Best friends, cookbooks and curry

Best friends who know too many secrets about you are worth holding on to. If they share a history with you going back to school days, consider yourself very lucky indeed. Especially if they also believe that you can never own too many recipe books. My best pal, Ria, does a grand job each year of fuelling my obsession with  cookbooks and Christmas or Birthday (and sometimes both…I’m not complaining) a new book will find its way to me and I’ll enjoy months and then years of experimenting with new recipes.



We talk most days on the phone, which Big Man finds both incredible and hilarious (“what on earth were you talking about for the last half an hour?”…”oh, nothing much, this and that”). Our conversations invariably end with “so, what’s for dinner tonight?” and we’ll happily chat for a further 10 minutes about what we’re cooking, planning to cook, wishing we had the energy to cook, or what we took out of the freezer put by from when we were more organised with our cooking a couple of weeks back.

Lately, I’ve been cooking up a good few curries from my birthday present cookbook. Curries from all over the place and this chicken curry from Pakistan really was fantastic. Definitely dinner party quality, but also simple enough for a family meal. The description of the recipe explains that it was a Special curry because in the fifties and sixties,  if you were invited to dinner and served this, you would know the hosts had spared no expense in your honour because chickens were hard to obtain and expensive.  Luckily for most of us, this is no longer the case, but if your purse runs to it, buy the best you can.

Desi Murgh Curry – Special Chicken Curry (serves 4)

  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 large onions, finely sliced
  • 2 tsp each of garlic and ginger paste
  • 4 tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped (or use tinned, as I did)
  • 50g plain Greek style yogurt
  • 1 ½ tsp hot chilli powder (or more or less, to taste)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 3 large cardamom pods (the recipe calls for black ones but I used green)
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 chicken approx 1.2kg, skinned and jointed (I used 8 skinned chicken thighs, bone in)
  • Chopped coriander to garnish

Heat the oil and fry the onions until golden brown, take your time doing this, it’s worth it. Remove the onions and when they have cooled slightly, grind them to a paste. I did this using my stick blender with a splash of water added to the mix.


Add the ginger and garlic pastes to the oil and fry gently for a few minutes then add the tomatoes and next the yogurt. Cook for about 5 minutes then add the onion paste, the spices the bay leaf and a little salt.  Continue to cook gently until the oil separates out.

Put the chicken pieces into the pan, spoon the sauce over and add about 500ml of water. Cover the pan and cook slowly for about 50 minutes until the meat is cooked through and tender. You may need to add a splash more water so keep an eye on it.

Remove the lid, check for seasoning (adjust the salt if necessary) and continue to cook for a few more minutes without the lid until the oil separates out again.  Garnish with coriander, and serve. Don’t forget to call your best friend to tell her how good it was and you’re sorry there’s not a portion waiting for her in your freezer as you ate the lot…oops!

Mung Bean Dhal (9)

If a veggie curry is more your thing, hop over to take a look at my Mung Bean Curry.


43 thoughts on “Best friends, cookbooks and curry

  1. That looks really good – I’ll be making that.
    BTW I got some Curry London (curry powder) in Barcelona, on Oli’s recommendation and it’s much better than anything I’ve bought here before!

  2. So how did I go so long without finding all of your veggie recipes?! The chook one looks the biz but now that Steve is vegan, our hens are breeding exponentially. I think they think that they are safe. The dogs are watching the increase in poultry with great interest. They know that pretty soon there will be an influx of roosters in the freezer. I won’t be making the dogs this splendid curry but I am sure that our free range birds would be amazing in it. Love the veggie share and all of the links that I found when I went there. Saving them all and throwing them out to Pinterest like scattering grain to voracious hens. Lubbly jubbly Ms Chica 🙂

    1. Sometimes we become accidental vegans, and jolly good and tasty it is too! Lots of the Spanish “spoon dishes” (as they call the soupy stews made with pulses) can easily be vegan is education, despite often being very meat or fish focused. And don’t forget all the lovely Italian pasta dishes which shine when you use gorgeous veggies! I knew I was doing a good job of changing the way Big Man eats after he came back from a trip alone to Spain (mainly eating out in restaurants which is pretty much meat, meat, meat) and asked …yes, asked…for a few days of veggie food!

  3. I love a good curry – and this looks very good. Have you come across the recipe books by Meera Sodha? I have both and they are in almost constant use. No really weird ingredients and excellent results so far (even the slightly odd shaped samosas!)

  4. Sounds good, and I have everything I need to make it except cardamom! I might go in search of some tomorrow….But probably just leave it out!

  5. *big smile* For me it is one primary school friend, three high school ones, and, thank God, a plethora from uni days 🙂 ! Actually most are not too empathetic as far as my library of cookbooks or this ‘funny’ thing called food-blogging is concerned 🙂 ! Agree with you on chicken, [skin off, bone-in] – health and taste in one swoop 🙂 !! A wee bit different, shall most certainly try!!

  6. I love a good curry and have everything except the curry…a trip to the store is in my future. It is wonderful that you have a friend that you are so close to for so many years.

  7. Awwww! Glad you enjoyed the book, disappointed that there’s not a portion left for me though! There’s no getting rid of me now, I know where the skeletons are buried ☠️😀😘. Ps. I invariably put the phone down and remember I forgot to tell you something and have to ring you back 😂🍽

  8. Fortunately I’ve just eaten but this looks delicious, Tanya 🙂 It’s great to have friends that go way back. I don’t tend to chat on the phone but we text or use Facebook to keep up. I just carted a load of cookery books off to a book fair. I feel quite guilty 🙂

  9. I should have read this after breakfast! I am salivating over all the spices. I think because there were no fridges, fresh anything would have been expensive. That is so great you have such a close friend from when you were at school. It is a blessing 🙂

  10. Hello, I’m here from my dear friend Chgo John’s blog, from the Bartolini kitchens. He definitely knows his food so your blog must be a good one since he mentioned it! I’m on the lookout for your ketchup recipe. We love curries, my latest find was from Jamie Olivers Comfort Food cookbook, I made his Chicken Tikka Masala that was exceptional!
    Last September, we were in the south of Spain, we stayed at my cousin’s apartment in San José but we also traveled to Madrid, Sevilla and finally ended in Paris (started in London)! What a hot September it was, we were absolutely melting in Spain (Paris was a bit more comfortable).

    1. Hello Eva! Sounds like anow amazing trip you made. Southern Spain in summer and early autumn is incredibly hot, especially in the cities you visited, but still so beautiful! I too am a huge curry fan and you’ll find quite a few recipes onot my blog. So glad you came to visit!

  11. Chicken curry has got to be one of my favorite things in the world to eat. Spicy, warming, rich and filling… I’m addicted! This version sounds especially nice.

  12. Thank you so much for the information you have shared with us ! I am impressed , and I would recommend this blog to my friends.

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