Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Dhruv Baker's Perfect Chicken Curry

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Brits can't resist a curry. Being such a versatile dish, brimming with flavours and textures, it is now part of the nation's staple diet. 

But did you know that there is a scientific formula for the perfect curry? Apparently there is.

Tilda, the UK's favourite (no.1) Basmati brand, "have been working with the University of Warwick to create the scientific formula for the perfect curry, carefully balancing the flavours, textures and measures of this British take-away institution.
Tilda has commissioned Dr. Hadley from the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick to create a formula for the much desired perfect curry."

Now, I can nod in agreement and pretend that I can easily read this formula. 
Let's ask the specialists to decipher the meaning of this formula:
"The key to this formula is the Basmati rice.  Inferior Basmati rice contains cheaper, broken grains which release starch and cook quicker, resulting in non- fluffy grains.  Tilda’s Pure Basmati rice has been carefully milled and rejects broken grains, resulting in separate and long rice that is the perfect fluffy fit for your curry.  
In addition, the size of the meal is decided by the fork test, whereby the ideal curry has the ratio of 1:1:1- meat or vegetable; sauce; rice- in order for every forkful to include each of the key ingredients in equal measure, providing a delicious taste and texture combination".

To demonstrate how to create the supreme curry, 2010 UK Master Chef Winner, Dhruv Baker, has brought this scientific formula to life and will take us step by step through his very own ultimate curry recipe. 

To watch Dhruv create this perfect dish, please visit Tilda.

Dhruv’s Perfect Chicken Curry

Dhruv says: "For me, this is the perfect chicken curry. It has layer upon layer of flavour, bags of depth, a hint of sweetness and just the right amount of chilli heat.  The beauty of this dish is that you can add more or less heat, you can tweak the spicing to your palate, you can add more tomato to make more sauce – in short you can make some small changes to make this your perfect curry.  Serve with some perfectly cooked Basmati rice and if you really want, some extra side dishes but I honestly don’t think you need them. Enjoy!

You only need half the paste from the below recipe so freeze one half ready to use when you next fancy this delicious curry.  If you have the paste ready then this dish is ready in 20 minutes."

I confess I didn't have all the ingredients for the recipe. My major change was from the chicken to turkey, but I will reproduce Dhruv's recipe as he intended, and it's up to you to make your own adaptations and changes.

Turkey curry

Dhruv's Perfect Chicken Curry
Serves 4 
75g desiccated coconut
2 x cinnamon stick
2 x star anise
3 whole dried red chillies
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp fennel seeds
100ml of water
3 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp turmeric powder
1?2 tsp cinnamon powder
1?2 tsp salt
5 tbsp vegetable oil
3 x red onions, finely chopped
4 x cloves garlic finenly chopped
2 x tsp grated fresh ginger
6 x tbsp fresh curry leaves
8 x tomatoes finely chopped
500g boneless chicken thighs (skin removed) or turkey 
200ml water or chicken stock
1 x small bunch fresh coriander finenly chopped
1 x green chilli finely chopped (optional if you like it hot!)
A squeeze of lemon

My changes: less chillies, I only used 1 dried chilli, 6 tomatoes rather than 8, and also I couldn't find the curry leaves and got a small packet of fresh kaffir lime leaves, which are often added to curries.

Toast the coconut in a pan over a low heat, stirring until it turns golden brown

Remove the coconut on to a plate and into the same pan add the cinnamon sticks, dried chillies, peppercorns, star anise and fennel seeds. Roast in the pan for 3-4 minutes then add the ground coriander and chilli powder and stir for a minute. Add 100ml of water to form a paste and cook for two minutes

Remove the cinnamon sticks, star anise and whole chillies and keep for later. Add the toasted coconut, cinnamon powder, turmeric and salt to the pan. Add everything to a spice grinder or pestle and mortar and grind to a smooth paste

Heat the oil in the same pan and slowly cook the onions until they are soft – this will take about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a couple of minutes then turn up the heat and add the curry leaves and stir for a minute

Add the tomatoes and the spice paste, return the cinnamon stick, star anise and chillies to the pan and cook for five minutes, stirring until you end up with a smooth paste and the oil starts to separate out

Remove half the mixture and freeze or place in an airtight container which will keep in the fridge for a week or so

Add the chicken and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Add 200ml chicken stock remove the lid and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through

Remove the star anise, cinnamon and chilli, stir through the lemon juice and green chilli (if using) and scatter with the fresh coriander.

Turkey curry

As you can see from my photos, my curry sauce appears very chunky. I don't have a spice grinder, and my pestle and mortar are too small, and it would have taken ages to grind the sauce to a smooth paste if I were doing it in mini-batches. 

Taste-wise, it was quite unlike the ready-made curry sauces I buy. It was very fragrant and flavourful. 
I still have a tub of sauce in the fridge (second half) and will be using it with the chicken later this week. I wonder, whether to blitz it with a hand blender for a smoother consistency? 

Disclosure: I received a pack of Tilda's Pure Basmati for trying this recipe. 


  1. It looks lovely - I left my sauce chunky too.

  2. I wonder whether to blitz the second half (it's in the freezer now)

  3. I forgot to take the cinnamon sticks out and blitzed them in with it. It was nice

    1. I was wondering about it, seemed a waste to just throw it away, but I didn't leave it.

  4. Ooh I am salivating, sounds perfect, always looking for a new curry, I make lots. Thanks