Gurkha chicken cardamom curry

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Looking for a totally authentic nepalese curry dish that will appeal to a wide range of palates? Karen suggests a Gurkha chicken curry. It’s doesn’t take too long to prepare and makes a change from the usual Indian style curries.

I have a great deal of admiration for the Gurkhas, as well as many happy memories of them. I went to school with several Gurkha children when I lived in Hong Kong during the 1960′s and 1970′s – they were my close friends in the playground as well as out of school. I was also lucky enough to be invited to their homes for superb Nepalese food, of which one dish was this delicious Chicken Cardamom.

This is the way Chicken Cardamom is traditionally cooked, it is not difficult to make and does not take very long either. Cooking it to this recipe will produce a totally authentic dish that will appeal to a wide range of palates and makes a change from the usual Indian style curries. Serve this curry with rice, a selection of “sambals” and naan bread for a superb Nepalese feast.

This is not a fire breathing curry; it is warm, creamy and subtle with the musky, aromatic undertones of the cardamom. The fennel seeds also add a “cooling” feel to the curry and aid digestion. My preference is a long glass of chilled beer or lager to accompany this meal, but you can also offer a jug of water with lemon slices and ice cubes for those thirsty diners who don’t “do” alcohol. This recipe will make enough for eight good sized portions; however, you can cut the quantities back by half for a normal family meal - but keep the cooking times the same - and if you do scale down the quantities just keep an eye on the dish that it does not burn and keep topping up the liquid if necessary.

Historical Note: The Gurkhas, who take their name from the 8th century Hindu warrior-saint Guru Gorakhnath, are mainly known to us in the UK as soldiers that have loyally served in the British Army for many years. They come from the Himalayas in Nepal and are feared all over the world as true warriors and extremely well disciplined soldiers. The first Gurkhas were fighting men from the mountain kingdom of Nepal — Rai, Magar, Limbu, Gurung and Sunwar tribesmen, their loyalty to Great Britain over the years is exemplary and extremely humbling.

I hope you enjoy this curry as much as I have done over the years; do try to make a curry this week to celebrate National Curry Week, which is between the 7th and 13th of October this year, or why not treat yourself to a take away if you don’t have time to make one, although it doesn’t take that long to make this recipe … I found this recipe on the Hidden England website several years ago and I have enjoyed it many times since discovering it, although I have tweaked it many times, so it is very different from the original recipe now. It is the most authentic recipe I have found to date, short of travelling to Nepal or enjoying a curry as cooked by my Gurkha friends’ mums!





Make a masala from the yoghurt, cardamom, chopped ginger, chopped garlic, fennel and chilli powder by grinding the mixture into a smooth paste
Sprinkle the meat with a little salt, then pour over the masala mixture, and allow to marinade for at least an hour
Heat the oil, in a large pan, until a slight blue haze can be seen. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves, cumin seeds and the onion and cook until the onion is golden brown
Add the marinated chicken pieces to the pan which should still have the onions, cloves, cumin seeds and cinnamon, making sure that you get as much of the marinade in the pan as possible. Add the chopped tomatoes, turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander and the bay leaf
Put it back on the heat. Without stirring the mixture, you should see oil slowly rising to the surface. At this stage carefully add the cold water and bring the mixture back to the boil
Cover the pan and simmer over a low heat until the chicken is cooked and tender. Stir occasionally, OR, place the whole dish into an oven proof tray and bake until the chicken skin is crisp and the meat is tender if using chicken thighs with skin on
Serve the chicken meat on a bed of rice and pour over the masala sauce mix from the pan

Karen Burns-Booth is a freelance food & travel writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a passion for local, seasonal ingredients.

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