Chicken Madras

When I was growing up, the type of Indian food I was familiar with was the delicious South Indian / Anglo Indian style of home cooking practiced by my Mother. It was not until after I left home that I was exposed to the sort of food traditionally regarded as curry by the majority of the British populace. Although the origin of the style of British curry takes it’s roots from Bangladeshi or Bengali cuisine, the “one sauce fits all” approach to it to often results in mediocrety in my own experience. That being said, I did develop an appreciation of the particular dish called “Madras” in certain establishments I would frequent as a student in Manchester. I can only imagine that this was a North Indian take on what they thought was a typical curry in the said South Indian city, and when it was done well (which certainly was not a condition to be taken for granted) it was very good indeed. After trying to replicate the rich tomato based sauce a couple of times without much success, it dawned on me that what was missing was lemon, which was not necessarily an ingredient I would normally mix with tomatoes. But the combination of the tomato and lemon, with red chilli and a few carefully chosen spices does indeed make a dish, which for me reminds me of the very best restaurant Madras curries I have eaten.


  • 300g Chicken
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch pce of ginger
  • 2-3 red chillies (hot variety)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • tomato passata
  • salt
  • 1 lemon
  • some green coriander


Any chicken can be used for this dish, but all I had in at the time was a couple of skinless boneless thigh fillets, which didn’t look quite enough, so I augmented this with a couple of chicken wings from which I removed the lowest part and then jointed into 2 pieces each. I always keep a bag of chicken wings in the freezer (my butcher gives me them for free when I make a bulk purchase). They’re invaluable for situations like this since they can be defrosted in 5 mins in a microwave, and can really add an extra richness to a stock or stew. I’m sure their inclusion in this dish made for an even more delicious sauce.

The first step is to make the base for the sauce. To do this, finely chop the onion, ginger, garlic and red chilli, as shown above. If they are well chopped, they will make for a smoother sauce. You could process them in a blender or food processor, but personally I like a bit of texture in the dish (and I also find the activity of chopping quite theraputic.)

Fry the base ingredients in some oil (I normally use sunflower oil for indian food), until soft. Then add all the powdered spices apart from the garam masala. Fry the spices gently for  2-3 minutes, taking care that they don’t burn on the bottom of the pan.

Next, add the chicken to the pan and fry until it has lost it’s raw appearance, as shown above.

Add the tomato passata, just enough to cover the chicken and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and leave to cook for 30-40 mins.

After 30-40 mins, the chicken should be cooked, and the oil should have separated from the sauce, as shown above. At this point I added salt to taste (this is because some tomato passata contains salt already, so it’s best to do it after sauce is cooked), the garam masala, and threw in some green coriander.

Now squeeze in the juice of a whole lemon, bring back up to simmering point and serve, garnished, if you like, with some more green coriander.


About Gourmet Gorman
I'm a musician who enjoys cooking

2 Responses to Chicken Madras

  1. Pingback: Quick dinner last night….Prawn Madras and a Saag Gobi (spinach and cauliflower curry).. « Gourmet Gorman

  2. Tom E says:

    Cooking this dish now, will let you know how it turns out. Thanks for the recipe

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