Nisha Katona: An Unlikely Curry Evangelist


Born in England to two Indian doctor immigrants, Nisha Katona, spent most of her youth avoiding her mother’s
‘uncool curries.’ Katona says everything Indian was “uncool” then. Katona is an Indian cookery author, teacher and a full-time barrister.

“Once I began cooking for myself, I realised that curry was a great social lubricant. It was tasty, cheaper to create than many other cusines and it definitely was a great conversation starter. It was then that I became a ‘curry evangelist’,” said Katona.

Katona said her research showed that shockingly very few Indians of her generation can cook and over time, we lose the ability to cook Indian food simply, authentically and quickly.  As a result, Indian food she says, becomes synonymous with the heavy take-away dishes.

“Historically first generation Indians who could afford to come to Britain were certainly rich enough to have cooks back home and hence very few of them were able to equip their kids with the ability to cook Indian food. Many Indians who could cook, came here to work and were more interested in their children studying for the professions than cooking in the kitchen.”

Katona says her journey through ‘curry’ gave her a new perspective. “Our mothers in the 60’s and 70’s were often working and culinary enlightenment and kitchen liberation involved attractively packaged processed food. What we lost in this was the healthier, cheaper, home cooked meals along with the artistry, enjoyment, sense of achievement and social focus that cookingbrings.”  But things are changing again, says Katona.


“Cooking at home is back in fashion. Chicken tikka masala is now almost a British national dish. It may not be authentic, but it shows the cultural melting-pot the UK has become.”

Katona is sharing her very own fail-safe dinner party centerpiece with our masalamommas: A recipe for butter chicken. “I love it because it takes so little time and is so spectacular in its many layers of flavours and in its  stunning deep red glory. It is the real deal – not low cal for sure! But it’s good to splurge on the calorie count once in a (rare) while! Just remember to go to the gym the next day.”

 Nisha’s Butter Chicken (video here:

Chicken breast pieces marinated in Tandoori masala, yoghurt, lemon juice,
garlic puree
3 Onions
1 inch grated Ginger
4 cloves of Garlic
1 dessert spoon Garam masala
1/2 tsp Chili powder
1/2 dessert spoon Ground coriander
1/2 dessert spoon Ground Cumin
1 dessert spoon Fenugreek leaves
4 tablespoons Tomato puree
1 Tin of tomatoes
1 small tub single cream
2 dessertspoons of butter
1 dessert spoon of sugar
Salt to taste


1)Fry the chicken pieces until half cooked. Put aside.

2)Chop and fry the onions, ginger and garlic until they start to turn brown.
Add the dried fenugreek leaves.  These are going to give this dish the
authentic aroma of curry and a pleasing depth of flavour.

3)Add the garam masala, chili powder, ground coriander and ground cumin if
you have them. If not do not worry – Garam masala is the one you really

4)Add the tin of tomatoes and briskly simmer this spiced sauce for about 5
minutes.  Now add the tomato puree, 2 cups of water, salt and sugar. You
will now have the makings of a red masala sauce.  Blend this mixture to a
smooth sauce consistency.

5)At this stage add your chicken pieces to the sauce and return the pan to a
low heat and allow it to simmer until the chicken is cooked through.

6)Now add the cream and butter and stir this in to give the masala a glossy
finish. You may omit it is you like but it won’t be authentic. it is
‘Butter’ chicken after all!

Garnish with freshly chopped coriander if you have it.

Follow Nisha’s Culinary Journey


On YouTube:

On her TV Channel:<>

On Twitter:@nishakatona

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