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Chicken Curry Traybake

Cook Time:
1 hr 20 mins
Prep Time:
10 mins

Chef notes

I originally came up with this dish when faced with the need to cook a quick, yet healthy, staff meal on a busy Saturday evening. It's an easy, well-balanced, one-tray supper but equally impressive when served with some sides (like Pol Roti) as an alternative Sunday roast.

I’m a big fan of spatchcocking chicken. By increasing the surface area and allowing air to circulate throughout the bird, it allows the chicken to cook both quickly and evenly, which is great when you’re after a roasted chicken but don’t have the time to invest. Because of the relatively high cooking temperature compared to whole roast chicken, it is much easier to color the skin and get a bit of crunch on the outside. For me, it’s the perfect alternative to a rotisserie chicken when cooking at home.

To spatchcock, ensure you have a pair of sharp scissors and a large chopping board. Remove any trussing from the bird and turn it upside down, with the breast facing down and cavity facing you. Use the scissors to cut along either side of the backbone which runs down the center of the bird; the first cut will be the toughest as this is the largest bone to cut through. Remove the backbone and save for roasting to make future stocks or gravy. Flip the bird back over and press firmly between the two breasts until you hear a "pop," where the breastbone has broken. The chicken should now sit flat with the legs and wings tucked neatly by the sides.

If at any point during the roasting process the skin or the spices on the chicken begin to burn, baste with butter and cover it loosely with some foil. If, on the other hand, the chicken hasn't taken on much color at the end, increase the heat back to 425 F and cook the chicken for a final 5 to 7 minutes on the top shelf.

This spice blend is darker than the basic unroasted curry powder and has a nuttier flavor. The addition of rice intensifies this nuttiness and helps to thicken curries and sauces as well; I used basmati in this recipe, but red rice will work too. As the ingredients are fully roasted before grinding, this curry powder doesn’t need to be fried in fat or cooked for very long when used in a dish. Consequently, it’s often added to dishes towards the end of the cooking process and simply sprinkled over and stirred through. That said, I have seen Sri Lankan friends use this to marinate meats before adding them to curries.

Swap options: You can use store-bought Indian or madras curry powder instead of Sri Lankan roasted curry powder. Make a vegan version with butternut squash.


Roasted Curry Powder
  • 1 ounce green cardamom seeds
  • 1/4 ounce cloves
  • ounces cinnamon sticks or broken pieces
  • ounces basmati rice
  • ounces coriander seeds
  • ounces cumin seeds
  • ounces fennel seeds
  • 1/4 ounce fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 ounce black peppercorns
  • 1 ounce fresh curry leaves or 1/4 ounce dried curry leaves
  • 1/2 ounce pandan leaves or 1/4 ounce dried pandan leaves
  • tablespoons Roasted Curry Powder (recipe above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • teaspoons chili powder
  • 10-12 curry leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 (3- to 3.5-pound) chicken, spatchcocked
  • 2 medium red onions, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 (2-inch) knob ginger, skin on and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 sticks lemongrass, bashed
  • 1 (4-inch) piece pandan leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk


For the roasted curry powder:


Heat a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Roast the cardamom, cloves and cinnamon in the dry pan, stirring frequently for 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant but being careful not to burn them.


Add the rice and continue roasting for 12 to 14 minutes until nutty and light brown. Roast the remaining ingredients separately for 12 to 14 minutes, stirring constantly, until the leaves are dry and brittle.


Leave to cool completely before grinding to a fine powder in a blender or spice grinder. Pass through a strainer and grind any remaining large pieces. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 1 month.

For the chicken:


Use paper towels to ensure the spatchcocked chicken is dry on the surface.


Combine all the ingredients for the marinade and rub all over the chicken, using a spoon to ease some marinade under the skin. You may want to use gloves to do this, or risk having yellow hands for the rest of the day!


Place on a large tray and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 2 hours, or ideally overnight.


Remove the chicken from the fridge while you prep the vegetables.

For the vegetables:


Preheat the oven to 425 F.


Place the onions, carrots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, pandan leaf and cinnamon stick in a large bowl. Sprinkle over the salt and pepper, add the vegetable oil and toss well to combine, ensuring the vegetables are well coated in seasoning.


Transfer to a roasting tray large enough to accommodate the chicken on top later in the cooking process. Roast for 15 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes.

To cook:


Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and reduce the oven temperature to 400 F. Roast for 15 minutes.


After 15 minutes, baste the chicken with the melted butter and pour the chicken stock into the roasting tray down the sides so it doesn't wet the chicken skin.


Give the tray a good shake and roast for a further 15 minutes. Baste the chicken once again, add the coconut milk down the sides and shake well. Roast for a final 15 to 20 minutes until the thighs reach 165 F at their thickest part and juices run clear.


Once cooked, lift the chicken onto a chopping board. Remove the breasts and cut each in half, then separate the drumsticks and thighs to give 8 total chunks of chicken with a piece of white and dark meat per portion. Give the vegetables and sauce a stir and taste for seasoning.


Place the portioned chicken back onto the vegetables and sprinkle over the curry leaf and fried onion garnish. Serve immediately, taking the entire tray to the table.