Curries made from scratch very often have lengthy ingredients lists and the complex sauces can take several hours to prepare and cook. The beauty of pre-made curry sauces is that you can easily prepare a very authentic Indian curry at home for a fraction of the cost and in a much shorter period of time. Experimentation is still possible in the form of the solid ingredients added to the sauce and the accompaniments with which the curry is ultimately served. Try different flavorings in the rice, different Indian breads to serve and even a variety of different side dishes, the frequently simple recipes for which can easily be found online.

Chicken Balti with Curried Vegetable Rice
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Chicken balti on a bed of curried vegetable rice with naan bread and spiced onions

Supermarkets in modern times very often have a wide variety of Indian and other Asian cooking sauces from which to choose. Most of these sauces could be substituted for the balti used in this recipe but care should be taken regarding the strength of the sauce, which is often detailed on the label. Balti is deemed to be a medium hot variety.

Ingredients (Serves 1)

Balti Sauce
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Indian balti sauce

  • 2 large whole chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium white onion (half for curry and half for spicing)
  • ½ green bell pepper
  • 1 pound jar Indian balti sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • ½ teaspoon medium chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon mint sauce
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped cilantro (coriander leaf), plus extra to garnish
  • ½ cup basmati or long grain rice
  • 2 teaspoons medium curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon canned chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon frozen peas
  • 1 mini garlic and cilantro naan bread


Skinned Chicken Thighs
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Skin is peeled from chicken thighs

Peel the skin from the chicken thighs and discard.

Browning Chicken Thighs
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Browning and sealing chicken thighs in hot oil

Pour the vegetable oil in to a large pot and bring it up to a medium to high heat. Brown the chicken thighs in the pot on both sides, moving them around frequently as you do so with a wooden spoon to ensure they don't stick. They will only take about a minute on each side.

Browned Chicken Thighs
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Browned chicken thighs are lifted to a holding plate

Lift the browned and sealed thighs temporarily to a holding plate with cooking tongs.

Sauteing Onion and Pepper
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Onion and pepper are sauteed in oil

Slice the peeled onion half across the way and separate in to strands. Seed and moderately finely slice the green bell pepper half. Add both items to the hot oil and saute for a couple of minutes on a low to medium heat until the onion is softened and starting to glisten.

Simmering Sauce
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Balti sauce is brought to a simmer

Pour the balti sauce in to the pot and stir well. Turn up the heat until the sauce just starts to simmer.

Thighs Returned to Pot
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Chicken thighs are laid in simmering sauce

Return the chicken thighs to the pot with your tongs and spoon over some of the sauce. Cover the pot and adjust the heat to achieve and maintain a gentle simmer for thirty-five minutes.

Onion Sauce Ingredients
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Spiced onion sauce ingredients

Put the tomato ketchup, mint sauce, chili powder and lemon juice in to a small glass or stone bowl. Don't use a plastic bowl as it would be likely to become irrevocably stained. Season with some salt and pepper.

Onion in Sauce
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Sliced onion is added to spicy sauce

Stir the sauce ingredients extremely well to ensure everything is fully combined and particularly that the chili powder hasn't formed any lumps. Slice the remaining onion half and separate in to strands before adding them to the bowl.

Indian Spiced Onions
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Onion is folded through spicy sauce

Stir the onion through the sauce. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until required.

Turning Chicken Thighs
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Turning chicken thighs in the cooking sauce

It's a good idea to carefully turn the chicken thighs in the sauce every ten minutes or so as they cook to ensure even cooking. Make sure in each instance that you leave them covered by some of the liquid.

Cilantro in Curry
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Chopped cilantro is added to the cooked chicken balti

When the chicken thighs are done, stir in a tablespoon of cilantro, cover the pot again and sit it aside on a cool part of your stove for the meat to rest while you prepare the rice. It will not go cold in this short time period.

Simmering Rice
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Simmering curried vegetable rice

Put a large pot of cold water on to reach a rolling boil, seasoning it with the curry powder and some salt. Wash the rice through a sieve at your sink under running cold water to remove the excess starch. When the water starts to boil, add the rice, stir well and adjust the heat to maintain a moderate simmer for ten minutes. The chickpeas and the frozen peas should be added to the pot for the final three minutes' simmering only.

Drained Rice
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Drained rice is briefly left to steam

Drain the rice at your sink through a sieve and allow it two or three minutes to steam off and dry out slightly.

Rice Bed
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Rice is formed in to a bed for the chicken balti

Fluff the rice up gently with a fork before spooning it in to the center of an oval serving plate and arranging it to form a bed for the chicken curry.

Thighs on Rice Bed
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Chicken thighs are laid on rice bed

Reheat the naan per the instructions on the pack and cut it in half. Lay one half on either side of the rice. Lift the chicken thighs from the cooking pot with a slotted spoon and lay them on the rice bed.

Sauce on Chicken Thighs
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Balti sauce is spooned over chicken thighs

Divide the spiced onions between the two naan halves with a teaspoon. Spoon some of the balti sauce over the chicken thighs and garnish with the last of the cilantro.

Eating Chicken Balti
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Tender chicken virtually falls off bone at a touch

The one down side of making curries such as this one is that very often you will have a considerable amount of the sauce remaining when the dish is served. This should not be wasted and can be cooled, refrigerated and served the next day with whatever accompaniments you have available.

Leftover Rice and Sauce
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Leftover rice and balti sauce

If you also happen to have some rice leftover, add it to the sauce, stir it through and refrigerate the whole lot to be reheated properly and served simply with some naans as a quick, easy and satisfying lunch the following day.

Rice in Sauce
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Leftover rice and sauce are stirred together before being refrigerated