Chicken Korma

When my family was visiting a couple of weeks ago, I made Indian food once only; the night they arrived. The rest of the week I was fulfilling requests for certain dishes I had received. The first night consisted of totally Hyderabadi dishes: Hyderabadi biryani, shami kebabs (my brother, Ali’s, favourite), baghare baigan (another of Ali’s favourites), raita and salad.

The breakfasts were varied: one day I treated them with a Southern breakfast consisting of biscuits, sausage and cream gravy. They really enjoyed that one. There was also the egg and potato burritos with smoked sausage breakfast. So, basically, there were no Indian breakfasts on the menu and no Indian picnics either.

Now, I tend to go into withdrawal if I don’t have Indian (home or soul food for me) food once a week at least. Therefore, the two weeks of not eating Indian food was just causing havoc with my cravings. I needed something with spice and rice!

I had a couple of bone in chicken breasts knocking about in my freezer so I decided to make my easy, everyday korma with rice. This happens to be a favourite of number two daughter as well. The only issue I have with Indian food, and this is my personal struggle, I must have rice. I love rice, long, fragrant, Basmati rice. It’s my weakness (along with naans, bread in general, desserts, Mars bars, Bountys etc.) Unfortunately, white rice has very little nutritional value and just adds pounds to your weight. I have limited our intake of white rice considerably, much to my children’s chagrin, since they too love white rice. I am lucky, however, that they will consent to eat brown rice, reluctantly as it may be.

I now make my spiced pilaf/pea pullao with brown rice. No, it doesn’t have the heady aroma of the Basmati rice, and each kernel is not beautifully separate from another and falls likes petals from a rose, but it is healthier for us and we can enjoy it more often instead of depriving ourselves. Apart from the slight stickiness of the brown rice, the flavour of the pullao is there: the richness of the caramelised onions, the deep earthiness of the cinnamon and the fragrant, almost grassy, aroma of the cardamom.

Moving on to the korma now. The traditional Hyderabadi korma is a lavish affair. It’s rich with nuts and spices and creamy from the addition of yoghurt and cream. It’s a labour intensive affair but the end result will blow your mind; cooked on slow heat till the meat, chicken or lamb, is falling off the bone tender into a creamy sauce that is bold with spices yet has a very mellow, rich taste. This kind of indulgent eating is best reserved for special occasions and almost every household has a lighter version or an everyday korma. This version is mine. It’s similar to my mother’s but a little heavier on the cardamom. I have made my korma for parties before and it always gets rave reviews so it’s acceptable for special occasions too.

As far as the meat goes, I make my korma with mutton or chicken. Chicken is the favourite with my children so that’s the one made most often. You can use any kind of chicken meat but the boneless breast will not make a very flavourful gravy. I like to use bone in chicken breasts because I don’t like the gamey flavour of chicken thighs. If you don’t mind chicken thighs, then use these, they make a fab korma or use a whole chicken cut in pieces.

My korma serves 6-8.
Serve with Brown Rice Pea Pullao or plain rice or naan.


3lbs/1.5kg chicken with bone, cut in medium pieces
2 onions, sliced thin or chopped fine
1/4 cup/59ml grapeseed or canola oil
1 cinnamon stick
6 cardamom pods, crushed
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
2 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 cup/236ml water
1 cup/245g yoghurt
1/3 cup/48g almonds/cashews, ground
4 cardamom, powdered (or grind with the almonds)
2 green chillies
handful fresh cilantro, chopped fine
1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half (optional)

NOTE: I use a pressure cooker here at my altitude to get my chicken 
very tender, quickly.
At sea level, I would suggest you cook it in a Dutch oven or a large heavy pot. I noticed that when I used the pressure cooker for the korma in Houston, after only a seven minute pressure, the chicken disintegrated into shreds. Also, the slow cooking does add a much deeper, mellow flavour to the overall dish. Of course, if you are short on time, use your pressure cooker and follow your cooker’s directions. My korma instructions don’t follow the traditional rules of making a korma, but this is an everyday version and is supposed to be simpler.

Heat the oil in a large pot on medium high heat and brown the onions.
Add the cinnamon stick and the crushed cardamom pods.
The onions should be a nice golden brown and caramelised.
Add the chicken pieces and brown a little, turning the chicken around to coat in the hot oil and onions.
Toss in the garlic and ginger pastes and the turmeric and red chilli.
Stir thoroughly, letting the chicken get a bit of colour.
Add the water and bring up to a simmer.
Lower the heat, cover the pot and cook gently for thirty minutes or so.
Stir occasionally to make sure the chicken isn’t sticking. 
If you feel you need more water, add a half cup at a time. The steam should do a lot of the cooking so you don’t need too much water.
The chicken should be getting tender now.
Add the yoghurt and the green chillies and simmer gently until 
the liquid is reduced. 
When the chicken is quite soft, add the almonds and the powdered cardamoms.
Cook a little bit longer to reduce the liquid and once you see the oil separating, the korma is done. Make sure to stir often after the almond addition, since almonds tend to stick to the bottom.
Stir in the cream or half and half, if using and the cilantro.
The cream is optional but it adds a final creamy touch to the korma.
It’s a rich finishing touch.

Hope you have a go at making this. If you are fond of cardamoms you will really enjoy this.

Thank you for reading!