Chicken Tikka Masala

This dish is the one that’s been most requested by my readers since I started this blog 8 months ago.  I’ve resisted and resisted for the simple reason that it’s not an Indian dish, but a British variation on Indian cuisine – but the time has come to listen to the masses and give the people what they want.  Chicken Tikka Masala (CTM) is essentially made up of two elements: the chicken tikka (marinaded chicken that’s traditionally cooked in a tandoori oven) and the masala (even though the word technically means ‘spice’ it refers to the the tomato based sauce that the chicken tikka is served in).  In this recipe, I break down both parts and how to combine them to create CTM…first, the Chicken Tikka

Chicken Tikka Ingredients:

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1kgm of chicken, skinned.  I’m using chicken legs, as I prefer the taste and it’s handy having food on a pre-made stick.
1 cup plain, unsweetened yoghurt
1 cm ginger, peeled and grated
2 tsp cinnamon (or 1 tsp of ground cinnamon)
2 star anise (optional – but gives a lovely aromatic, anise flavour)
1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder – fiery stuff
3 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
Juice of half a lemon
3 tsp salt (or to taste – but don’t skimp on the salt; it’ll help with the marinade)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Chicken Tikka Method:

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Start by grinding any whole spices you have to a powder.

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Combine spices and ginger into the yoghurt and mix to create a rich marinade.

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Squeeze over your lemon juice.

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I like to marinade in ziplock bags, to keep everything clean.  You can also marinade in a normal bowl – just make sure all the chicken is covered.  I’ve skinned my chicken as this ensures the marinade permeates deep into the flesh.

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Once you have all your chicken marinaded, put it in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.  Some will notice that the colour isn’t that gaudy bright red you find in some restaurants.  That colour is food colouring – feel free to put it in, but I don’t see the point.  Traditionally, the red from Chicken Tikka comes from the fiery chilli and paprika paste – just up the quantities, but it’ll likely burn the mouths of most people not used to the spices of India.  You can also add in a couple of tablespoons of tomato puree, if you want.

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Once marinaded, grill on your BBQ or under a hot grill [broiler] to build up a good char on the chicken.  This all adds to the taste.  Obviously, make sure it’s cooked through.  I served most of the chicken I made like this, rather than in a sauce – but for those after a sauce, this comes next 🙂

Masala Ingredients:

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2 cups of tomato passata and some small fresh tomatoes (alternatively, you can just use a couple of cans of chopped tomatoes, or even a can of tomato soup)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup of fresh cream
Some Chicken Tikka
2 tsps ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp chilli powder (to taste)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of water

Masala Method:

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Gently fry your onions and garlic in a little oil until translucent.

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Add in all your spices and mix to create a rich spice mix.  If you need more oil, add it in to make sure it doesn’t dry out and burn.

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Add in your tomatoes, tomato passata, and your cup of warm water.  Mix thoroughly and bring to the boil.

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Reduce the heat to a simmer and add in your Pre-cooked chicken – we also added in some shredded green capsicum (bell pepper) to add a little more vibrancy to the dish.

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Cover the dish and allow to simmer for 20 mins.  The longer you leave this on a low heat the more likely your chicken will adopt the flavour of the masala and vice versa.  Don’t let the mix dry out, though.  If you plan to cook for longer than 20 mins, then keep adding in a little water to keep it a smooth texture.

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Just before serving, add in your cream and mix through – this lightens the taste and colour as well as adding a lovely rich texture.

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Serve on basmati rice and some naan bread. Enjoy!

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