Chicken Kurma is an Indian Curry made with blended cashew nut milk. It’s not as spicy as regular Chicken Curry and has an interesting preparation method.
Chicken Kurma is a classic Indian Curry made in many Indian and Malay households, usually for special occasions. I would attribute this to the rather laborious process of putting this thickly rich gravy together. The recipe here would seem rather ‘next level’, I know. But have faith in the recipe and yourself; you can do this.
Kurma is a curry, yes. But there are a mixture of components in this brand of curry that set it apart from others. Firstly, it is thickened not with coconut milk or cream, but with nut milk. Yes, even before nut milk was a thang, the Indians were blending cashews and almonds into a smooth paste to be used as a natural thickener in gravies such as this Chicken Kurma. The cashew milk adds an almost placid feel to this curry, a coveted quality in Indian food I feel.
In this recipe, I have used a blend of cashews and pistachios. The total quantity of nuts comes up to about 100 grams, and you can use all cashews if you prefer. However, I would caution against using all pistachios. Pistachios have a distinct sweet bitterness that may not be desirable in its entirety here. I used about 30 grams of pistachios to 70 grams of cashews. You can alter this to a 50/50, but I would not take it further than that. The cashews can be replaced with skinned almonds here, but of course you must be aware that the taste will relatively differ.
I am aware (and have used before) the Kurma spices that come in a packet by popular brand Babas. While that is great, I really want to know what it’ll be like to make kurma from scratch. Yes, you can use that particular spice from a packet in this recipe if you like, but I haven’t done so. I wanted the curry to have a rich, golden hue and that was only achievable with the right amount of turmeric. The kurma spice blend, while savoury, also has a dark brown colour, which will eventually be the colour of your curry if you used this.
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1 Tsp White Mustard Seeds
1 Tsp Fennel Seeds
1 Tsp Coriander Seeds
1 Medium Red Onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 Chilli Padis, chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Whole Dried Bay Leaves
2 Cardamom Pods, Cracked
1 Tsp Turmeric Powder
Salt to taste
70 grams Cashews
100 ml water
250g to 300g Chicken Breast, skinned and cut into cubes
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Pot Set Yoghurt
Juice of ½ Lemon
¼ Tsp Salt
This recipe can be easy to prepare, you just need to be, well, prepared.
To start, marinade the chicken in the minced garlic, yoghurt, lemon juice and salt. Set aside for at least an hour or overnight in the fridge, if you prefer.
When ready to cook, soak the nuts in the water. Set aside. Prepare all your other ingredients. Then, pour out the nuts and the soaking liquid into a blender. Blitz until you have a smooth milk. Pour it out into a jug and set aside. Don’t wash your blender just yet.
In a medium sized saucepan, heat the coconut oil with mustard, fennel and coriander seeds. Once the seeds start pop pop poppin’ away, add the sliced onions and saute, together with the chilli. As the onions begin to soften, add the minced garlic. Continue to saute for about 45 seconds, when a delicious, mouth-watering fragrance will hit you squarely in the face. At this juncture, remove the pan from the heat.
Move the contents of the pan into the blender (which you used earlier to make the nut milk) and add a splash of water. Blend until you get a smooth paste out of the hot, oily ingredients. The oil will emulsify in the blender, so you’ll get a viscous, pink-coloured paste. Once smoothly blended, add this paste to back into the same saucepan, over medium heat. Add bay leaves and whole, cracked cardamom. Cook until the water you added starts to evaporate and the oil starts to separate.
At this stage, add turmeric and salt. Stir to combine, then add the waiting nut milk, followed by an equal amount of water (you can use this opportunity to wash out either your blender or nut-milk jug).Wait for this mixture to boil, then add the marinated chicken one piece at a time.
Cover and turn the heat down to the merest simmer. Heat gently, allowing the chicken to cook completely. If you’re using breast meat like I have, this shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. Remove the lid and check to see if chicken is cooked.
Chicken Kurma is done! Dig in with some Jeera Rice.