Budget-friendly Chicken Curry and Sides

Serves 4 (for under £7)

Prep time – 20-30 Minutes | Cooking Time – 75-90 minutes

Kosher meat can be pricey, but butchering your own chicken is one of the most-effective ways of shaving costs. It’s worth starting with a large, good quality chicken, separating the meat into its components, and, with a little creativity, one can feed a family of four for 4 meals. Part of our budget chicken recipe series, this recipe uses one large chicken breast, and is bulked out with frozen vegetables and protein-rich chickpeas to stretch the meat further. The chicken curry is accompanied by pilau rice and saag aloo gobi, so you can have an excellent fake-away that will leave everyone satisfied, without breaking the bank! For a vegetarian alternative, follow these steps but skip the chicken, or add chunks of tofu, mushrooms or aubergine!

*N.B. We have made the assumption that you have the right herbs, spices and sundries in the larder. Though this may be an expensive front-end cost, having a well stocked larder can help you to create incredibly flavourful and diverse cost-effective meals to keep family dining fun.


For the Curry:

  • 1 large Chicken Breast (approx 250g-260g), cut into bitesize chunks
  • 2 tbsp Oil
  • 1 Brown Onion, diced
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 2-3 cloves Garlic, sliced
  • 1½ tsp cumin
  • 1½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 400g tin Chickpeas, drained
  • 800g Chopped Tomatoes (tinned)
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 3 Cardamom Pods
  • 200g frozen Mixed Vegetables

For the Saag Aloo Gobi:

  • 6-8 medium-sized Potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 3 tbsp Oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • ½ tbsp Garlic Powder
  • ½ tbsp Paprika
  • ½ large or 1 small Red Onion, finely diced
  • Salt
  • 1 clove Garlic, crushed
  • 1 bag Spinach Leaves, washed and checked

For the Pilau Rice

  • 2 tbsp Oil
  • ½ large Brown Onion diced
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 1 whole Carrot, grated
  • 3-5 Cardamom Pods,
  • 5-7 Cloves
  • 2 cups Basmati Rice, thoroughly washed
  • 1 stick Cinnamon Bark or 1 pinch Ground Cinnamon
  • 4 cups Boiling Water


For the Curry

  1. Warm 2 tbsp oil in a heavy bottomed, lidded saucepan, over a medium-high light.
  2. Add diced onion and salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes until begining to soften.
  3. Next, add in the garlic and chicken, and fry over for 3-5 minutes, stirring regularly, to seal the edges of the chicken.
  4. Add in the ground spices: cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, garam masala, chilli powder and black pepper, stirring to coat the chicken.
  5. Drain a 400g tin of chickpeas and add to the pan. Stir to combine, and cook for a further 3-5 minutes, stirring regularly.
  6. Add in 800g of chopped tomatoes, a bayleaf and 3 cardamom pods, then stir to combine.
  7. Add in the mixed veg, stir and cover, then leave to simmer over a medium-low light for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn’t catch on the bottom, or lose too much liquid.


For the Saag Aloo Gobi:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C / 180°C fan (Gas Mark 6 / 400°F).
  2. Break up 2 large cauliflower florets and 2 potatoes peeled and chopped, and place in a roasting dish with 2 tbsp of sunflower oil, ½ tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp cumin, ¼ tsp chilli powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Mix and roast for approx 40 minutes, tossing halfway. Once starting to brown and potato has cooked through, remove from the oven.

    Start prepping and cooking your pilau rice (see next section). Once the rice is covered, and after the cauliflower and potato has been in the oven for around 40 minutes and started to brown, make a start on the rest of the saag aloo gobi.
  4. Add 1 tbsp oil to a frying pan or sauteuse, and heat on a medium heat.
  5. Add finely diced red onion and a pinch of salt to prevent burning.
  6. Cook for a 1-2 minutes, stirring regularly, until starting to soften, then add in crushed garlic. Stir, and cook for 30 seconds, then add in the spinach. Add in the potato and cauliflower mixture, and continue to cook, stirring regularly, until the spinach has wilted and the rest of the ingredients are hot. Then serve.


For the Pilau Rice:

N.B. Precision matters for this recipe. To get the perfect rice, you need a 1:2 ratio of rice to water, to ensure your rice is thoroughly washed, and to cook to just the right point.

  1. Wash your rice. This will remove excess starch and give you lovely fluffy pilau. Use basmati rice, rinsed several times in a deep pot of cold water and strained in a sieve, until the water runs completely clear and you can see the rice clearly at the bottom. It takes about 5 minutes to do it properly, but this step is absolutely crucial to making the perfect, fluffy pilau. Then leave to drain for a few minutes.
  2. Add 2 tbsp oil to a deep, heavy-bottomed, lidded pan and heat on medium.
  3. Add the diced onion and a generous amount of salt.
  4. Cover and sweat down, stirring occasionally, until the onions have turned translucent.
  5. Remove the lid, then add in grated carrot and cook down for 1-2 minutes, stirring regularly.
  6. Next, add 3-5 cardamom pods, 5-7 cloves and 2 cups basmati rice, thoroughly washed as per instructions in step 1.
  7. Add in 1 stick of cinnamon bark or a pinch of ground cinnamon, plus 4 cups boiling water.
  8. Cover, bring to a simmer, lower the heat and cook for 12 minutes on low. DO NOT REMOVE THE LID! This will cause steam to escape, which we want to keep in for that perfect fluffy rice. If the water starts bubbling, turn the heat down. If the water stops simmering, adjust it up. DO NOT REMOVE THE LID!*
    *Unless absolutely necessary to prevent the whole pot bubbling over – in which case, your hob was too high – turn the light down*
  9. After 12 minutes, turn off the hob. (If you can see (or hear) that there is still moisture in the pot, allow to cook for a further 2-3 minutes). Leave the lid on and allow the rice to continue steaming for a few minutes. Then remove the lid, and use a fork (not a spoon) to mix and fluff up the rice. It should separate easily, and not be sticky, starchy or wet. The best pilau also has a slightly browned, crispy layer (or tahdig) at the bottom. If you have mastered the cook, and feel brave enough to leave the rice for an extra few minutes to brown, you will be rewarded, but be careful not to overdo it, because nobody wants burnt rice!

All three components should be ready around the same time. Serve, and dress if desired with fresh chopped corriander, a soy yoghurt raita and/or mango chutney.

Budget chicken curry