Chicken curry wine pairing

Some like it hot

WINE: Clay Station Viognier

WITH: Low-fat chicken and spinach curry

WHY? Fruity wines and spicy food work well together.

What were your New Year’s Resolutions?

If you’re doing dry January then this is clearly not the blog for you right now! But if you are trying to lose weight with healthy and tasty meals then let me help you out…

I’ll be frank; Indian is not my forte. Those that know me well are aware that I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to spice. Plus, until a few years ago, I detested rice so you can probably see why I avoided Indian.

But this dish started me down the road to curry lovin’. It’s pretty special, not in the least because it was passed on by a close family friend of Indian decent and a former restaurant owner to boot.

This curry is fragrant with a slight touch of heat (which you could amp up if you’re braver than I) and unlike the standard fat-filled takeaway curry, it is super good for you. Ultimately, it’s the perfect meal for mid January when your new year’s resolutions of healthy eating are sailing close to the wind.


What wine would go well with it? Well, for most, beer is the drink of choice when it comes to spicy food. Wine can work well too, but you have to be careful.

Why? In the infamous breathy whisper of L’oreal: here’s the science bit…

Chemesthesis is the name of the sensation which allows you to feel the cooling of menthol, the (sometimes painful) burn of chilli and the warmth of alcohol.

As chilli and alcohol hit the same receptor then it doubles the sensation. Thus, when you eat spicy food with an alcoholic drink then you’re going to feel the burn more.

According to Tim Hanni MW for some this feeling can be as pleasurable as (don’t laugh) an orgasm. For others it is hideously painful.

So the more sensitive you are to  chilli heat, the less ABV you should be looking for in your accompanying drink. Beer is ideal as it normally sits around 5%. If you want wine, then white is generally better than red as it is usually slightly lower in alcohol content.

Considering the aromatic nature of the dish it really needs an aromatic white. I went with the Clay Station Viognier from California, but any Viognier that you can find in your local supermarket/wine merchant should do the trick. The weight and intensity of Viognier pairs up well to the dish, making a delicious combination.

Chicken and spinach curry
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For the curry
  1. 1 tbsp oil
  2. 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  3. A couple of chopped fresh chillies (more if you can handle it!)
  4. 1 finely diced large onion
  5. 3 tsp an indian spice blend (I use garam masala because it's easy, of course you could mix up your own instead)
  6. 2 tbsp ketchup
  7. 1 tbsp tomato puree
  8. 4 large diced chicken breasts (if you're veggie you can use chick peas instead)
  9. Salt & pepper
  10. 1 large bag of spinach
For the rice
  1. 1tsp oil
  2. 1/2 diced onion
  3. 1 cup basmati rice
  4. 1 stick cinnamon
  5. 3 cloves
  6. 3 cardamom pods
For serving
  1. Natural yoghurt and naan bread
For the curry
  1. Add the oil to the pan
  2. Once the add ½ teaspoon of mustard seeds to the pan and cook until they start to pop.
  3. Add the chilli and cook out a bit too.
  4. Add in the onion and soften. You really want to begin to caramelize it a bit to get a good flavour.
  5. Add in the garam masala (or your own spice mix), and a touch of water to make it into a paste.
  6. To this add in the tomato ketchup and the tomato paste and cook out a bit.
  7. Then it's time to add the chicken (or chick peas). Make sure it is thoroughly cooked through before serving.
  8. Finally wilt down the spinach. It's best to do this a handful at a time to avoid a big clump forming.
For the rice
  1. Soften the onion in a bit of oil.
  2. Crush the other spices and add to the pan.
  3. Add 1 1/2 cups of water to one cup of basmati rice, and cover.
  4. After all the water has been soaked up (roughly 8 - 10 minutes) then you can fluff it up with a fork, or "fork it" as my mum would say.
  5. Et voila! Serve with naan and yoghurt on the side.
  1. You can make this dish veggie friendly by substituting the chicken for chick peas.
Julia Bailey