The Curry Thief

The cook, the thief, the landlord and his wife

“Brother, so sorry it’s gone...we couldn’t resist”.

The landlord’s wife offered my Uncle Abbu an apologetic gesture, her painted eyebrows crinkled in her furrowed forehead and her lipstick smudged teeth struggled to make an appearance in her thin guilty smile. Standing in the kitchen he passed his eyes beyond her broad sari’d frame and his eyes widened in comic disbelief. The pan he’d left on the top shelf from the night before was empty, wiped clean with the efficiency of soft hot chapattis. He saw her fractured nail polish and her cuticles convicted her, they glowed yellow from the turmeric he’d used in the chicken curry recipe he’d lovingly prepared the night before.

It was this pot of promise that had got him through his 12 hour shift working the looms at Brentford Nylons. It would be the comfort of this dish that would assuage his hunger and longing for home where his wife and children were thousands of miles away in Karachi.


Returning her pleading eyes with his despair she babbled to fill the silence “brother”, the endearment didn’t soften his tired expression, “it was the smell, it just became too much, we just tasted a little and then little Rani wanted some and then..”  she shrugged her shoulders in submission. The chicken curry had wrestled the entire family and their impromptu guests to the ground and satiated their desire. “But I can buy some more chicken tomorrow and I’ll cook.”  Abbu’s speechless expression shifted to panic, Mrs Singh’s cooking was so bad that even the birds avoided leftovers in the garden. Instead Abbu suggested he teach them to cook his ‘stolen chicken’. Her head nodded as if detached from her body and Abbu resolved to console his loss in a pint and a mixed grill at the Osterley pub. The following evening, Najar Singh and his family crowded into the coffee coloured kitchen and watched Abbu as he layered aromatics with spices and folded in yoghurt, dressing the curry chicken in a silky sheen as it combined with the oil. “ many spices Brother?” Lowering his tasting spoon Abbu simply answered, “It’s just how I cook.”

Serves a hungry 4 or more

  • I kg chicken, either boneless or jointed
  • 2 medium onions, chopped in tiny pieces
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped into small chunks
  • 1 tbs coarsely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbs grated ginger
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 300 gm fork whipped natural 'live' yoghurt
  • 3 green finger chillies, chopped
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 geen cardamom pods
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 tsp garam masala (packet or freshly blended)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Corn oil
  • Fist of coriander leaves to garnish


For the marinade, mix the yoghurt, salt, turmeric and the chopped chillies plus a tablespoon of oil. Chop up or joint the chicken and coat it in the marinade and leave covered to stand at room temperature for an hour (to prevent it from splitting when cooked). Chop the onion and tomatoes into small chunks and reserve. In a large pan over a medium heat theatrically glug in some oil and pop in the coriander and cumin seeds plus the cardamom, cloves, a little salt and onions, frying until the onions brown a little.

Next, drop in the ginger and garlic and cook for approximately 5, gently stirring then add the chopped tomatoes and garam masala, stirring for another 5 minutes or so until the mix is bubbling gently and on the verge of being a little sticky. Now it’s time for the chicken to join the party, (but hold back 2 tbs of the yoghurt mix) so add the pieces and fry on high for 3/4 minutes until the meat has turned from raw to white. Turn the heat down to low, cover and cook for a further 25 minutes, adding a little water to stop it from sticking, check regularly and fold in the rest of the yoghurt after 10 minutes. Keep an eye on this dish and make sure that you regularly stir it to keep the yoghurt from splitting. Either serve straight away, (or keep for the next day, tends to taste better) garnishing with coriander.

Ravish the chicken curry with rice or chapattis

A recipe from the Urban Rajah's Curry Memoirs cookbook. Due for release in Spring 2013, from Headline Publishing.

pic frame

Great Blog - well done.  xxx

By vanessa hoddle on June 13, 2011

UR icon

Would love to trade with recipes with you.

By Urban Rajah on June 15, 2011

This recipe is great, not too hot but so much flavour. Cooked it for some friends the other night and everyone loved it!!!

By Rick Hill on June 18, 2011

UR icon

Rick, good to hear it went down well and glad you’re on the Spice Trail. Check out Vic’s Beef Bughela…it’s one of my Dad’s recipes.

By Urban Rajah on June 19, 2011

This is sooo gorgeous and easy to make!!! Thanks for gr8 recipe. Will pass this on to my girlies.

By Tracy Beckham on July 17, 2011

UR icon

Daisy’s Dish is the next instalment…keep an eye out for it, just 6 ingredients to reach curry heaven.

By Urban Rajah on July 17, 2011

I love the back-story and what a fantastic recipe.  We had this for dinner tonight.  Thanks so much!

By Dave Tattersfield on January 05, 2012

UR icon

My uncle’s still sore about the subject…but now you’ve tasted the recipe you know why it was stolen! If you liked this one you might like to try the Fenugreek Chicken recipe here: .....hurry back.

By Urban Rajah on January 05, 2012

You should try your uncle Albert’s roasted chops.Out of of this world.

By vic on November 06, 2012

For recipes discoveries trends & secret suppers

Sometimes we need a bit of inspiration beyond ourselves. Hear how Spencer West climbed Kilimanjaro with no legs……
Stuck at home raiding the larder cupboard? Here’s an elegant way to turn that tin of #kidneybeans into spiced magic……
Proper treat for tea...#pierogi takes me back to my hometown Slough...the scent of #immigrant cuisine at work!
What a combo a double #spice flurry to knock hunger into touch at lunchtime. Can you get the #Elior Tuk Tuk going w……
Urban Rajah
close The Urban Rajahs Curry Memoirs

The Urban Rajahs Curry Memoirs
personally signed

£17.00 (+ £3.00 UK postage)

Buy Now Read more