Whenever I say, “I’m from India”, most of the time, people here in the US say, “Oh, I love Indian curries!” or some say “I can’t do curries” or like that woman sitting next to me on a flight to SFO asked, “So tell me a recipe to make an authentic Indian curry!”

All over the world, the word “curry” is exclusively assosiated with Indian food. My idea of a curry is a concoction made with veggie or non-veggie stuff and is either mildly or heavily spiced with some kinda thick or thin, sauce or gravy as a base. Sometimes I use onions and tomatoes or sometimes I use coconut or coconut milk to make the gravy and then other times, I add some dairy item like yogurt, cream or even milk to make the curry.

So c’mon over and join me in my kitchen as I whip up some curried concoctions 🙂


Murgh Masala

(Chicken Curry)

Perfect when served with rice or roti, this traditional chicken curry is the first non-veggie dish I learnt to make, more than 15 years ago. Of course, over time, I have modified and improvised it a lot, but the basic recipe still calls for an onion-tomato curry spiced with the basic masala. Its a very easy recipe for someone who doesn’t have the time to or doesn’t prefer to grind a fresh masala. However, I do recommend marinating the chicken for atleast an hour before cooking; it helps to maintain the moisture in the chicken and does not make it dry or chewy. In addition, I also prefer to use the chicken thigh pieces with bone-in, because the thigh meat does not dry out as the breast meat and when you use thighs with the bones,  the bones add to the flavor of the chicken as it cooks, as well as to the fun of eating the it “right off the bone”.

With a great spicy flavor and a beautiful brown color, this classic chicken curry is an all time favorite!

murgh masala

Serves 4

1 lb chicken thighs, skinless, bone-in (but if you prefer, you can use boneless instead)

2-3 tbsp canola/vegetable oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 large or 2 medium onions, finely chopped

3/4 cup canned tomato sauce or homemade purée of 1 large tomato

1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, minced

1 inch piece of ginger, minced

1 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)

1 tsp red chilli powder (optional, for desired level of heat)

1 tsp chicken masala (I always use Everest Chicken Masala) or garam masala (if you don’t have chicken masala)


For the marinade:

1 cup yogurt (whole / low fat)

1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (for homemade paste, mince 1 garlic clove and 1 inch piece of ginger)

1 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)

1 tsp red chilli powder (optional, for desired level of heat)

1 tsp chicken masala or garam masala


cilantro/coriander, finely chopped for garnishing

Clean the chicken and cut into 2-inch pieces. In a bowl, add all the ingredients for the marinade along with the chicken pieces, mix well and cover it with a plastic wrap. Refrigerate for atleast 1 hour.

In a large pot, heat oil over medium flame and throw in the cumin seeds. When the seeds splutter, add the onions along with the garlic and ginger. Sauté till the onion turns light brown in color. Add the tomato sauce, turmeric, red chilli powder, chicken or garam masala and continue frying till oil seperates out. Add a little water, about 1/4 cup and continue frying over medium heat till oil seperates out again.

Now add the chicken along with the marinade to the onion-tomato masala int he pot and mix well. Rinse the bowl in which the chicken was marinated with minimum quantity of water (not more than 1 cup) and reserve the water. (This adds to the overall flavor of the curry and you also do not waste any of the good marinade)

Add the reserved water to the chicken, mix well and cook covered for 15-20 mins till the chicken is cooked and the yogurt blends well with the onion-tomato masala.

Garnish with cilantro/coriander and serve hot with rice or rotis.

Fish Hirva Masala

(Fish in fresh Green Curry)

A refreshing combination of cilantro (coriander), green chillies and grated coconut, the hirva masala is a versatile base in Maharashtrian and its regional- Konkani or Malvani seafood curries. My mom makes a delicious masoor daal amti (lentil stew) using the hirva masala and a hint of kokum (a deep purple berry-like fruit with a sour and pleasing flavor from the western coast of India. Click here for an elaborate explanation), which was an inspiration for me to create this recipe of fish curry.

In this recipe, I sauté onions in hirva masala along with some basic spices and a couple of kokum petals or a few dashes of kokum extract. Sometimes, I like to stir in a little amount of lite coconut milk, to make it extra rich and creamy, but you can absolutely do without it and this dish tastes just as good! In the end, when all the ingredients are well cooked, Tilapia fish cubes are added and simmered till they cook. Ready in minutes, my fish curry will take you right on the beautiful Konkan coast of Maharashtra!


fish hirva masala

Serves 2

4 filets of firm-fleshed fish like Tilapia, Halibut, Swordfish, Sea Bass, Cod, etc. cut into 1-inch chunks
(usually made with Surmai fish in India)

2 small or 1 medium onion, finely chopped

2-3 tbsp oil

1 tbsp turmeric powder (use more than half for disinfecting the fish filets)

1/2 tsp cumin seeds/jeera

1/2 tsp mustard seeds/mori/rai


dried red chilies (optional), for desired level of heat

1½ tsp garam masala / or you favorite fish curry masala

3-4 petals or 1 tbsp liquid extract of kokum

½ cup lite coconut milk (optional)

cilantro, finely chopped for garnishing

For Hirva Masala:

1 cup grated coconut (thawed if using frozen)

2 big or 4 small garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1/2 inch peice ginger, coarsely chopped

1-2 small green chilies, coarsely chopped

1 cup cilantro/coriander, coarsely chopped

Rub turmeric on to both the sides of the tilapia filets, wash and keep aside.

In a food processor/grinder/blender combine all the ingredients for “hirva masala” and grind it to a coarse-fine consistency paste.

hirwa masala

In a pan or kadhai heat oil and add turmeric powder, cumin and mustard seeds. When the seeds start to splutter, add finely chopped onion and fry till translucent and light brown in color. Add the “hirva masala”, garam masala, salt and fry for 8-10 minutes, till oil seperates from the masala. In the meantime, cut the fish filets into 1 inch cubes.

*This is the deciding point where you could choose to add coconut milk or not. If you don’t add, your dish is going to look like this.

If you decide to use the coconut milk, stir it in at this point. Then, add the fish cubes and kokum and cook covered for only 4-5 minutes on medium high till the fish absorbs all the flavors and cooks in the curry. Do not overcook the fish otherwise it will lose its flavor. Also, gently stir or shake or swirl the pan to mix everything otherwise the delicate fish flesh might fall apart.

fish hirva masala

Garnish with fresh cilantro/coriander. Serve hot with chapati or tawa roti.

Methi Mutter Malai

(Fenugreek Leaves and Green Peas in Mild Creamy Curry)

I have fond memories of Methi Mutter Malai from a really nice restaurant in Pune, India. I had it for the first time at Portico restaurant, where I was celebrating one of my birthdays with the family and we all just loved the unique flavor of this wonderful dish.  Since I started cooking experiements in my own kitchen, I tried my hand at making Methi Mutter Malai at home, as this amazing item is not available on any of the desi restaurant menus here! Fresh methi or fenugreek leaves are available at the Indian stores here in NJ, but if you can’t find them, most Indian stores will carry the frozen packets as well.

Fresh Methi leaves at Bhavani Cash & Carry, Iselin NJ

Fresh Methi leaves at Bhavani Cash & Carry, Iselin NJ

I am not sure of its true roots, but this rich dish definitely seems to be a part of the “Mughlai” cuisine family. Green peas and methi leaves are simmered in a luscious creamy sauce made with of cashewnuts, yogurt and cream. The mild spices, the creamy curry and the green peas add a delicate, sweet flavor which takes away the bitterness from methi.

This royal veggie curry is a great way to make that “emperor” in my house get his daily dose of veggies 😉

methi mutter malai

Serves 2

2 cups (approx 1/2 bunch) methi (fenugreek) leaves

1/2 cup green peas (thawed if using frozen)

2-3 tbsp oil

1/2 tsp cumin/jeera


1&1/2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp sugar

3/4 cup milk (whole/lowfat)

2 tbsp malai (Heavy Cream/Half ‘n’ Half)

For White Masala

2 small or 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup cashewnuts (broken pieces or coarsely chopped)

1/4 cup yogurt (whole/lowfat)

3/4 inch peice of ginger, coarsely chopped

1-2 small green chilies, coarsely chopped

2 tbsp malai (Heavy Cream/Half ‘n’ Half)

Rinse methi leaves, chop and set aside.

In a food processor/grinder/blender combine all the ingredients for “white masala” and grind it to a smooth/fine consistency paste.

In a pot/kadhai heat oil and add cumin and when the seeds start to splutter, add the white masala. Turn the heat down and stir to mix the white masala with the oil. If heat is not turned down, the whole kitchen will be splattered with the white masala!

When the masala is mixed with the oil thoroughly, cover with a lid and cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat. Simmer for a minute, uncover lid, stir, add 1/2 cup of water* (Use the water that will be available by rinsing the blender after grinding the masala. This adds to the overall flavor of the curry and gives you the 100% use of the ground masala!) and cook again covered for 3-4 minutes or till the water is absorbed into the masala.

Repeat the above step once more.** (The mixture of raw onion and yogurt has to be thoroughly cooked, otherwise it will make the curry bitter!)

Add garam masala, salt, sugar, peas and methi leaves and mix well. Cook for 2 minutes and add milk and simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring occassionally.

Garnish with heavy cream/half ‘n’ half. Serve hot with roti/naan/rice.

methi mutter malai

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12 thoughts on “curried concoctions

  1. OMG….that chicken curry just made me soooooooooo hungry!!! I want that right now!!

  2. finally, i was going to ask you to add a on-demand section where i could put in a request for methi malai matar, thanks !! 🙂

    I can read your mind Divya 😉 You didn’t even have to ask for it!

  3. Hey,

    I tried Chicken Curry..It came out awesomely well….I made a few cuts on all the chicken pieces so that the marinade penetrates well into it…The marination made the chicken really succulent….And Neel liked it too…So there’s one more addition to my already existing chicken recipes 🙂

    Yeah, making the cuts or slits on the chicken or any meat is always good, especially when using bigger pieces. They certainly marinate very well!

  4. Hey…..tried ur chicken curry last night and it came out really good. R and I loved it 🙂

    I am really happy to know that you guys loved it!

  5. Vasanti….Tried ur methi muttar malai and it was a huge success once again. Thanks a ton for these recipes. Keep them coming…

  6. Vas, tried that fish masala and it was awsome…..i did use lime instead of amsul and it worked great with the fish….i will be making it quite often now 🙂

  7. Good thinking…Lime/lemon are both great alternatives to kokum/amsul.

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