It is all great fun to go spelunking into the history of food, and coming back to the kitchen laden with bizarre meat cuts, bonkers offal, ghee and beef dripping, but most of the time we just want a light meal that is not terrifically calorific. The traditional chicken korma is definitely not that.
Originating in the Islamic courts of the Moguls, korma was a celebratory banquet dish full of lavish ingredients, lashings of yoghurt, and expensive spices like saffron and rose water. Dried fruits were added for an extra air of luxury.
Then the Brits got hold of it. I have already described the rough history of British Asian cuisine in my piece on chicken tikka masala, whereby Bangladeshi chefs cooking in the UK in the 50s and 60s realised that their new clientele preferred a loose, gravy-like curry to soak into rice. The korma takes its place at British Bangladeshi restaurant tables because the UK version occupies the ‘mild’ end of the spice spectrum, which suits a group of people who commonly order curries as “one mild, one medium, and one spicy … and a 140 poppodums.” They usually end up with a korma, a tikka masala, and a vindaloo – and too many poppodums.
The British curry restaurant experience was beautifully lampooned by the cast of Goodness Gracious Me in their sketch Going Out for an English.
It is true that a British korma is a luxurious, fat-laden dish where spice is swapped for flavour. For that reason, my kid likes chicken korma, but we can’t go eating that stuff every week. So we have found a nice, low fat version that breaks a lot of rules, but results in a very nice dish that tastes every bit as good as a restaurant meal. The Nosey Chef adaptation is the use of a slow cooker. This lets you cook the chicken for a day, with incredibly tender results. Cooking chicken too quickly (particularly breast meat) can result in a dry product.
Murgh korma (low fat)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 thumb-sized piece ginger, roughly chopped
- 4 tbsp Patak's korma paste
- 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces (or 4 breasts)
- 50g ground almond
- Small handful of flaked almonds (optional)
- 4 tbsp sultanas
- 400ml chicken stock
- Quarter tsp golden caster sugar
- 150ml 0% fat Greek yogurt
- Small handful of coriander, chopped
Put the onion, garlic and ginger in a blender with 3 tbsp water and whizz to a paste (add a little bit more water if it won't churn properly).
Put the paste into a large high-sided sauté pan or a cast Dutch oven and cook for 5 mins. Add the korma paste and cook for a further 2 mins until it starts to smell tasty.
Stir the chicken into the sauce. Add the ground almonds, sultanas, stock and sugar. Mix thoroughly.
At this point Nosey Chef puts the whole lot in a slow cooker on auto and walks away from it for a day. If you don't have a slow cooker, cover and simmer for 10 mins until the chicken is cooked through, or put the pan/casserole in the oven at 150˚C for about an hour.
After the cooking time, remove from the heat source, stir in the yogurt and adjust the seasoning
Garnish with coriander and maybe some flaked almonds.
Serve with basmati rice and a blob of mango chutney.