chicken balti

cookery chat with david & sandra biddle

1: chicken balti

We are David and Sandra Biddle, we have been boating now for around 25 years and currently own Captain Hastings a brightly coloured yellow Dutch barge style narrow boat. We retired when I reached 56 a couple of years ago and the first thing we did was to move on board of our boat and travel. In fact we did over a 1000 miles and 700+ locks in the first year. Nowadays we spend time both at the boat and our brick home in Northamptonshire.

NB captain hastingsSandra and I were married in the early 1980’s and she soon took up her role in the business as a cook, however, unlike me she is a qualified chef and is very precise in the way she cooks and serves food. At home 80% of the cooking is done by her, she says it frustrates her watching me ‘throwing’ things together – even though they nearly always turn out good!

When out on ‘drinking nights’ you will often find us drinking pints – good ales for me and believe it or not, pints of Guinness with a tiny splash of blackcurrant – Sandra believes this balances the bitterness of the drink.

stove and kettle on board a narrowboatBack to cooking now, On board Captain Hastings we have a full size under counter Freezer and a Fridge, we also make maximum use of the drawers in the kitchen to keep a good stock of essentials including spices and dried herbs. We cook on an AGA style range (Heritage Uno) which has a large hot plate and oven. We also have a small mentholated spirits counter top hob, which we use if we are not firing up the range (we call it Big Bertha!), a microwave, slow cooker and infrared red oven – the latter items being used when we are hooked up to electric or on the go, so as not to drain the batteries. In summer times we also make maximum use of our Cobb smoker BBQ which is a brilliant bit of kit for use outside.

We intend over the next few months to discuss an essentials pantry for the boat. How many times do you get a recipe – only to find you are missing an ingredient?

We will also be passing onto you a range of tips and tasty dishes that you will be easily able to cook on the boat or indeed on the cut if you have a BBQ.

Alongside this, we will share with you our thoughts on the different alcoholic drinks available, our favourites – which will of course be value for money. Gone are the days of my wine snobbery.

For your information we go through phases of what types of foods we like, for the last decade or so, after spending quite a bit of time holidaying around India, we seem to be very biased towards spicy foods, however, previously it was Italian and early on it was good old English food with a smattering of French! So, our menus will hopefully embrace a range of palates!

We hope, from next month when we start publishing our recipes and more - that you will enjoy our banter, the food and the drink suggestions.

We are also happy for you to ‘friend us’ on our personal Facebook and on the Narrowboat Nosh and Canal Cooking Facebook forum or indeed if you wish contact us with ideas and suggestions (moans and groans as well) by email:

Our Chefs' Recipe of the Month…

This is a great authentic chicken Balti you have to try. It has been adapted to suit our tastes, but we believe it is as good as that served up in Indian Restaurants.

Chicken Balti


1 tomato, peeled and chopped (or can of chopped tomatoes)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 inch ginger, peeled and grated (or ginger paste – you buy this from Supermarkets)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped and crushed with the back of your knife (or garlic paste – you again can buy this from Supermarkets)
2 chicken thighs, skin and bone removed, chopped into 1 inch chunks (thighs are cheaper and tastier)


1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (methi) – leave these out if you can’t find this
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masala (you can buy this already blended – but later we will show you how to make your own)
pinch of salt
2 small chopped green chillies (seeds taken out if you want reduces heat)
a handful of torn fresh chopped coriander


Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and fry, stirring occasionally until translucent and soft 5-7 minutes).

Add the chopped tomato and stir through. Then add the ginger, and the garlic.

Stir well for a minute or so and then add the turmeric, paprika and chopped chillies.

After a minute add the chicken. When it is completely white / browning add the cumin, garam masala and the dried fenugreek leaves. Stir through and add a glass of chicken stock (approx a wine glass / 200ml). Bring to the boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 5-8 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Top up with hot water from the kettle if you need to but bear in mind that the dish is meant to be quite dry.

Check the seasoning and add salt if necessary. Stir through the fresh coriander and serve immediately.

Eaten traditionally with naan bread but we also have white fluffy rice.

Note – you can vary this recipe by doing away with the chillies and adding 4 heaped tablespoons of coconut yogurt (Muller Light is ideal). It produces a more Southern Indian flavoured curry – a bit like a Korma curry.

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About David Biddle

David & Sandra Biddle have been boating for around 25 years. They have both made their careers out of cooking, and enjoy sharing their passion for food and good wine. Their tastes are wide ranging - from spicy, to Italian to good old English.