Madras Curry is a spicy and delicious curry that is said to originate from South India, from the previously known city of Madras, currently known as Chennai. The curry can be vegetarian or meat based, our family preference is to use chicken. I normally serve this dish over plain boiled rice (I tend to colour the rice served with this dish by adding a touch of turmeric or food colouring and a pinch of madras powder to the boiling rice in order to give it a golden yellow colour and some extra flavour).
First, prepare the Madras Spice Powder. Dry roast all the whole spices in a pan on low heat until fragrant, taking care not to burn them. Allow them to cool. Then add the powdered spices (turmeric, chilli powder and ginger powder). Put everything into a grinder and grind to a find powder. This recipe makes 5-6 tbsp. of spice. For the Chicken Madras you will need about 1 tbsp., so store the remaining powder in an airtight container and use when needed.
Marinate the chicken cubes in the chicken marinade ingredients for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight. When ready to cook, remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes before you begin so that it comes to room temperature.
Heat 1 tbsp. of oil in a pan, then add the chicken cubes and fry on high heat for just 2-3 minutes to brown and seal the chicken pieces and retain their moisture. Make sure you do not overcrowd the pan, so if necessary fry them in batches. Remove into a bowl, cover and set aside.
Add remaining oil into the pan, allow it to heat and then add the chopped onion. Fry until golden, then add the ginger and garlic pastes followed by the tomato paste/puree and finely chopped tomatoes and salt. Reduce the heat and cook the tomato mixture until all the tomatoes are mushy and oil begins to get released from the sides. Add the chopped chilli, madras powder and the chicken cubes. Stir them in to coat them with the sauce and infuse flavour. Add a quarter cup of water, mix well and then turn down the heat to low. Allow the chicken to simmer and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is tender. You can add a bit more water if needed.
Finally add the coconut milk and lemon juice. Stir them in and simmer for another 5 minutes. Give it a taste and adjust for salt/spice if needed. Turn off the heat and allow the chicken to sit covered for 10 minutes before garnishing with chopped coriander and serve over rice or with naan/parathas.