Chicken Saag with Yoghurt

I was at the lovely Sydney markets today and happened upon some fresh Indian spinach. It’s not there very often so I snapped it up. I hadn’t had a Saag dish for a while so decided chicken curry with spinach would be perfect. I began following a recipe, but lost interest half way through and started to improvise. The results were pretty tasty I must say. A lovely, rich sauce packed full of flavour. Not too hot either if you’re not a spice addict.

Spice Paste:
100ml white vinegar
100ml vegetable oil
*4 tablespoons coriander seeds
*2 tablespoons cumin seeds
*3cm cinnamon stick
*2 teaspoons fennel seeds
*2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
*2 teaspoons cardamom seeds
*1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
*6 cloves
*5 bay leaves
*20 curry leaves
4 teaspoons turmeric
4 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons ginger powder
1 teaspoon chilli powder

1kg chicken thighs (cut into 1/3 portions)
6 tablespoons curry paste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 cloves garlic
2 onions (very finely chopped)
450g English spinach (cleaned and roughly chopped)
225ml natural yoghurt
1 tablespoon garam masala

To make the spice paste:

Place all the whole spices* into a hot dry pan and dry fry until aromatic, place in a spice grinder and grind until smooth. Combine with the remaining spices in a bowl then mix in the vinegar and oil. This will make a lot more spice paste than you’ll need, but freezes very well for future use.

To make the curry.
Place 2 tablespoons of the spice paste in 700ml water. Add the chicken and bring to a boil. Boil for 25 minutes. Drain the chicken and retain the cooking liquid.

To make the curry:
Heat a large saucepan with the oil over a moderate heat until hot. Add the cumin, mustard seeds, mustard powder and cinnamon and fry for 30 seconds. Add the garlic and fry for a further 30 seconds. Add the onion, reduce the heat and cook gently for 10 minutes until soft. Add 4 more tablespoons of the spice paste and return the chicken to the pan, turn up the heat slightly and cook for 5-10 minutes. Add the spinach and about 200ml of the chicken cooking liquid and stir well until wilted and simmering. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the yoghurt, garam masala and about 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for 15 minutes before serving.

Serve with rice or breads and a big glass of beer.

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