Gopal’s stuffed chicken breast

Gopal Kulkarni has a CV which would get him a job in just about any restaurant or hotel in the world. In fact it did, from Paul Bocuse’s famed restaurant out of Lyon, to several huge hotels in England, India, Nigeria, and more, until finally he came to Australia to make his mark and his fortune. He finished in a place as far from the great hotels as imaginable — a tiny takeaway in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. The environment means nothing. The food he is cooking is as good as that from any five-star restaurant. I asked Gopal Kulkarni for the recipe for a delicious chicken dish, cooked quickly, and simply, in a spicy cream sauce. Here it is.

4 chicken breasts, skin kept on


black pepper


½ cup slivered almonds

paste of cashew nuts, made from ½ cup cashew nuts, whizzed

½ teaspoon mace

½ teaspoon nutmeg


black pepper

½ dozen dried dates, chopped roughly

¼ cup basil leaves

a little onion paste: the paste from cooked onions

juice of 1 lemon

onion, chopped finely touch of garlic, sliced finely

chicken stock or water


1 onions, chopped finely

2 cloves garlic, chopped finely

a little ginger, chopped finely

1 tablespoon sultanas

2 tablespoons fine broken cashews


black pepper

a little sweet fenugreek

½ teaspoon garam masala

pinch of chilli powder

1 cup cream


Season the chicken breasts well with salt and black pepper, slit the breast quite deeply on the side closest to the bone, and leave for an hour.


Make the stuffing. Mix together the almonds, cashew paste, mace, nutmeg, salt, black pepper, dates, basil leaves, onion paste, lemon juice, onion and garlic, and force one tablespoon of stuffing inside the breast. Press the sides to enclose the stuffing, and flour the breast lightly.


Fry very lightly in a little oil. There is no need to fry them hard, just enough to change the texture, slightly.


Arrange the breasts in a pan to go to the oven, and sit them in a little chicken stock, made from no more than a carcass and water, simmered for a couple of hours. Cook at 200°C for 25–30 minutes, testing on the way. They should be firm but give slightly to the touch.


Allow the breasts to cool in the stock. This can be done several hours before serving.


Make the sauce. Cook the onions and garlic in a little oil until softened and then add the cream, spices, nuts and fruit, until the cream thickens — about 5 minutes.


Re-heat the chicken breast in the microwave — about 3 minutes on high. It should be warmed through, not cooked further.


Remove the cream from the heat, and add the chicken, spooning the sauce over the top. Leave for a couple of minutes. Then serve.

Gopal’s garam masala

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

5 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons black peppercorns

1 teaspoon cardamom pods

5 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 teaspoon star anise

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon mace

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon dried bay leaves

1 teaspoon kabab chini (like juniper berries — if not available, ½ teaspoon juniper berries).

Place the lot on a baking tray and put in a 150°C oven for about 20 minutes, just enough to remove any extra moisture. Then whizz. The best tool for this is a coffee grinder. Gopal says this mixture has been developed over many years and suits his palate. To me garam masala (warm spice mix) is a mix of whatever spices you have, try together, and like.

WINE: A wood-matured dry white (chardonnay or semillon) or medium-bodied shiraz with some ‘black pepper’ spice character is what you need. For both styles, try something from Eden Valley in South Australia.