• Pepper chicken curry (Bloomsbury / Mike Cooper)
When a two-Michelin-star chef throws fancy techniques – and the deep-fryer – out the window, the result is surprisingly fast Indian food.
Atul Kochhar

27 Sep 2017 - 1:33 PM  UPDATED 9 Jan 2020 - 2:48 PM

Curry in 30 minutes? You must be joking! It takes forever.

You are a trained cook – that’s why you can do it – not a normal person!

Indian food takes forever to cook, there is too much to prep … there are too many ingredients … there are too many steps.

And so it goes on! This is what people have been telling me for ages. Some of these sentiments I sympathise with and some I think are said out of a lack of knowledge.

So, I am on a mission to entice you all to cook a curry in under 30 minutes. In my new book, 30 Minute Curries, I have thrown all the ‘chef processes’ out of the window and taken a practical and easy approach to Indian food.

Here’s how to make to work for you.

Freeze the basics

I take the pain out of cooking by pre-preparing a few things like onion paste, garlic paste and ginger-garlic paste, and in many recipes, I have used tomato paste in place of fresh tomatoes. This not only helps halve the cooking time, but it also makes cooking these recipes even more fun.

I recommend making the pastes in a large enough batch to fit into zip-up freezer bags, and freezing them flat in the freezer to maximise space. Alternatively, I suggest you buy an ice cube tray (and use it specifically for the pastes or your ice cubes might taste funny) and freeze the pastes in tablespoon or teaspoon portions. Once frozen, tip the cubes into a freezer bag and store, and when you need a paste, as directed in the recipes, you can just take the amount you need and use it straight from frozen.

I recommend you freeze the ginger-garlic paste and onion paste in tablespoon portions and the garlic paste in teaspoon portions.

Use pre-made onion paste in Atul Kochhar's quick mushroom curry


A healthier take

In writing the book the most beautiful thing happened and I have ended up with a rich variety of recipes that I have always wanted to write; the kind of recipes a parent would cook for their children at home. They are healthy, fun and creative, and will encourage you to experiment more. I cooked some of the recipes with my kids, and they absolutely loved it.

I wish every child were a foodie like my princess – Amisha! Little Arjun is a bit of a challenge for his mum and gran when they cook vegetarian meals at home. To beat his understanding of soggy, soupy vegetable preparations, I kept the vegetables in these recipes crunchy, zingy and sometimes leafy to tickle his palate with textures and win him over with gentle spice flavours. It worked incredibly well on him.

Take spuds to the next level with Attul's spiced potatoes and coconut recipe


I haven’t used any deep-frying at all in this entire book, and I have purposely kept the number of red meat dishes to a minimum, partly because some of the cuts are challenging to cook within 30 minutes and also because I wanted to take a healthy approach. I have also used low-fat yoghurt, almost no cream or cheese (other than paneer) and I have included turmeric in many recipes as it is universally seen as a superfood.

This is an edited extract from 30 Minute Curries (Bloomsbury, hb, $39.99). Atul Kochhar is the Indian-born, British-based chef behind the Michelin-starred restaurant, Benares, in London. He is also involved in restaurants in Mumbai, Madrid and Dubai. Find him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

WIN the 30 Minute Curries cookbook
Need a quick, tasty Indian meal? Michelin-star chef Atul Kochhar shares 90 delicious recipes that can be made at home in his new book, 30 Minute Curries, and we're giving you the chance to win one of three copies!

Cook the Book

Pepper chicken (kozi varuval)

This recipe is from Tamil Nadu, where they use peppers in every possible form, from black pepper to chilli peppers. What I love about food from this part of the world is that cooks balance hot spices like red chilli and black pepper with cooling spices like cinnamon, fennel and star anise. 

Pepper chicken curry

Prawn and coconut curry (narkol chengri moli)

Hailing from the coast of Bengal, this curry brings the best of tropical Indian flavours to your dinner table.

Prawn and coconut curry

Atul's garlic and onion pastes

The key to quick and easy curries, these pastes can be batch-made and frozen for your next curry craving!

Atul Kochhar's garlic and onion pastes

Read more, cook more
The Aussie expat who's taken Texas by the tongs
Meat-loving expat Jess Pryles reveals the one must-have for cooking meat and explains how a love of BBQ took her all the way to Texas.
The truth about tiramisu and other sweet surprises
Venetian countryside cooking is still relatively untrodden culinary territory. Valeria Necchio is out to change that.
New Pizza: a whole new era for the world’s favourite food
You, too, can make the new (old) pizza.