Chicken Dopiaza

This is a beautiful chicken curry; the Dopiaza means 2 onions, so this dish has a second helping of alliums with the addition of  beautifully sweet and golden roasted shallots and garlic.

This is not a particularly spicy dish, but if you want to make it milder, halve the amount of chilli powder and make up with sweet paprika and you can leave out the green chillies.

For more recipes like this one, check out my cookbooks Kitchen Favourites with Saira: Chilli, Ginger and Garlic. Available to buy at


Main courses, Recipes


4 as a main dish


1 whole head garlic
10 small shallots, halved
1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
Drizzle of rapeseed oil and a big pinch of sea salt
4 tbsp sunflower / vegetable oil
1 large / 2 small onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1½ inches ginger, finely chopped / grated
150ml water or chicken stock
800g – 1 kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3-4 cm pieces
1 fresh mild chilli, cut on the angle in thin slices
handful of fresh coriander (leaves and stalks), chopped
pinch of sugar

Whole spices – 4 cardamon pods, 2/3 cinnamon slivers (cassia bark in Indian shops), 2 dried bay leaves
Ground spices – ½ level tsp turmeric, 1 level tsp chilli powder, 1 heaped tsp coriander, 1 ½ heaped tsp cumin, 1 level tsp garam masala, 1 tsp salt


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 170⁰C (fan). Cut the top off a whole head of garlic and place in a foil parcel. Drizzle with the rapeseed oil, season with a little salt, wrap the parcel up and place on a baking tray. Then peel the shallots and halve them if they are bigger than a walnut, drizzle the ghee and a little rapeseed oil over them, season with sea salt then place the whole tray (garlic and shallots) in the oven and roast for 40-50 mins until soft and golden. Give the shallots a shake or turn half way during cooking.
  2. Prepare all your spices; ginger and garlic in one bowl, whole spices in another, ground spices in a third. It will stop things going wrong later!
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan, on a medium to high heat. When the oil is hot, add in the chopped onions. Cook the onions for at least 10-15 minutes until they are a bronzed brown. Be patient or the final result will be pale and pasty looking!
  4. Then add in the whole spices (tear the bay leaf) and fry for a further minute, until you can smell their fragrance. Add in the garlic and ginger and fry for 10 seconds or so, stirring all the time to prevent burning.
  5. Now add in the ground spices and fry for at least another 60 seconds or so. Be brave and keep the heat up quite high but keep stirring to prevent burning. Once spices have been cooked, add in approximately a cupful of water or chicken stock (150mls). At this point the spice-mix will bubble furiously. Keep cooking, stirring continuously, until most of the water has evaporated, and you are left with a shiny looking curry paste in the pan. This process is called the ‘bhuna’.
  6. Now, with the heat still high, add in the chicken. Turn it over occasionally but keep the heat up for at least 5-6 minutes until the pieces are sealed all over. Wait until the pan is bubbling nicely before reducing the heat.
  7. Reduce the heat to a healthy simmer and cover. Cook for about 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally. The amount of cooking time really depends on the size of the chicken pieces, so always test to check the chicken is cooked right through. You should have enough sauce to cover the meat but not too much. If it looks too watery, remove the lid for the last 10 mins of cooking time.
  8. Finally add the cooked shallots and the roasted garlic cloves (squeezed out of their skins) to the curry, add the green chilli, coriander and a pinch of sugar and stir well to combine. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes, then serve with rice or Indian bread, a vegetable side dish and salad.