Big Issue Vendor

Transforming prison food: Traditional Bangladeshi chicken curry recipe

Food Behind Bars, a charity transforming prison food, launched a series of cooking competitions during lockdown. We serve you J’s recipe that took the top title at HMP Brixton
J's chicken curry recipe was passed down through generations

J won the Food Behind Bars cooking competition at HMP Brixton. They explained the story behind the top-tier chicken curry recipe with cheesy tandoori flatbreads, and why the dish means more than just a decent meal.

“Growing up in a traditional Asian household, I woke up to the aroma of my wonderful mother’s cooking.

“The smells of three or four different curries every day would put a smile on anyone’s face, but not mine because I was eating curry nearly my whole life and started getting bored of it. Until I was a few months into my sentence and I realised how badly I missed my mother’s Bangladesh-infused curries.

“The curries you have in jail don’t compare to the traditional ways of a curry made with love. So the dish I have prepared for you is filled with and infused with passion, traditional methods and spices.

“This dish has been passed down through the history of my family and I’ve seen it bring happiness not just to me and my family, but also friends and guests. So therefore I have picked this style of dish with added twists of my own. I present to you… a blast from the past.”

The making of J's traditional Bangladeshi chicken curry
chicken curry recipe
The making of J's traditional Bangladeshi chicken curry


For the curry (makes 3-4 servings)

  • Oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp hot curry powder
  • 2 onions, grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 5-10cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 fresh green chilli, deseeded and diced
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Around 4 fresh tomatoes, chopped into rough cubes
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 500ml vegetable or chicken stock
  • 500g chicken on the bone – ideally drumsticks, no skin
  • Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 fresh pepper – red or green, deseeded and roughly chopped

For the flatbreads (makes roughly 4)

  • 185ml milk
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 150g grated cheese
  • 1 tbsp tandoori paste


  1. Get a large pan on medium heat, drizzle the oil and add the grated onion until it starts getting gold – approximately 10-15 minutes.
  2. Add the salt, grated garlic, grated ginger and the dried herbs – slowly cook for five minutes.
  3. Add the tomato puree and a little bit of veg stock to begin with – not too much. Once that’s cooked, add each spice in one by one, cooking each one out to its limits.
  4. Add the boned chicken and coat in the hot onion and spice mix.
  5. Cook for around five minutes, adding the green chillies, however many you want. Then add the sugar to balance out the spice.
  6. Chop the peppers and add to the pan and then pour in the rest of the stock whilst stirring the pot. Cook with the lid off or ajar for another 20-30 minutes. You should smell the flavours! Everyone will be out at the table already before you’re done. I’m getting hungry just writing this down!
  7. To make the flatbreads, stir the milk and vinegar until it curdles. Mix together the flour, sugar, salt and bicarbonate of soda.
  8. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients. Knead everything together, adding the cheese and a little bit of tandoori paste.
  9. Use a rolling pin and roll out to your desired shape – not too thick, not too thin.
  10. Get a pan and add a little butter. Make sure your flatbread pan is extremely hot, then cook the flatbread on each side, watching it doesn’t burn.
  11. Once your bread rises a little on each side, cut through to make sure it’s cooked right through. Bon appetit!
chicken curry recipe
chicken curry recipe
J got bored of curry until serving time in prison

Find out more at and listen to their new podcast: