Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Chicken tikka masala

A common misconception is that chicken tikka masala is an Indian dish - it's actually British! An even more common misconception is that anyone really cares. I'm rather proud of this curry as I've been experimenting with different versions for a couple of years and this is now the one I make every time! The spices add plenty of flavour and heat but not so much that the taste of the chicken is overpowered.

I strongly suggest you use chicken leg pieces on the bone rather than the breast fillets that everyone seems to use; it takes a bit longer to cook this way but the improved flavour and moisture is well worth it. This recipe will serve about 4 people.

Chicken marinade ingredients:

  • 1.5kg chicken leg pieces (thighs are the best)
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsps coriander seeds
  • Juice of half a decent-sized lemon
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric

Other ingredients:

  • 1 400g tin of chopped italian tomatoes
  • Handful of fresh coriander leaves
  • 1/4tsp garam masala
  • 1 5cm piece of root ginger
  • 2 green chillies
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 8 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cinnamon shards
  • About 2 tbsps groundnut oil
  • Plain flour for dusting
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 red onions
  • Plain boiled rice and/or naan bread, to serve


  1. Toast the dry marinade ingredients lightly in a frying pan for about 10-20 seconds until they're fragrant, then transfer them to a pestle and mortar and crush them into a mixture. Mix in the lemon and rub the mixture into the chicken pieces. Cover them and leave them in the fridge overnight.
  2. Get the chicken out of the fridge, ready to adjust to room temperature.
  3. Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan on a medium heat. Peel and dice the onions. Peel and chop the garlic and ginger finely, then chop the chilli. Add the whole spices and cook for about a minute until they're fragrant, then add the ginger, chilli and garlic to the pan for about 30 seconds. Add the garam masala for a further ten seconds before adding the onions. cook gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes.
  5. Turn the pan up to a medium-high heat. Dust the chicken pieces with flour and season them with a little salt and pepper, then place them skin side down in the pan. Brown them on all sides (should take about 3 minutes per side - try not to disturb them too much while this is going on). Chop the coriander leaves finely, stir them into the mixture and carefully pour boiling water into the pan until the chicken is almost covered.
  6. Bring the sauce to the boil, then reduce it to a simmer, cover the pan and let it cook for about 30 minutes until the chicken pieces are cooked all the way through and the sauce has reduced.
  7. Serve with fluffy basmati rice and/or naan bread.

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