Maria Speck's Artichoke Tart with Polenta Crust
Nancy Silverton's Graham Crackers

Nigel Slater's Chicken Curry


My sweets, I have a confession to make. My name is Luisa and last weekend, I used commercial curry powder.

Yes. I know. I know that that stuff is to be shunned, that really we should all be making our own masala spice mixtures, that the whole concept of chicken curry is colonialistic and ignorant of a huge country's varied cuisines. I know. But.

Have you ever made Nigel Slater's "Chicken with Spices and Cream" from Real Fast Food? (Sneaky guy, see how he evades the whole concept of "chicken curry" entirely with that recipe title?)

Because I sort of semi-guarantee that if you do make it, you will find yourself looking at your abominable jar of curry powder with entirely different eyes. One of my dinner guests, a lady who is newly pregnant with twins and also an expert on Things That Taste Good, threatened to return to my house the next day to eat the remaining sauce (the recipe makes a lot of sauce, for which you will be very grateful).

(I didn't tell her that I would barricade the doors if she dared to do so, because I had a hot date with the leftover sauce myself that would and could not be missed.)

(I blame my greed entirely on the baby. Entirely.)

Perhaps you see where this is going: Authenticity be damned. (The horror!)


Now that we've gotten beyond the whole curry powder thing, let me tell you about this recipe. It's brilliant. First of all, it takes no time to make. And second of all, it is so good. (Are these two sentences the two most over-used sentences on this entire blog-thingy? My apologies. But at least my priorities are clear, yes?) Third of all, or second-of-all's addendum: Despite the curry powder and the recipe's simplicity, this chicken with spices and cream really does taste like Indian food which, for those of us stranded in this wonderful city that has so much to offer but is entirely bereft of good Indian food (ENTIRELY BEREFT AND I AM NOT EXAGGERATING, BEHOLD THE ALL CAPS), is a bleeding godsend.

I love making this recipe on weeknights, but also for dinner parties, because you can make it an hour or two in advance and then simply reheat the pan when your guests arrive, and also because it's the kind of thing that you can make almost with your eyes closed, which is my Dinner Party Modus Operandi.

You can tailor the recipe to your taste by adding a good shake or two of cayenne, for example, if you like things spicier (though the curry powder will probably have a bit of heat, too), dumping a few cupfuls of frozen peas into the mix shortly before the end of the cooking time or sprinkling chopped cilantro on top for a bit more authenticity.

As I said earlier, the recipe makes an enormous amount of sauce, but it is mind-bendingly delicious, all flecked with shreds of tomato and meltingly soft onions and it's silky with cream, but not heavy, if that's what you're wondering. Pregnant or not, it makes a rather wonderful lunch heated up and poured over leftover rice the next day.

Lest any of you get the wrong idea, let me just say that I own several Indian cookbooks, have a freezer stocked with curry leaves and ground cumin, that my father regularly offers to bring over dried mango powder and asafoetida when he comes to visit and that I normally would be the last person to recommend a recipe that to me, at least, seems like the Indian equivalent of using jarred tomato sauce in an Italian lasagne.

But this just tastes so good. Okay? It's my only defense.

Nigel Slater's Chicken Curry
Serves 4

4 chicken pieces, breast halves or thighs
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons curry powder, from a recently opened jar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped (I used canned tomatoes, seeds and all)
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
Juice of 1/2 lemon

1. Rub salt and pepper into chicken. Heat butter and oil in a shallow pan, add the chicken and cook until the skin is golden. Turn and add the onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until soft, about 7 to 8 minutes. Stir every once in a while.

2. Stir in the curry powder and cinnamon. Cook for 4 minutes, until the spices are cooked. Add tomatoes and stock, then simmer until the chicken is tender and cooked right through, about 15 minutes.

3. Stir in the cream and taste the sauce, adjusting salt and pepper, if needed. Add the lemon juice. Simmer for 1 minute, then serve hot with basmati rice.