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Chicken Masala

3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter)
1 small onion - finely chopped
1.5 inch piece cassia bark (or cinnamon)
2 green cardamon pods
4 whole cloves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 inch piece fresh ginger - very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic - very finely chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
3/4 teaspoon good chile powder
5 tablespoons Greek-style full cream yoghurt (3/4 of a 150 gm tub)
1 teaspoon (or a little more) concentrated tomato puree
salt to taste
2 chicken breasts, skinned and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped up pieces from a block of creamed coconut
chopped fresh coriander leaf (cilantro) to garnish

Heat the oil in a large heavy pan then add the chopped onion and
stir for a few minutes with the heat on high. Add the cassia,
cardamons, cloves and fennel seeds and stir a little then turn the
heat down to low and cook for 10 minutes. Add the ginger and
garlic, stir and cook for another 10 minutes on low heat stirring
now and again to make sure nothing browns or burns. Add the
turmeric, coriander and chile powder and fry gently for a minute.
Add 1 tablespoon of yoghurt, stir round and turn the heat up so
the yoghurt sizzles in the oil.

When the yoghurt has lost a lot of its moisture add another
tablespoon. Stir and fry as before. Repeat until all the yoghurt
is incorporated. Add the tomato puree and stir in.

Stir in hot water - enough to make the mixture very fluid. Bring
to the boil and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Add
salt to taste.

Heat a little oil in a large heavy frying pan and stir-fry the
chicken pieces over a moderate heat until they are sealed and have
turned white. Add the chicken to the sauce and simmer gently for
another 20-30 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Stir from time
to time. If the sauce gets too dry add a little hot water.

10 minutes from the end add the creamed cocunut pieces and stir to
melt them. Adjust the consistency of the sauce with some hot water
as the creamed coconut will thicken the sauce.

At the end of the cooking you should have a fairly thick, creamy
sauce with little patches of oil appearing at the top. Remove the
cassia and cardamons (if you can find them! Don't worry about the

Serve, garnished with chopped fresh coriander leaf (cilantro).


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