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On-the-bone Chicken Korma

Updated: Jun 19

by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall from How to Eat 30 Plants in a Week (Bloomsbury)

Photography: Lizzie Mayson

This is a gorgeous, creamy, nutty chicken curry, with a load of lovely spices that make it really sing. I like to make it with a jointed whole chicken, but it also works well with bone-in thighs and drumsticks. If you buy a whole chicken from your butcher, you can ask them to joint it for you, cutting each breast into two equal-sized chunks.


Serves 5–6


1 large free-range chicken (about 1.8 kg), jointed (or 6 thighs and 6 drumsticks)

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp coriander seeds

5 cardamom pods, bashed and seeds extracted

Oil or fat for cooking

1 onion, sliced

3cm piece of fresh ginger, coarsely grated

3cm piece of fresh turmeric, grated, or 1 tsp ground

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tsp garam masala (or a mild curry powder)

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

400g tin peeled plum tomatoes

400g tin coconut milk

50g ground almonds

Sea salt and black pepper


To serve (optional)

A large handful of coriander leaves, chopped

Steamed or boiled brown rice

Raita (see recipe below)


Take the chicken out of the fridge 30–45 minutes before cooking to bring it to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C Fan/Gas 3.


Toast the cumin, coriander and cardamom seeds in a large heavy based pan for 3–4 minutes until fragrant and starting to crackle. Tip the seeds out onto a plate and leave to cool for a minute, then grind to a coarse powder using a pestle and mortar. Set aside.


You will need to brown the chicken in 2 or 3 batches. Add a little oil or fat to the pan, still over a medium heat. When the pan is hot, add several chicken pieces, skin side down. Fry, turning occasionally and seasoning with a little salt and pepper as you go, until nicely browned all over. Remove and place in a fairly deep ovenproof dish or roasting tray. Repeat to colour the rest of the chicken pieces. Set aside.


Now add a little more oil or fat to the pan, followed by the onion, ginger, turmeric, garlic, crushed toasted spices, garam masala (or curry powder) and chilli flakes. Sweat gently for 15–20 minutes over a medium-low heat, stirring regularly, until the onions are very soft but not brown.


Add the tinned tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as they go in (and picking out any stalky ends or bits of skin). Turn up theheat and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally to reduce and thicken the liquor. Add the coconut milk, ground almonds and some salt and pepper. Give it a good stir and gently bring up to a simmer.


Pour the creamy tomato mixture over the chicken in the roasting dish or tray. Nudge the chicken pieces around to ensure they are all coated in the sauce and then cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Take out the dish or tray and turn the chicken pieces then return to the oven for 10 minutes.


Serve the curry scattered with chopped coriander leaves if you have some to hand, and with brown rice and/or raita on the side if you like.



Raita is delicious served up with a curry, and a lovely way to finish a spicy soup, but it can accompany other dishes too.  As well as cucumber, mind and garlic, I like to get a bit of spice in, and at least one other veg.  Celery works well, but you can also take your cue from the dish you are serving it with.  For example, I like to add some grated raw squash when I’m serving the raita with spicy squash dishes.  And I’ve suggested a courgette version with meatballs.



½ medium cucumber (about 200g)

2 inner sticks of celery

A scrap of garlic (no more than ¼ clove)

½ tsp cumin or caraway seeds, bashed

200ml whole natural (or plant-based) yoghurt

1-2 tbsp mint leaves

1-2 tbsp finely chopped parsley

Sea salt and black pepper


Coarsely grate the cucumber, then squeeze in your hands to remove some of the liquid before placing in a bowl.  Thinly slice the celery and add to the bowl.  Grate or crush the garlic and mash with a small pinch of salt.  Add to the cucumber and celery, along with the spice seeds and yoghurt, and mix well together.


Slice the mint into fine ribbons and stir through the yoghurt mix, along with the chopped parsley.  If you have time, leave to stand for 20 minutes or so, then stir the raita again before serving.


Swaps and Additions

Veg  A small, firm courgette works well instead of the cucumber.  In place of the celery, you can use 6 radishes, a small fennel bulb or ½ small kohlrabi (about 100g), either finely sliced or coarsely grated.   A small wedge of raw squash (about 100g), grated, is a fun and colourful addition to the raita, especially when you’re serving it with a squash dish.

Herbs Chopped coriander, lovage, chervil, tarragon or chives (or any combination of these), can be used instead of, or as well as, the parsley.

Coconut Scatter 150g desiccated coconut in a small ovenproof dish and toast in a preheated oven at 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4 for about 10 minutes until golden, then tip into a bowl and leave to cool.  Once cooled add 2 tbsp hot water and leave to soak for 5 minutes.  Stir the coconut through the raita.

Drinks tasted on air alongside the dish.

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