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Chicken and Lentil Curry

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Korma is the nearest word that we can find to describe this smooth, slightly spicy curry dish of chicken cooked in a thick lentil sauce. It is possible that you could use lamb or another meat in place of chicken but you would need to cook for much longer. Serve with plain boiled Basmati rice, perhaps with a vegetable dish of okra, spinach or carrot and cabbage curry on the side. A light dry red or rose wine complements his dish. Some of the new, young Italian wines are good, probably better than the much, over-hyped Beaujolais Nouveau. Don't make the wine too heavy.


Ingredients for 4 to 5 servings:

  • 4 oz (100g) Onion chopped medium coarse

  • 4 to 6 oz (100 to 150g) of red split lentils depending on how thick you like the sauce

  • 1 or 2 medium sized green chillis, (2 is for the experienced or those who prefer things with a slightly more exuberant flavour.)

  • 2 heaped teaspoons finely chopped ginger

  • 1 lb (500g) Chicken, skinless and off the bone, cut into 1/22 (1cm) to 1" (2.540cm) cubes

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons salt

These next ingredients are used as a variation and are optional. They make the dish slightly smoother with a more pronounced sweet and sour background. Make the basic recipe first, try the variations later:

  • 1 heaped tablespoon of tomato puree

  • 1/2 lb mixed vegetables, coarsely chopped red or green peppers, courgettes, pumpkin or other similar summer vegetables.

The following ingredients are used to flavour the dish towards the end of the cooking time in all versions:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (this makes it HOT !!, 1/4 may be enough !!)

  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, preferably fresh

  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala (and no, it does not make everything taste the same!)

  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

    To garnish: 2 or 3 tablespoons of chopped coriander leaves - wash well, chop and add just at the very end, 1 or 2 minutes before serving, stir.



Wash the lentils thoroughly by rinsing and remove any foreign objects. Place the lentils, ginger green chilli, half of the ginger, onion, ground turmeric, ground cumin and a pint (0.6l) water into a large, wide pot (preferably one with a thick base as well). Bring to a boil and then cover, turn down the heat and simmer until the lentils are "flowering" soft, possibly 30 to 40 minutes. Make sure that there is just enough water from time to time and stir frequently to prevent sticking. Add the chicken pieces and some of the salt, bring back to the boil, cover, and continue to cook on a low-ish heat for about half an hour for breast meat, 40 minutes for thigh.

When the chicken is just about tender, put the 2 table spoons of oil into a frying pan and heat to almost smoke (non-stick wins hands down for this job.) Add the cayenne pepper, garlic, cumin seeds and the rest of the ginger. Keep frying and stirring until the garlic is just brown.


Un-cover the chicken and pour the hot spice fry over the top. TAKE CARE, it can splash everywhere! Continue to cook for about 3 or 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the lemon juice, sugar and garam masala, stir a few times more, add the garnish and allow to cook for about 1 more minute.

Serve - it is worth the effort.

If using the vegetable variation, add the vegetables about 5 minutes after the chicken and allow 5 more minutes cooking after bringing back to the boil.


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Updated 10/2/2006