I could not not include a recipe for what has become the most famous Indian dish worldwide. Its story of origin varies. I was told this one…an English army officer returning home from active duty visited his local Indian restaurant (and there weren’t many around at the time). He demanded sauce with his chicken tikka, so the dutiful waiter trundled off to the kitchen to get some. The chef was fuming – tikka is always a dry dish – but to keep his customer happy he made a simple sauce from tomatoes and spices. He poured it over the chicken and, hey presto, chicken tikka masala was born! Pouring sauce over the cooked chicken rather than allowing raw chicken to cook in the sauce is what has made this dish the most scrutinised in Indian culinary history.
Recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala (Serves 4)
Prep time: 15 minutes, plus (preferably) marinating
Cook time: 30 minutes
6 - 8 boneless chicken thighs, skin removed and cut into finger-length pieces
2 tbsp natural yogurt
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 large onion, finely sliced
2 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
3 green chillies, 1 finely sliced and 2 stabbed with a knife
2 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
400g (14oz) can chopped tomatoes, or 400g (14oz) fresh tomatoes, chopped
15g (1/2oz) butter (optional)
6 tbsp double cream or natural yoghurt
G pinch of salt, or to taste
Sugar to taste
Lemon juice to taste
Fresh coriander to garnish
1. Mix the tikka paste ingredients together in a bowl, add the chicken and turn to coat well. If you have time, cover and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight.
2. Start making the masala by gently heating the oil in a saucepan. Add the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick and wait for the cardamoms to begin turning white.
3. Add the cumin seeds and when sizzling add the onion. Cook the onion for 5 minutes so that it turns translucent and starts to colour a little around the edges.
4. Stir in the garlic, ginger and chillies. While you leave them to soften for a minute, mix the garam masala, ground coriander and cumin with a few tablespoons of water. Add to the pan and stir well. After a minute, stir through the tomatoes and butter (if using).
5. Pour in 200ml (7fl oz) of water and leave the masala to simmer for about 15 minutes.
6. In the meantime, heat a griddle pan over a medium heat, or preheat the grill to medium, and cook the chicken tikka for about 10 minutes, turning often, or until cooked through.
7. Finish the masala sauce by stirring in the cream or yoghurt (to make it lighter). Taste and adjust the flavours with salt, sugar and lemon juice if you need to.
8. You can either add the chicken tikka to the sauce or pour the sauce over the chicken for a truly authentic chicken tikka masala.
9. Don’t forget to scatter over fresh coriander right at the end.