Not Your Nani’s Qorma by Sania Saeed

My style of cooking is a combination of chasing my childhood memories of flavours, making do
with what’s cheap and available, and asking my mom for recipes on WhatsApp from across

Qorma is my ultimate comfort food and was a dish I ate almost exclusively for many, many
months as a kid. It reminds me of my grandma spoiling everyone by spending countless hours
cooking for our large family, and how good the house always smelled.

When I learned to cook as an adult, I naturally had to cut some corners since I can’t make dishes exactly like my Nanna (yet), and now I can cook this dish in my sleep.

Eyeballing the measurements in recipes is a part of my genetic makeup as a Pakistani. “Just
knowing,” when a dish has enough spice or when it “looks right” really applies in my culture, so
take the instructions with a grain of salt.

What corners am I cutting?

○ Not buying a full chicken, bones & all, that could easily be overcooked or
○ Not buying expensive or harder to find spices, instead buying spices in bulk.
○ Not making a bone broth and using water instead.


Time: 45 min – 1 hour


Big pot
Medium-sized bowl to marinate the chicken
A knife and cutting board for the chicken
A knife and cutting board for the veggies
Optional – a food processor for the veggies, if you’re in a rush!

● 2-3 tbsp. oil
● 450g. Chicken – this can be any part, but preferably chicken breasts & drumsticks
○ Extra-firm tofu works as a good alternative.
● 300g. Full-fat Plain yogurt
● 1 large onion, diced into small pieces
● 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped or 2-3 tbsp garlic paste
● 1-inch piece of ginger, chopped or 1 tbsp ginger paste
● 1-2 Red or Green Thai Chillies, very finely chopped
● Water*
● 1 Tomato, diced very finely or mashed (optional)
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1-2 tsp. Cumin
1-2 tsp.Cayenne Pepper
3-4 tbsp. Chilli Powder
5-6 tbsp. Garam masala
1-2 tbsp. Coriander
1-2 Cloves (optional)
1-2 pieces of cardamom (optional)
1-2 tsp. Cinnamon (optional)
○ Alternatively, you can buy the Shan Korma seasoning mix.

Marinate the chicken for about 30 mins in the yogurt, chili powder, garam masala, coriander, one clove, one cardamom, and cinnamon.

Heat an oiled pan over medium heat. Add a dash of cumin, 1x clove, and 1x cardamom and toast until fragrant and slightly toasted.

Add in chopped onion, garlic, ginger, and chilies and cook until the pieces of onion are soft.
Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Add in the tomato and a little bit of salt if you prefer a tangier sauce, but this is optional.

Add in the yogurt-marinated chicken and stir until everything is well mixed. Lower heat and simmer for 15 mins.

Once the chicken is par-cooked, add in the water and raise the heat slowly.

*Add in as much or as little water as you want to get a thinner or thicker sauce. Cook until the chicken is fully cooked. Whole pieces will take longer, and diced smaller pieces will cook in less time.

Serve with rice or roti, garnish with fresh coriander, and a squeeze of lemon!

The more water you add, the more it will dilute the seasonings, so add more to taste.
The dish will get spicier the longer it’s preserved.
Add a pinch of sugar or baking soda if the sauce is too acidic.

Sania is a Pakistani freelance writer and editor who is passionate about seasoning her food, the Oxford comma, and creating painfully curated Spotify playlists. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Lit with a focus in race and post-colonial studies, and wants to fill the gaps where she doesn’t see herself represented in writing and media.

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