Sunday, April 26, 2009

Not Quite Indian Food - Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala isn't actually an Indian recipe, but the flavors are such that you wouldn't know that it comes from Great Britain. An amazingly popular dish, “chicken tikka” refers to the chicken being marinated in yogurt and spices before cooking. A “masala” is simply a mix of spices, referring to the sauce.

Normally this curry is served with turmeric rice or nan bread, although it's just as good with white rice. The recipe calls for chicken breasts, but you could use the thigh meat or even pork and still get good results. If you can't find garam masala, curry powder can be used instead. Try them both and find out which one you like better.

The first time I made this recipe, I followed the recipe exactly. It was way to salty – enough to make you gag, salty. I've dropped the quantities down and allowed for adding more salt at the end as needed. Much better.

Keep the ingredients for the marinade and the sauce separate. It will make things easier.

Equipment needed:
cutting boardkitchen knife2 frying pans
measuring spoonsmeasuring cupsmixing bowl
large spoon


4 chicken breasts, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
3 tablespoons light olive oil

For the marinade

1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon garam masala
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
6 tablespoons plain yogurt

For the sauce

3 tablespoons canola oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
32 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained well
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon garam masala
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons water
chopped parsley for garnish
Extra salt as needed


To make the marinade, put the salt, garam masala, garlic, ginger, and yogurt into a mixing bowl and blend with a fork. Add the chicken pieces and toss them in the marinade, coating them completely. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 15 minutes.

To make the sauce, heat the canola oil in the first frying pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and saute until soft and slightly brown. Add the remaining garlic and ginger and saute for a couple of minutes. Stir frequently so you don't burn the garlic. Add the tomatoes and saute just for a few moments until most of the moisture has evaporated.

Stir in the cumin powder, garam masala, salt and sugar. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue to saute for about 2 minutes. Stir in the water and simmer, uncovered, about 2 minutes more.

In a second frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons of light olive oil over medium heat. Add the marinated chicken and gently saute until completely cooked. Don't bother wiping off the marinade, just toss it all in.

Add the sauce mixture to the chicken and mix well. Adjust the salt and other spices, as needed. Bring the sauce to a brief boil and remove from the heat.

Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and garnish with chopped parsley and additional yogurt, if you want to tone down the spices. Serve with turmeric rice, white rice, or with nan bread.

Serves 6

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