How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks*

8. mild & creamy indian curry

My Dad has never been much of a cook. Tea, toast and the odd batch of porridge (oatmeal) on a frosty winter morning is all I can ever remember him preparing in the kitchen.

So after my Mum died, needless to say, I was worried about him on many levels. How was he going to cook for himself?

To make sure he didn’t fade away to a shadow, I’d drive down to the farm from Sydney every few weeks. I really enjoyed those weekends pottering about in our big country kitchen cooking up soups and stews, tajines and curries. Basically anything I could freeze in single servings.

Dad would sit in the kitchen with me mostly just chatting but sometimes asking questions about what I was doing. I took his interest as a positive sign and tried to get him involved in the chopping and stirring.

We had a few attempts at teaching him to make things he loved to eat. Like lamb shanks or how to roast a leg of lamb and some veggies. But looking back now, I realise our lack of success was more my fault.

Basically, I was trying to teach Dad things that were too complicated…

You see, I hadn’t discovered the joys of minimalism and it would be another year or so before I developed my 5 ingredients philosophy. If only.

Fast forward 5 years. Dad has sold the farm and moved into Canberra. He has lunch in a cafe or the local club most days. I suspect that the rest of his meals are pretty random (he mentioned having 4 oranges for dinner the other day). But he’s healthy and happy and hasn’t wasted away.

Even though I stopped worrying about him, I have still harboured the hope that he might give this cooking thing another try.

So when I gave him an advance copy of my print book ‘5 Ingredients 10 Minutes‘ back in January I was like…

‘Dad, this is about as easy as cooking can get, I’m sure you’d be able to make most things in the book. How about you surprise me and cook one?’

And Dad would reply ‘Yes Jul, I should be able to do that’.

As the months passed, I occasionally inquired as to whether Dad had had any luck with trying something from my book.

‘No not yet, but you’re right I should do that’

So you can imagine my surprise when I got a call from my Dad early one Monday morning…

‘I made one of the recipes from your book Jul… The butter chicken curry.

I cooked it. I ate it and I’m still alive. I even enjoyed the experience

It was just so damn simple.

I mean you’ve just got the shopping list there. It’s only 5 things. you go to the supermarket and get what you need… No wandering around aimlessly.

Then bring them home, follow the instructions and before you know it it’s done!

I might try another one soon…’

8. mild & creamy indian curry

Dad’s Butter Chicken Curry

From ‘5 Ingredients 10 Minutes’.

My first casual job at university was waitressing at a local Indian restaurant. It taught me two very important life lessons. First, I am hopeless when it comes to waiting tables. And second, that Indian food is delicious.

‘Butter chicken’ or ‘Chicken Tikka Masala’ was my first Indian food love. In restaurants, butter chicken can be super greasy. So it’s much better to enjoy it at home when you can control the amount of cream you add. I also like having the freedom to turn up the chilli heat.

For a vegetarian version, butter tofu would be great or even butter chickpeas.

Enough for 2
450g chicken thighs
2 tablespoons garam marsala
1 – 2 teaspoons chilli flakes
1 can tomatoes (400g / 14oz), chopped
2 – 3 tablespoons whipping cream (35% milk fat)

1. Bash out thighs a little with a saucepan to tenderise. Chop into chunks.

2. Heat a few tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan (skillet) over a medium high heat.

3. Brown chicken for few minutes each side.

4. Add garam marsala and chilli. Stir for a few seconds.

5. Add tomatoes and their juices. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

6. Stir in cream and bring back to a simmer.

7. Taste and season with salt, pepper and a little sugar if you like it sweet.


dairy-free – Replace cream with coconut milk.

vegan – Replace chicken with tofu, or a drained can of chickpeas or 1/2 head of cauliflower and replace cream with coconut milk.

vegetarian – Replace chicken with tofu, or a drained can of chickpeas, lentils, 1/2 head of cauliflower, or even some button mushrooms.

change the spicing – Garam marsala is lovely here but for a different take, try a different curry powder or think about making your own spice blend.

try real butter – I like the slight milkiness that cream brings, but you could always do super decadent and use butter instead.

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With love,
Jules x
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* Thanks to my no-so-little brother Dom for inspiring this title with a text message he sent to my Dad’s new iPad.

5|10 online classes logo[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”]ps.[/dropcap] To say THANK YOU to those of you who purchase extra copies of ‘5 Ingredients 10 Minutes’ to give as gifts, I’ve created different packages of ‘bonuses’.

These will only be available for a limited time to help encourage you to get your Christmas shopping done early!

All the details are over here:


  • Dear Juls- Loved this recipe and loved the post because I too was hopeless at waiting tables – it’s like a chromosome that I never got.

  • Hahaha!! I can just see Dad saying these exact words to you, Jul! I’m impressed he did it!! Looks super delish too xoxo

  • Just tried this today and it was excellent, although even with the crushed peppers reduced to 1/2 tsp it was a bit too hot for my wife. I did add one chopped medium onion and 1/2 tsp minced (dehydrated) garlic after browning the chicken and cooked until the onions were translucent; onions are a staple ingredient of Indian cuisine. Wife suggests preparing it with one chicken breast and two chicken thighs (all boneless and skinless); in typical US grocery store that comes out to about 450g meat. I also suggest serving it with plain yogurt available on the side, to cool the mouth of the heat sensitive diner.

    I am now going to write up my notes and add this to my repertoire.

  • thanks so much for sharing this story… our parents give us so much, and it’s incredible that you’re using your gift so beautifully to give back. and love that dad took you up on the offer!

  • The recipe sounds great -I’ve always loved the sauce of butter chicken but can never get it in restaurants without meat; I will definitely be trying it with tofu. Just a note – the spice is called garam masala, not marsala. Masala basically means spices whereas I think marsala refers to a type of wine?

  • He Jules,
    Simply attempted this today and it was amazing, albeit even with the smashed peppers decreased to 1/2 tsp it was a bit excessively hot for my wife. I did include one cleaved medium onion and 1/2 tsp minced (got dried out) garlic subsequent to sautéing the chicken and cooked until the onions were translucent; onions are a staple element of Indian food. Wife proposes setting it up with one chicken bosom and two chicken thighs (all boneless and skinless); in common US supermarket that turns out to around 450g meat. I likewise recommend serving it with plain yogurt accessible as an afterthought, to cool the mouth of the warmth delicate burger joint.

    I am currently going to review my notes and add this to my collection.

    • I like the lighter texture of using cream Elizabeth – excellent question!
      You could substitute butter if you like your recipes more literal :)

  • I absolutely loved the simplicity of this recipe! I’ve tried tweaking it a few times since my husband is not a fan of the bits of tomato in the sauce (he prefers a smooth texture). I used a can of crushed tomatoes and the tomato flavour was way too strong. Would tomato passata work or would that have the same effect? Should I just purée the tomatoes with a stick blender?

  • Thank you for your so cool recipes Your Dad’s chicken curry is amazingly good Tell him that ? You are the best Greetings from Luxembourg ?

  • Please tell me if chilli flakes are chili powder or crushed red pepper flakes?—I’m thinking it’s likely the red pepper flakes. Thank you so much, I’m looking forward to trying this!

  • Hi Jules can’t wait to try this but I have two questions:
    1. Have you tried different garam marsala‘S and if so are there recommendations and ones to avoid?
    2. I notice you normally always use the whole tomatoes in in can is there a reason you don’t use crushed/chopped in the can?

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