Chicken Madras

This curry recipe never fails. Sour with tamarind, smart with spice, it is a firm favourite. Do try to buy block tamarind rather than ready-made paste, which tends to be a bit salty and artificial-tasting. Simply break off as much of the tamarind block as you would like to use and place in a small bowl, covered with enough hot water to soften. Mix well and push the paste through a sieve (strainer) to remove any stones or fibrous matter. This should be a hot curry, so be bold with the chilli.

Taken from New Kitchen Basics by Claire Thomson (Quadrille)


  • vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 30g (1oz) unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 heaped tablespoon grated (shredded) root ginger
  • 2–4 small green chillies, left whole
  • 10 fresh curry leaves (optional)
  • 1–2 teaspoons chilli powder (mild or hot, as you like)
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 x 400g (14oz) can of whole plum tomatoes, blended until smooth with 100ml (31⁄2fl oz) water and a pinch of sugar
  • 100ml (31⁄2fl oz) tamarind liquid (prepared as above), or the juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 chicken thighs, skin removed. Or if you prefer, or 600g (1lb 5oz) leftover cooked chicken
  • rice, to serve


  1. Put the oil in a frying pan over a moderate heat. Add the mustard seeds and fry for 30 seconds, until they begin to sizzle and pop. Add the onion and fry gently for about 10 minutes, until softened and lightly golden.
  2. Add the butter, garlic, ginger, green chillies and curry leaves and fry for a further 1 minute, until aromatic.
  3. Add the ground spices and fry for 1 more minute, then stir in the tomato mixture, the tamarind and salt, and simmer for about 5 minutes, until rich and reduced. Add the chicken thighs, cover and cook for 30–35 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through (or 8–10 minutes if using leftover cooked chicken).
  4. Check the seasoning, remove from the heat and serve with plain rice.