for around 20 minutes until soft and light brown in colour.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger and stir fry-fry gently for another 5 minutes. Take off the heat.
  3. Blitz the garlic, root ginger, tomatoes and water in a blender until smooth. Remove the browned onions, garlic and ginger from the pot using a slotted spoon and put in a blender. Add the canned tomatoes and a splash of water. Blend until smooth.
  4. Put the casserole back on the heat. There should be some residual oil, but you can add a little extra. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and stir fry for a minute to release the flavours.
  5. Add the onion/tomato mixture to the casserole, then add the ground spices. Add the salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes to cook out the tomatoes and reduce the sauce slightly. Add the diced vegetables along with the dried fenugreek and cook at a gentle simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until the veggies are cooked to your satisfaction.
  6. Now reduce the heat and finish the dish by adding the cream, butter and honey. Still well to combine and simmer very gently for a minute before serving. Best served with some chapatti or plain white rice.

Serves 6.