for the chicken:
- 800g skinless chicken breasts, cut into 4cm pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- juice of 1/2 lemon
for the paste:
- 1/2 cup (75g) cashew nuts
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 4 green cardamom pods
- 2 black cardamom pods
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 6 tablespoons (90ml) water
- 1 onion (130g), peeled and quartered
- thumb-sized piece of root ginger (20g), peeled and grated
- 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 2 tablespoons (40g) tomato puree
- 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
for the curry:
- 3 tablespoons oil (I used coconut oil)
- 1 onion (130g), peeled and finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (240ml) water
- 120g coconut yoghurt (replace with 120ml more water if you cannot find)
- a handful of flaked almonds, toasted in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes over a medium heat, until lightly browned
- Tenderise the chicken. Put the chicken in a non-metallic bowl. Add the salt and lemon, and massage into the meat. Cover, transfer to the fridge, and leave to marinate for 30 minutes – 2 hours (do not marinate for longer than this, as the lemon juice will toughen the meat).
- Soak the cashews. Cover the cashew nuts in warm water and leave to soak – preferably for at least 45 minutes.
- Make the curry paste. Break open the cardamom pods by crushing with the broad side of a heavy knife. Shake out the seeds and discard the husks.
- Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the whole spices (cardamom seeds, cumin seeds and coriander seeds) and dry fry for 1 – 2 minutes, or until they release a fragrant aroma. Tip into a spice grinder and grind until finely ground (if you do not have a spice grinder, then use a pestle and mortar or the small bowl of a food processor).
- Once the cashew nuts have soaked for 45 minutes, drain and tip into the small bowl of a food processor. Add the water, and blitz until smooth. Add the toasted spice mix and the remaining paste ingredients, and blitz the whole lot to a smooth paste. If the mixture needs loosening, add a bit more water.
- Brown the chicken. Heat half the cooking oil in a heavy-based casserole over a medium-high heat. When a few drops of water sizzle and evaporate upon contact with the pan, add the chicken. Sear the chicken in 2-3 batches until browned all over with a caramelised crust – about 4-5 minutes a batch. Add more cooking oil when necessary. Do not overcrowd the pan, as this will cause the chicken to stew rather than brown. Transfer the browned chicken to a bowl.
- Fry the onion & spices. Add the onion, salt and remaining cooking oil. Cook until the onion is lightly browned, stirring occasionally – about 8 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low. Scrape in the curry paste and stir until blended. Cook until the oil starts to separate, stirring frequently – about 3-5 minutes (it is important not to rush this stage, as it develops flavour and stops the spices from tasting raw).
- Simmer the sauce. Add the water and yoghurt (if using), and stir until blended. Turn up the heat until the sauce begins to simmer. Return the chicken to the casserole, and stir until evenly coated in sauce. Simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked and the sauce is thickened. Reduce the heat if necessary, and stir frequently to stop the sauce from sticking to the bottom.
- Transfer into a serving dish and sprinkle over the toasted flaked almonds.