• Pepper chicken curry (Bloomsbury / Mike Cooper)

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. 







Skill level

Average: 4.2 (12 votes)


  • 600 g chicken thigh fillets
  • 2 long thin green chillies
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 20 fresh or dried curry leaves
  • 2 tbsp Onion Paste (see recipe here)
  • 1 tsp Garlic Paste (see recipe here)
  • 5 tsp Benares Curry Powder (see Note)
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder, or to taste
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 125 ml water
  • sea salt
  • fresh coriander sprigs, to garnish

For the spice powder

  • 2.5 cm piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1 clove
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Assemble all the ingredients and equipment before you begin. You need a spice grinder and a large sauté or frying pan.

First make the spice powder. Put the cinnamon stick, clove, peppercorns and cumin and fennel seeds into the spice grinder, and grind until a fine powder forms. Set aside.

Cut the chicken thigh fillets into bite-sized pieces. Remove the stalk from the green chillies, if necessary, then cut the chillies in half lengthways.

Melt the coconut oil over a medium-high heat in the pan. Add the green chillies, curry leaves, onion paste and garlic paste, and stir the pastes into the oil for 30 seconds. Add the chicken pieces and stir them around for about 2 minutes until sealed on all sides.

Add the spice powder, Benares curry powder, ground coriander, chilli powder and turmeric. Season with salt and stir for 30 seconds to cook the spices. Watch closely so they do not burn. Add the water and continue stirring until a thick paste coats the chicken pieces. Leave the chicken to simmer, uncovered, for a further 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and tender, and most of the liquid in the gravy has evaporated.

Meanwhile, rinse the coriander sprigs to use for the garnish.

Adjust the seasoning with salt, if necessary, and serve garnished with coriander sprigs.


I’ve improved on the preparation time for a traditional recipe by using onion paste, rather than having to chop lots of shallots, which you will find in most versions.

•  To make the Benares curry powder (about 5½ tablespoons worth): Toast a 5cm piece of cinnamon stick, 10 green cardamom pods, 10 cloves, 4 dried red chillies, 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, 2 tablespoons fennel seeds and 1 teaspoon black peppercorns individually in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until aromatic. Immediately tip them out of the pan into a spice grinder or a mini food processor. Add 1½ teaspoons Kashmiri chilli powder (a mild chilli powder available from specialist retailers), 1½ teaspoons dried mango powder and 1½ teaspoons turmeric and blitz to a fine powder. Sift through a fine sieve. Store in an airtight container in a dark cupboard for up to three weeks.


Recipe from 30 Minute Curries by Atul Kochhar (Bloomsbury, hb, $39.99). Enter to WIN your own copy here