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(Mock) Chicken Madras

The popular 'Madras' curry is not a traditional recipe from India, but a restaurant invention in Britain; it is usually the standard hot curry option in many UK Indian restaurants. Madras has 2 variations - hot or very hot. The sauce is red or brown, depending on whether it is rich in tomatoes, or just a plain but hotter version of a normal curry. What is consistent about Madras curry though, is that it is strongly spiced and comes with plenty of sauce.

Madras curry is very suitable for vegetarian and vegan cooking.


Vegan Chicken Madras2 mock chicken breasts
1½ cup sliced button mushrooms
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
6 whole small dried chillies (Bird's Eye or Thai Hots)
½ tsp hot chilli powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp methi (dried fenugreek) seeds
½ tsp garam masala
3 Tbsp Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
1 Tbsp vegan margarine/butter
2 large handfuls spinach
½ cup water
Salt to taste
Coriander for garnishing

Madras curry sauce
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 finely chopped medium onion
4 crushed and roughly chopped cloves garlic
3 Tbsp thinly sliced ginger
2 mild fleshy green chillies, de-seeded and veined then chopped
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp ground cumin seeds
½ tsp ground coriander seeds
2 Tbsp tomato paste mixed with 4 Tbsp water
⅓ cup hot water

Cooking Instructions

Preparing the Madras curry sauce
  • Heat the oil in a heavy pan then add the chopped onion and stir for a few minutes with the heat on high.
  • Add the ginger, garlic and green chilli. Sauté for 30 seconds then put the heat down to very low.
  • Cook for 15 minutes stirring from time to time, making sure nothing browns or burns.
  • Add the turmeric, cumin and coriander and cook, still very gently, for a further 5 minutes. Don't burn the spices or the sauce will not taste good. Sprinkle on a few drops of water if you're concerned.
  • Take off the heat and cool a little. Put 1/3 cup cold water in a blender, add the contents of the pan and whizz until very smooth. Add the tomato paste and stir.
  • Put the puréed mixture back into the pan and cook for 20 - 30 minutes (the longer the better) over very low heat, stirring occasionally. You can add a little hot water if it starts to catch on the pan but the idea is to gently "fry" the sauce which will darken in colour to an orangy brown. The final texture should be something like a good tomato ketchup.
Preparing the rest of the meal
  • Heat a little of the oil in a large heavy frying pan then fry the mushrooms and mock chicken beast over a moderate heat until they are sealed and have turned golden brown. Remove them from the pan and set aside.
  • Heat the rest of the oil in a heavy saucepan over a moderate heat. Add the whole dried chillies and fry until they start to swell.
  • Turn the heat to low, add 1 tablespoon of the Madras curry sauce and stir around. Then add the chilli powder, cumin, coriander and paprika and fry gently, stirring all the time, for a minute. Take care not to burn the spices or risk the curry lacking flavour and tasting bitter. Add the Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry and mix well.
  • Wash the methi in a sieve then leave to moisten for at least 10 minutes.
  • Add the rest of the Madras curry sauce, the mushrooms and mock chicken pieces and salt and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir from time to time and add a little hot water if the sauce starts to catch on the bottom of the pan. 5 minutes from the end add the garam masala and methi.
  • Simmer gently for a final 2 minutes stirring frequently as the sauce should now start to thicken.
  • Melt the vegan margarine/butter in a pan until foaming, then add the spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until wilted.
  • Garnished with fresh chopped coriander
  • Serve hot with steamed Basmati rice and spinach.
Serves 2 people

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