Bengali-style chicken rezala korma with cashew and poppy seeds

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This Bengali-inspired version of a classic korma is the perfect recipe to try if feeling a little bored with your takeaway curry. Sumayya's recipe uses cashew nuts, poppy seeds and yoghurt to create a rich and creamy sauce.

First published in 2015

Kormas were bought to the Indian subcontinent by the Central Asians, a creamy braised meat dish traditionally made with yoghurt, nuts, seeds, and later the addition of cream and nuts by the Mughals. The word korma means ‘to braise’ in Urdu, and this is a style of cooking found in many parts of the Indian subcontinent. They vary from creamy nutty sauces to rich aromatically spiced ones, using mutton, beef or chicken. In Pakistan the traditional korma is a festive dish found at weddings, it is rich brown and fragranced with kewra (screwpine water). Many North Indian recipes are creamier with cashew, almond and yoghurt bases. Kormas are not about chilli heat but more about haunting aromatics and gentle warming spice. Try this Bengali inspired Chicken Rezala, that is based on a recipe found in Kolkata and was passed on to me by my aunt’s family who are Bengali.





  • 1kg chicken, skinned and jointed into 8 pieces




First make the marinade. Blitz the ginger, garlic and onions together in a blender with about 4 tbsp water to make a smooth paste. Add to a large bowl with the chicken pieces, yoghurt and a good pinch of salt. Make sure the chicken is fully coated and marinate for 1 hour
Meanwhile, in a spice grinder or blender, make a smooth paste from the cashews and poppy seeds. Place in a separate bowl and reserve
When ready to cook, heat a saucepan over a medium heat and add the ghee and oil. When hot, add the cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaf, coriander and black peppercorns and allow to sizzle. When the spices are aromatic, add the marinated chicken with any leftover marinade and stir-fry for 2–3 minutes
Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid. Continue to cook for 20 minutes, then add the cashew and poppy seed paste, mixing in thoroughly. Recover with the lid, and continue to cook for another 20–25 minutes
When you now remove the lid, the curry sauce should be thick, with oil rising to the top. If not, turn the heat up to high and stir-fry until the curry becomes thick and creamy (about 3–5 minutes)
Remove the pan from the heat and stir through the kewra water. Serve hot with rice or naan
First published in 2015

Sumayya Usmani is a cookbook author, writer and cookery teacher who specialises in Pakistani cuisine.

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