Aunty Dolly's East Indian curry

Aunty Dolly's East Indian curry

Mudh Island koambdi curry

Mr Todiwala's Bombay
Helen Cathcart

Aunty Dolly or Dolly Aunty as we called her, was the wife of Dad’s good friend and second-in-command of the Western India Automobile Association. They were very dear friends and I spent many a day in their house. She made amazing food and I remember her best dish being her super-fabulous coconut pancakes.

Mudh Island, also known as Honey Island, is along the coast just north of Bombay. The community is mostly Koli or Fisherfolk and Roman Catholic. Converted to Christianity by the Portuguese in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Roman Catholics still have certain customary masalas and spice blends, which also make their cuisine unique. To this day in the metropolis of Mumbai, there exists a tiny village called Matharpacadi within this huge city that has remained untouched for centuries. Though I have not tried it, I believe that there is a traditional East Indian restaurant there too.

You can make double the quantity of this masala and store for several weeks in the refrigerator in a sterilised screw-topped jar with a layer of sunflower or olive oil over to preserve it.



Quantity Ingredient
2 tablespoons sunflower or rapeseed oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
generous pinch fennel seeds
generous pinch ground turmeric
2 cloves
pinch fenugreek seeds
generous pinch black mustard seeds
5-6 black peppercorns
1/2 small red pepper, roughly chopped
or 1 dried red chilli, roughly chopped


Quantity Ingredient
2-3 tablespoons sunflower or rapeseed oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
4-5 chicken portions, skin removed, if preferred
or 600g lean diced lamb or beef
400ml canned coconut milk
2 tablespoons coriander leaves, chopped

To serve

Quantity Ingredient
* baafaela chawal [rid:9909]


  1. First make the masala. Heat oil in a large frying pan or wok until a haze forms. Add the onion and sauté over a medium heat until soft but not brown, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat. Add the garlic and sauté until just turning golden. Remove from the heat. Leave to cool then tip into a blender or small food processor with all the remaining masala ingredients. Grind to a smooth, thick paste, adding a little water as necessary (but not too much as it must not be runny). Set aside.
  2. To make the curry, if using chicken, no need to marinate first. If using beef or lamb, rub the meat all over with the masala, cover and leave in the refrigerator to marinate for several hours or overnight.
  3. Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan or flameproof casserole. Add the onion and sauté until soft and lightly golden, about 5 minutes. If using chicken, stir the masala into the pan and sauté for several minutes until the oil runs again.
  4. Add 150 ml water and the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Add the chicken, pushing it down well into the sauce, part-cover and simmer for 30–40 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through. Taste and re-season if necessary.
  5. If using the marinated meat, add to the browned onions and sauté until browned all over and the juices have dried up, scraping the pan well with a wooden spatula to prevent sticking and burning. Add enough water to three-quarters cover the meat, bring to the boil, reduce the heat to low, part-cover and simmer very gently for about 45 minutes until almost tender. Stir in the coconut milk, bring back to the boil, reduce the heat and continue to simmer for a further 30 minutes or until the meat is really tender and bathed in a rich sauce. Add a splash more water if drying out. Taste and re-season as necessary.
  6. Sprinkle the chicken or meat curry with the chopped coriander and serve with steamed rice.
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