Fenugreek Chicken Curry

I Hate Coriander Chicken  

“Uuurghh coriander, I can’t stand it. I mean what’s the point? There should be a nationwide pogrom on coriander.”

The reaction to Britain’s favourite herb was a little extreme. I voiced my defence for the lush green leaves, which transform dishes into eloquent dialogue with most tastebuds. But the discussion was a little like discussing with a child the merits of pumpkin ravioli over alphabet spaghetti...pointless. A little stunned by the anti-coriander venom, I went in search of something which exhibited the same earthiness of the verdantly rich crop.

Heading into Britain’s curry capital in West London, Southall, often referred to as Little India, it’s not hard to see how it earned its moniker. A congested and over populated town with poor planning, pavements alive with a slow moving tide of people making their pilgrimage to prayers, visiting the vast temples, others on their way to work. Southall is an industrious town carved out of graft and 60s immigration, fading shop signs obscured by flashier descendents, all speak of three generations of Subcontinent culture.

Methi Murgh Curry

Stores colonise the streets like an advancing glacier, kitchen hardware, high rise blocks of tupperware, knock off CDs, exotic bright fruit and vegetables misshapen and gloriously tempting all collide to make Southall one multi-coloured bazaar. It’s a shop window with more bling than a Snoop Dogg entourage. But it’s probably the smell of wonderfully fresh food filling the air that best reflects its reputation. Fresh dough being worked into chapattis and naans, kebabs toasted across coals or baked in tandoors. Vegetable samosas punch the air for hungry attention, pakoras battered and served to passers by too weak to resist. The sweet syrupy smell of golden milk and sugar based confection sit like a tangled mess of Olympic hoops in patisserie windows. This spice addiction and fond memories of childhood Sunday lunches in Southall meant a much needed return visit.

Led by Mother, street food was consumed in chaat houses, kebabs munched on in cafes, thick yoghurty lassis sipped on whilst drinking in the view. The rituals all led up to a couple of favourite dishes at possibly the best example of Southall’s spread, Gifto’s Lahore Karahi. Granted the interior has been pimped and the waiters now wear branded uniforms, but beyond the owner’s clearly successful business model lies the untouched heart of his fortune. The food has a warmth and honesty to it, prepared in the open kitchen there are not vats of pre-prepared curry sitting in stagnant pools of ghee. It’s as fresh and clean as Highland air. Eating a distinctly coriander free menu, the star turn was perfumed by Methi or fresh Fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi are the dried leaves). This earthy, wonderfully strong and peppery ingredient prepared with Chicken to create Methi Murgh. The Fenugreek Chicken curry left us in no doubt...we were determined to leave no trace of our hunger and scooped up everything with another round of chapattis. Feeling like we’d slipped on a couple of comedy Sumo suits we rolled along the Broadway planning our next visit. In the meantime here’s a taste of Southall and my version of Methi Murgh (coriander not included).

Serves 4 as a main

  • 3 inches of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • Salt
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 50g of fresh methi/fenugreek leaves (100g of dried leaves kasoori methi if you can’t get fresh ones)
  • 3 green chillies, chopped
  • 2 tsp tomato purée
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 250ml natural yoghurt, fork whipped, left at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking
  • 1/3 tsp garam masala

Blend the ginger, garlic and generous pinch of salt with the lemon juice with 3 tbs of water until smooth. Slice the chicken into cubes and cover with the lemon ginger marinade and refrigerate for an hour or more. Blitz the tomato, fresh fenugreek leaves, chillies, tomato purée, and 50ml water into a paste.

Heat the oil in a pan over a high heat and fry the chicken, browning on all sides still covered in the marinade, cooking for 10 minutes. Add in the fenugreek mix and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the oil starts to separate around the edge of the pan. Gently pour in the yoghurt, stirring in to make sure it’s assimilated. Cover and reduce the heat to low, sprinkle in the garam masala and cook for a further 15 minutes, or until the chicken is springy and tender add water if it starts sticking. 

Now tuck in and gobble down with soft hot chapattis.

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My dear wife made this as a treat for me and our whole family absolutely loved this dish, even my younger children who definitely do not anything remotely spicy.  I was discussing the ingredient list during our meal and noticed that the instructions do not appear to use the garam masala.  Is it supposed to go with the marinade or paste?
Kind regards,

By Dave on August 12, 2012

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Hi Dave, wonderful to hear the recipe went down well. Apologies on the garam masala omittance..now duly added in. It’s the last step!

By Urban Rajah on August 14, 2012

Just a quick question on this… When you say “coriander” I take it to mean you have a dislike for the coriander leaf, commonly known in the US as “cilantro”? You are not, I suppose, referring to the coriander seed that is present in nearly every curry mix I’ve ever seen?

By Sarah on September 25, 2013

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Hi Sarah - oh contrare I love love love coriander leaf (to which I’m referring) but I understand that some have an aversion to it, hence the creation of this dish. I’m also a great afficionado of coriander seeds…lovely little musket balls of citrusy zing.

By Urban Rajah on September 26, 2013

Ah, my mistake. I’m ambivalent about coriander leaf, personally, and love coriander seed, but my boyfriend has developed some pretty unfortunate reactions to coriander (both leaf and seed). Making curries for him has been tricky since his symptoms came up.

By Sarah on September 26, 2013

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Oh dear that’s a real affliction for your boyfriend to bear, so I’m guessing ground coriander’s out of the question too?

By Urban Rajah on September 26, 2013

Unfortunately, yes. Your recipe came up in a Google search for coriander-free curry recipes, actually, and looked promising until the garam masala, which here in the US often contains ground coriander. I’ve taken to buying spices individually, roasting, grinding, and blending them, but for some curries the lack of coriander just makes it seem like a pale imitation of the real thing.

By Sarah on September 26, 2013

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