Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala I was younger than 10 years of age when I first tasted Tikka Masala cooked by my Mom.  The tiny book of Indian Cuisine had been lying on a kitchen shelf for ages.  Since I enjoyed...

Chicken Tikka Masala
Chicken Tikka Masala

I was younger than 10 years of age when I first tasted Tikka Masala cooked by my Mom.  The tiny book of Indian Cuisine had been lying on a kitchen shelf for ages.  Since I enjoyed the art of cooking myself, I read through this tiny book hundreds of times and Tikka Masala always was the Indian recipe that intrigued me.  Curiosity initiated my search for the origins of this delicious dish and very often I came across the statement “the national British dish Tikka Masala”.  Confused by the statement, my research began.  Lots of theories and myths beginning as far back as 5000 years, the majority definitely untruths, but a lot of talk in India about tandoori day ovens and raising of chickens way back in the day, so tandoori masala seems to have been a part of a regular diet.  So, of course when the Scots arrived in India, they were offered this local dish, loved it and consequently brought the spices and recipe back to Britain, where not long after “Tikka Masala” was popular all around the country side.  “Tikka” meaning chunks of meat and “Masala” a mixture of spices, describes this dish to perfection.

As we get started with the details to create this marvelous dish, understand that you can adjust the recipe to your taste, more spicy or maybe more creamy.  In India, flavors vary from one region to another.  Your preference in rice can differ also or you can serve it with “chapati”  which is a flat, unleavened, disk shaped bread of Northern India, made of wheat flour, water and salt.  Long grain white rice, maybe with some wild rice added giving it a slightly nutty taste which matches nicely with the spicy sauce.  Basic basmati rice is also a member long grain rice family and would work as well.  In any case, if rice is being used, boil the rice with a whole peeled onion and two cloves of garlic to enhance flavour.  A pinch of saffron or turmeric is often added to enhance colour, but the white rice makes a nice contrast to the orange sauce of the dish.  “Enjoy your Meal” or as they say in India….”Khaanekaalutfuthaae”(thanks Google Translate).

Chicken Tikka Masala

Ingredients:

  • 500 g chicken breasts

Marinade:

  • 100 g creamy yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Chili, according to your taste

In a bowl, mix together the yogurt, oil, lemon, coriander, paprika and chili to intensity and taste.

Cut the chicken into bit size pieces, refrigerate marinating pieces  for about 4 hours to tenderize.  Bring to room temperature before frying.

Tomatoe
Tomato

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 whole cinnamon
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • A pinch of turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 200 ml coconut cream
  • 1 large tomato, peeled and diced
  • 50 ml tomato puree
  • 2 boiled eggs

Chopped Onion
Chopped Onion

Instructions:

  1. In a large pan heat the oil, add the cumin, bay leaf and cinnamon.  Add the chopped onion, garlic, chili, ginger and let cook on medium heat for 5 minutes or until the onions are tender.
  2. Add the garam masala, turmeric and let the flavours meld for about a minute.
  3. Add the tomato puree, the diced tomato and cook until the tomato dices fall apart and the sauce thickens.
  4. In a medium size pan over medium to high heat, fry the chicken pieces on all sides, add a little water and simmer until tender.
  5. Mix with sauce in larger pan and cook until sauce thickens about 15 minutes.  Add the coconut cream and just mix (boiling could shrink the sauce).
  6. Serve with your rice sprinkled with hard boiled eggs, diced (the egg may also be incorporated into the sauce before serving too).

Why the meat is being marinated?

There are two main reasons for marinating you meat, to make in tender and to enhance the flavors.

  • The two main reason to marinate meat is to make it tender and to enhance the flavours.
  • Each marinade consists of some kind of acid.  In this recipe we used lemon juice.  Others may use vinegar or wine.  Acid is used to break down the protein bands of the meat which is called denaturing. Another way of breaking down the connective tissue of meat is to add ingredients that include natural tenderizing enzymes like pineapple, papaya, ginger or kiwi.
  • Oil is another ingredient, but red meat marinades don’t include that much oil as they are heavy in fat content themselves.
  • As flavour enhancers you can use different herbs and spices, garlic etc….
  • Marinating times differ from recipe to recipe, but if you’re marinate includes acid, salt or alcohol, do not exceed 5 hours of marinating as it may destroy the meat and make the surface mushy.
  • Salt generally is not being added to marinates as it tends to dry meat out.
  • Always put your marinating meat in the fridge as it will prevent bacteria from developing.
  • Set your meat at room temperature before heat processing.