Put the ginger, chilies and water in a blender and purée until smooth.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a sauté pan or casserole large enough to hold all the ingredients. Sauté the onions over low heat, stirring frequently for 20 to 30 minutes or until they are soft and golden. Add the garlic and the curry powder and stir. Sauté for about 2 more minutes. Add the chili-ginger mixture and yogurt and season to taste with salt and pepper. This is the base sauce for your curry.
Heat the remaining oil in a sauté pan large enough to hold the chicken pieces in one layer or use a smaller pan and cook the chicken in batches. Sauté the chicken for about 3 minutes on each side, or until it is browned.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Add the browned chicken to the curry base and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender.
Put the cashews on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven for about 10 minutes or until golden and toasted. You don’t have to stir them.
Just before serving the curry, add the Garam Masala, the optional lemon juice, the cilantro and the cashews. Stir to combine and heat through for another 5 minutes.
Spoon some curry onto each of 4 warm dinner plates. Place a large spoonful of rice in the center of each plate. Serve with the chutney and mint raita on the side (recipes follow).
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the rice, salt and lemon peel. Bring back to a boil, stirring to combine. Lower the heat and cover. Simmer over a very low flame for about 14 minutes or until the rice is tender. Uncover the rice and stir with a fork to plump the rice and separate the grains.
If you have time, put the yogurt in a cheese cloth-lined colander and drain it in the refrigerator for at least one hour, preferably more. This will produce a thick yogurt, which when mixed with the cucumber will produce a thicker and less watery raita.
Squeeze the grated cucumber very well between your fingers to drain it. This prevents the raita from being too watery. Mix the cucumber with the yogurt, cumin and mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Raita means yogurt salad in India and it is often served with curries because it is a cooling accompaniment.
Put the onion, ginger, apricots, sugar, vinegar, water, curry powder, cardamom and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the chutney takes on the consistency of a jam. Stir the chutney from time to time to prevent it from burning. Cool. If you want a spicy chutney, add some minced chili pepper to the mixture.
If you buy good quality curry powder, you don’t need to mix your own. Curry powder should have a complex flavor and you need many spices to achieve this effect. I often “doctor” a good curry powder to suit my needs. For example, for yogurt-based curry, I add more cardamom and ground coriander. For tomato-based curry, I add more cumin seeds and turmeric.
Garam Masala is a hot Indian spice mixture that is added at the end of cooking to mellow the flavors. It contains the following spices: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom and black pepper.
To make about 1 cup of Garam Masala, grind the following in a blender: 25 cardamom pods, seeds only, 1/2 cup whole black peppercorns, 1/2 cup whole cumin seeds, 2 three-inch sticks of cinnamon, 4 to 6 whole cloves, 1/2 cup coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon ground mace and 6 to 8 bay leaves. If you want to reduce the heat of the Garam Masala, decrease the amount of black pepper.