Chicken in Tomato Sauce and Indian Spices

indian_chicken_toThe first weeks of this year look like one incessant Indian cooking session: I have made several batches of the fantastic chilli pickles (from the previous post), I have finally learnt how to prepare easy naans and, last but not least, I have made about a dozen different old and new Indian dishes, among which this chicken in sauce. I relied here on my own mixture of spices, which, given the complex and intimidating Indian culinary heritage, was a high-risk decision. This time I was lucky to obtain a palatable aromatic meal, no matter how far it was from the genuine Indian harmony of flavours.

The recipe is based on this Indian-Style Chutney (my very first attempt to experiment alone with Indian spices), much loved and preserved in big amounts for the past five years. Since I am crazy for its spice combination, I thought I might work on it a bit and adapt to a chicken and tomato dish. I kept the seasoning almost unaltered, making some small modifications, such as skipping the vinegar or adding garlic and ginger, extremely frequent in Indian sauce dishes.

TIPS: Try your best to find nigella seeds (they are available in Indian shops and on internet). For me they are a very important ingredient here. (And if you worry what to do with the remains, they can be used in many European dishes too, for example sprinkled on buns, bread, baked snacks, etc..).

Preparation: about 2 hours

Ingredients (serves two, if served with a light vegetable side-dish)

2 small chicken legs or two big chicken thighs, skinned; if you intend to eat the dish Indian way, i.e. with your hands, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces

1x 400 g can of tomatoes (or, of course, fresh tomatoes, if you read this recipes while they are in season)

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 medium onion, very finely sliced (or 2 big Western shallots)

2 big garlic cloves, crushed

2 cm grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 teaspoons nigella (onion seeds)

2 or more dried chili peppers whole (without stalks) or torn into pieces

1 teaspoon powdered chili

1/3 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

fresh coriander leaves

Heat the oil in a shallow pan.

Stir-fry the whole dry spices (apart from chilli and turmeric powders) and whole chillies at medium heat for about 30 seconds (or more, until they start yielding a wonderful aroma). Make sure you don’t burn them.

Add the sliced onion and stir-fry until golden brown.

Lower the heat, add the garlic and the ginger, stir-fry for about 30 seconds.

Finally add the chopped tomatoes and when they start to boil, add the chicken, the salt, the sugar and the chilli powder.

(If using chopped fresh tomatoes, let them simmer until they disintegrate and create a thick chunky sauce; then only add the chicken, the salt, the sugar and the chilli powder.)

Covert the pot and let it simmer for at least one hour (until the chicken meat falls off the bone).  I prefer to simmer at very low heat for at least 2 hours.

Add water during the cooking process if necessary.

Serve with chopped coriander leaves.


14 Replies to “Chicken in Tomato Sauce and Indian Spices”

  1. My goodness, your picture looks very savory and the addition of the coriander leaves made it even prettier. Happy New Year, Sissi. Wishing you more blessings, and fun this year. 🙂

  2. Indian food, this time of year is a staple in my house. The aromatic spices send wafts of tantalizing aromas throughout the house as it cooks. These days we top the stews on cauliflower “rice” as we are both trying to drop a few kilos (I’m down 3 kg since January 3!). I admire your courage to create your own dish. Although I have cooked many Indian recipes and can now do so without looking at the cookbook, I haven’t invented my own combination of spices to create a meal yet. I’m also intrigued with the nigella seeds, I really need to source some very soon.

    1. Hi Eva, thank you so much for the kind words. I won’t have this courage often, I guess… but I would love to realise one day I know Indian cuisine well enough to make up my own dishes regularly. Congratulations!!! I must say that I never have rice with Indian dishes because I like only Japanese rice and somehow it doesn’t work well… but naans are my huuuuge problem now that I finally learnt to make them! In general good baguette and other French crunchy breads are my biggest carb problem 🙁 Apart from crisp bread which is not exactly a replacement, the only thing I can do is eat less bread! (Easy to say…).
      I cross my fingers for the following months of your diet. 3 kilos sounds already very impressive.

  3. This dish looks amazing! So warming and scrumptiously tempting… I want to plunge right into the center and never come out 😀 I have all the ingredients — including the nigella seeds! I suspect you are using bone-in chicken… my preference is for thighs (it’s probably just my poor cooking skills but I find breasts hit and miss but maybe this is also owing to the fact that I always use boneless so maybe less moist?) anyway, I always get predictable results with thighs – so juicy. I will definitely be revisiting this delightful recipe – thank you Sissi.

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. I thought the “dead” chillies looked a bit weird 😉 but it was too late to change the photograph : the dish was eaten quite quickly. Yes, I always try to use bone-in chicken legs. If I serve it to someone fussy, I remove the bones before serving, but I think they add lots of flavours (and… I can eat the cartilage while removing them! haha! I know it scares some people but I love chicken cartilage).
      I prefer breasts in many dishes, like stir-fries for example, but they just cannot be simmered for a long time…they become dry, as you say.

  4. It’s very cold around here and even I, who are quite intolerant to hot, is craving for a spicy meal as this one! It looks perfect Sissi, as always!

    1. Thanks a lot, Katerina. Spices certainly warm up! Getting used to hot meals is a question of gradual habit, so who knows, maybe one day you’ll start cooking fiery stews too!

  5. Another one of your posts where the pictures is worth a thousand words. The aromas from this dish just flow out of the computer. I don’t do much Indian and have never used nigella if you can believe that. Looks like I need to add a couple more spices to my spice rack. Great dish Sissi!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ, for such kind words. You can find lots of Indian spices on Amazon, nigella too, I hope, and I’m sure you will get very creative with it! It’s also fantastic sprinkled on homemade bread or rolls!

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