Chicken chaap

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Asma Khan’s chicken chaap recipe is a feast for the senses. A unique korma from Bengal, it is a far cry from the super-sweet kormas you’ll find in a lot of UK restaurants, instead opting for a wonderfully mellow spicing from Asma’s homemade garam masala. We’ve also included Asma’s in-depth method for caramelising onions, a common stumbling block for those attempting Indian dishes for the first time. It’s important to take your time and show your onions plenty of love and care to achieve the wonderful depth of flavour this dish should have, and the method will serve you well when attempting other Indian sauces in the future.

First published in 2019




Chicken chaap


  • Spice grinder


To make the garam masala, in a dry frying pan, roast all the ingredients over a medium heat, stirring continuously to prevent them from burning. The spices are ready when the cloves swell, turn grey, and pop. Allow the spices to cool, then grind to a fine powder in a spice or coffee grinder with the grated nutmeg. Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for a few weeks
If using saffron to colour the dish, infuse the the saffron strands in a small bowl with 4 tablespoons of tepid water
To caramelise the onions, heat 6 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat. Pick up a piece of onion and dip the edge into the hot oil, keeping your fingers at a safe distance. The onion should immediately start to sizzle. If it doesn’t, wait a further 5 minutes until the oil is up to temperature. Once the onion sizzles on contact with the oil, add all of the onions to the pan, stir gently, then prepare a slotted spoon and plate to one side, ready to drain the onions later
  • 5 onions, finely sliced into half moons
  • 6 tbsp of sunflower oil, or other neutral oil
Once the onions are back up to temperature and sizzling, gently stir the onions around the pan. Initially, the oil will turn cloudy as the onions start to release their liquid. After 10 minutes or so, that cloudiness will have gone and the onions will now look glossy and possibly slightly pink. At this point, sprinkle in a large pinch of salt to encourage browning – continue cooking for a further 20 minutes or so
Throughout the cooking time, keep stirring the onions to ensure they cook evenly and eventually their edges will turn golden brown and they will become a lovely caramel shade in the middle. As well as seeing the onions turn a rich brown colour, you will be able to smell when they are ready
As soon as the onions are caramelised, drain using the slotted spoon onto the plate, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible to use later (it’s important to have the plate and slotted spoon ready, as the onions will quickly burn if left in the pan too long)
In a large bowl, mix the yoghurt with the garlic, ginger, 1 tablespoon of the garam masala and the oil retained from the caramelised onions. If using orange food colouring, add this directly to the yoghurt
In a pan that has a lid, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons oil over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken and seal on all sides. Lower the heat to medium and pour the yoghurt mixture over the chicken. Keep the heat at medium so the contents of the pan do not boil. Add the caramelised onions and ground coriander and cook, stirring continuously, for 10 minutes
When the oil rises to the surface and the yogurt splits, add the chilli powder and salt. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat. Add the infused saffron at this point, if using. Cover and cook the chicken for a further 10 minutes. Add the sugar and stir to mix thoroughly
Before serving, taste to check the seasoning and adjust as necessary. To serve, garnish with flaked almonds

Owner of Indian restaurant Darjeeling Express and star of Netflix’s Chef’s Table, Asma Khan is one of the UK's most prominent female chefs and an unstoppable force for social change in the food industry.

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