Ekta’s Tariwala Chicken

Chicken on the bone with a spicy gravy

This recipe has had a name change – not because the recipe itself has been changed in any way – but because my youngest daughter walked into the kitchen one morning and announced ‘I am going to cook one of mums recipes for dinner on Friday’. We actually assumed she was joking but she seemed very excited about it so I told her to choose whatever she wanted to cook and gave her the best possible advice I could. ‘Go onto the website and read every section before you decide on what you would like to cook please’.

Ekta's Tariwala Chicken

As you can see above, she obviously did as she was advised, as the dish she created was absolutely stunning. The chicken cooked to perfection, not a single floating onion in the gravy and she cooked each ingredient to it’s full potential. She followed the instructions to the letter and cooked the tadka with love and patience, taking her time to dice the onions, tears streaming down her face. She wouldn’t even let me help her with anything, she asked me to leave the kitchen whilst she got on with it – ‘I don’t want you hovering over me Mum!’ – which made me a little nervous to be honest – but I did as I was asked and left her with her friend Tayla to get on with it. The only credit I can take from that evening is for the recipe and the photographs I took of it before we served it.

When I was a young girl, this dish was cooked almost every Saturday in the family home. I remember the huge pan and what seemed like 8 to 10 large onions being peeled and chopped, I am sure mum used 3 times the amount of onions that I use now. The pan would seem half full by the time she got them into the hot ghee and it was lots of ghee at that too! I would sit on the back step of the kitchen that led to the garden and help to pulverise the garlic and ginger, crushing it with the huge pestle and mortar that would be sat on the floor. I’d keep the pestle in place and try to stop it from slipping around by holding it between my feet, the sound of the garlic and ginger being crushed under the weight of the big mortar was such a beautiful one, I still try to replicate it by crushing those ingredients in my worktop pestle which is not even a tenth of the size of the one my parents owned.

My sisters and I would take it in turns to help with various tasks but the chillies would have to be crushed by an adult – just in case a seed jumped out and got us in the eye. I remember Saturday mornings as if they were yesterday, Dad fishing out a couple of pieces of the chicken (they are called a ‘senkhi’ in Punjabi) before we added the water for the gravy. Whoever was in the vicinity at that point would get the pleasure of sharing it with him. I would try my level best to hang around him at that time – just so that it would be me. Such good times!

Ingredients – Serves 5

Preparation time 15 mins, cooking time 50 mins

1 whole chicken, skinned and cut into small pieces (your butcher can do this for you) washed and cleaned

1 tablespoon of oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

3 large onions diced

Heaped tbsp garlic paste

Heaped tbsp ginger paste

1 heaped teaspoon of turmeric

500g plum tomatoes – blended

4 green chillies chopped finely

1 teaspoon salt

1 heaped teaspoon garam masala

Handful chopped coriander leaves for garnish


  1. Heat the oil in a heavy based pan
  2. Add cumin seeds
  3. Stir in the onions
  4. Fry the onions on a medium heat until they begin to turn a golden colour then add the garlic and ginger paste
  5. As soon as you can smell the garlic – add the turmeric to the pan and fry for a minute
  6. Stir in the tomatoes and the chillies and continue cooking until the oil begins to form wells on the surface of the mixture and there is no watery edge to it
  7. Add the salt and the garam masala and stir well
  8. Turn the heat low and cook for 2-3 minutes
  9. Gently place the chicken pieces into the pan and stir them into the base mixture well – ensuring all the pieces are coated with it
  10. Cover and cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally
  11. If you would like a runny gravy add half a pint of water at this point, if not then allow it to continue cooking until the meat is tender but not falling off the bone.
  12. Garnish with the chopped coriander and serve with rice or roti

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