Thama’s simple and delicious chicken curry


My paternal grandmother, whom I call Thama, is a fantastic cook. Every time I visit India, I look forward to her cooking, and her chicken curry is one of my favourite things (I should try and insert that into the Sound of Music song!). A few years ago, she gave me the recipe for this wonderful dish. Well… I say she gave me the recipe, but actually she listed a vague number of ingredients, told me roughly what order to cook it in, and answered every clarifying question with ‘it depends on how you like it!’

Since receiving this ‘recipe’, I’ve made it a few times and it turns out differently every time. But without fail, it’s always delicious, and tonight was no exception! I finally decided to write down the recipe, but I’d like to warn you that if you want to recreate this, then please do adjust to taste. As Thama says: ‘If you want it more spicy, add more chili powder. If you want more gravy, add more water. It depends how you like it!’

Serves 3 people

For the marinade:

  • 4 tbsp yogurt
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric (haldi)
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp coriander powder (dhaniya)
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder (jeera)
  • 1.5 tsp garlic paste
  • 1.5 tsp ginger paste
  • 6 pieces of chicken – ideally without skin and with bone, a mixture of legs and thighs

For the gravy:

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • Water
  • Fresh coriander, chopped (to garnish)

Mix together all the ingredients for the marinade and add the chicken. Coat the chicken completely and leave to marinate for at least one hour, but ideally longer or overnight.


Normally I use ginger paste, but I had run out so I used fresh ginger instead. Use whichever you have handy!

In a deep pan, heat the oil and fry the onions on medium-high heat until they turn slightly brown (be patient, this should take about 5 minutes). Then add the chicken and brown on both sides (another 5 minutes). Pour in the water and add the tomato puree. There should be enough water to almost completely coat the chicken, but not quite (unless you like lots of gravy, of course!). Cover the pan and let it simmer until the chicken is cooked through. This should take about 30 minutes. Uncover and garnish with fresh coriander.

Serve with basmati rice. It goes well with a side of spicy peas!


I didn’t have any fresh coriander today, but I do recommend using it as a garnish!