Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Chicken Tikka Masala...Celebrating National Curry Week!!

Chicken Tikka MasalaIt's National Curry week in Britain this week and it is but natural that Butter Chicken for this Delhi girl will change to Chicken Tikka Masala ‘cause “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, rightJ...a couple of differences between the original Butter Chicken (although there are a million different versions of Butter Chicken floating around, each one claiming to be authentic) and the Brit version of it – mustard oil is skipped  and onions are added (and also added is an extra dose of sugar and cream!!) The one thing I refuse to do is use chicken breast for this – my conscience didn’t allow me to use chicken breast in a curry!! So here goes, my version of the Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Thighs Fillets, boneless and skinless, 500  gms/ about 6-7

First Marination:

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt, ½ tsp

Second Marination:

  • Fresh Ginger paste, 1 tbsp
  • Fresh Garlic paste, 1 tbsp
  • Kashmiri Red Chili powder, 1 tbsp (for colour, or use paprika)
  • Cumin powder, 1 tsp
  • Garam masala powder, 1 tsp
  • Tomato paste, 1 tsp (helps with the colour, optional)
  • Plain Greek Yogurt, 4 tbsp (or hang normal yogurt/dahi in a cheesecloth for an hour or so to drain out the water and then use)
  • Oil, 1 tsp

For the sauce:

  • Onions, finely chopped, 1 small
  • Tomatoes, finely chopped, 400 gms/ about 4-5 medium size
  • Tomato paste, 1 tbsp (you can substitute with 2 tbsp of packaged tomato puree or even some tomato ketchup. If using ketchup, go easy on the sugar or may just have to skip the sugar later)
  • Green cardamom, 2-3
  • Black Cardamom, 1(optional but gives a nice smoky taste)
  • Cloves, 3-4
  • Cinnamon, 1” stick
  • Fresh Ginger paste, 1 tbsp
  • Fresh Garlic paste, 1 tbsp
  • Water, 1 cup/250ml + ½ cup or more/less as needed
  • Ghee/Butter, 2 tbsp + 1 tbsp
  • Kashmiri Red Chili powder, 1 tbsp (for colour or use paprika)
  • Green chilies, split into two, 1-2 (remove seeds and membrane if you want)
  • Red Chili powder, ½ tsp or to taste (for heat)
  • Sugar or Honey, ½ - 1 tsp or to taste ( depends on how tart the tomatoes are)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Garam masala powder, ½ tsp
  • Kasoori methi/Dried fenugreek leaves, 1 tsp (dry roast in a pan or microwave for about 20 seconds and crush between your palms into a fine powder)
  • Single Cream, 3-4 tbsp
  • Lemon juice, if needed
  • Fresh coriander and/or fresh green chilies to garnish (optional)


Slash the chicken thighs at an angle 3-4 times to ensure the marinade will seep in. Put the chicken in a non reactive bowl and add lemon juice and salt. Mix well and leave to marinate for about half an hour.

Whip all the ingredients mentioned under the second marinade list in a small bowl. Add to the chicken, stir well to coat, cover and leave to marinate in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 4-5 hours. Bring the chicken to room temperature before cooking.

Grind the cinnamon, cloves and cardamom seeds to a smooth fine powder using a pestle and mortar or a spice/coffee grinder. (If you don’t have either, you can add the whole spices while cooking the onions and fish them out before blending the sauce)

Heat 2 tbsp ghee in a large non stick pan over medium low heat. If using whole spices, add now and let them crackle in the oil for about 10 seconds. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and fry till fragrant.

Add the onions and fry until soft and starting to turn golden brown. Add in the tomatoes, tomato paste and the ground cardamom, clove and cinnamon powder.
Mix well and cook down the tomatoes till the release oil on the sides of the pan, about 15-20 minutes. Keep stirring and cook for a further 10 minutes or so till the colour of the tomatoes darkens a little more.

Add in 1 cup of water, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Switch off the heat and let the sauce cool a bit. If you have used whole spices, fish them out of the sauce now.

Using am immersion blender or food processor, puree the sauce until smooth and then pass through a fine mesh sieve to remove any seeds or skin that may have remained. Discard the solids and set the liquid aside. 

Meanwhile, heat your grill/broiler to the highest setting or heat the oven to 240 C. Place the chicken on a foil lined baking sheet and place the tray on the topmost level in the oven. Cook for about 4–5 minutes on each side, until nicely charred at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes before cutting into bite sized chunks. The chicken will still be pink inside – it will be cooked in the curry later.

Heat the remaining 1 tbsp ghee/butter on low heat. Add in the Kashmiri red chili powder and green chilies. Sauté on low heat for about 8-10 seconds – adding Kashmiri red chili powder at this stage in oil gives a deeper colour to the dish but don’t allow it to burn.

Add the pureed sauce back into the pan with about ½ cup of water, bring to a boil on high heat and then allow to simmer for 4–5 minutes.

Check for seasonings and add salt, sugar, and red chili powder (and more Kashmiri red chili powder if needed to get the colour you want).

Add in the chicken chunks, half of the cream, fenugreek leaves, garam masala powder and simmer stirring often for 4-5 minutes or until the chicken is completely cooked and the sauce consistency is to your liking.

Stir in the remaining cream. Taste and adjust the balance if needed by adding more salt, sugar, lemon juice or cream. 

Garnish with chopped coriander and/or fresh green chilies and serve hot with naan or paranthas.


  • The amount of Kashmiri Red Chili powder you need to use will depend on the tomatoes and the final colour of the dish you are looking for. Please do adjust to your liking.