Recipe – Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka is a dish of delectable chicken pieces marinated in yoghurt and spices, cooked in a blistering hot tandoor on skewers. I would venture that most people have eaten it and loved it and that no one will ever argue that it’s origins are not the Indian subcontinent ;as the dish has a history dating back hundreds of years and the recipes to prove it.

The rich velvet creamy tomato based masala sauce that transforms chicken tikka into chicken tikka Masala is however open for debate.

Ask a handful of people in the UK and they will declare it as British as fish and chips and twice as tasty. An unofficial national dish that has the british beaming with pride ,showcasing Britain’s long history of absorbing and adapting external influences.

If you will indulge in a little fantasy it’s easy to believe the whispers that it was invented by a British Pakistani chef working in Glasgow ,who legend tells while eating a bowl of tomato soup had a customer complain his chicken curry was dry, his response was to simply tip the soup into the dry dish and sent it back. It was an instant hit and drew people from across Glasgow and the rest they say is history.

I do love this story , as a child growing up I had the idea in my mind that chicken tikka Masala was spiced chicken cooked I’m Heinz cream of tomato soup. Perhaps my naive child wasn’t so far off after all.

Nailing down chicken tikka is no easy task ,It doesn’t help that there are as many recipes for chicken tikka masala as it seems there are days in the year, some of which seem to only share the chicken tikka as the common ingredient. I’ve had good ones , I’ve had bad ones , I’ve had mediocre ones but I keep coming back because when you get a good one there’s something magical about the rich , velvety , warming comfort it has the power to illicit.

In a world where comfort seems in short supply I offer my recipe for Chicken tikka masala. ironically stitched together from the recipes taught me by various indian chefs I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the years.

note: our recipe uses a home made Garam masala blend but you can buy some chicken tikka masala premixed spice blends that will save you some time but we prefer old school toasting and grinding of our spices.

Garam masala spice blend

25 gms coriander seeds
25 gms cardamom pods
25 gms cinnamon stick
20 gms black peppercorns
5 gms cloves
35 grams cumin seeds
10 gm star anise
20 gm mace
2 dried bay leaves

Toast all of the above spices in a baking pan at 120c for 1.5 hours and blend in a spice mill or coffee grinder . Remember to Sieve the spice to remove and large pieces and store in a airtight container

Toasting the spices

Chicken tikka marinate

2kg chicken thigh (skin off) cut into 1/4
1 garlic clove , peeled and minced
5 cm piece of ginger, peeled and minced
2 Tbls garam masala (mix from above )
1 tsp sweet paprika ( or chilli powder)
500gm greek yoghurt
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek leaves (Kasoori menthi)

Mince the garlic & ginger with 1 tsp of salt & place in a ziploc bag with the trimmed chicken thighs and marinate in the fridge overnight.
The following day remove the chicken, drain off any water and brush off the garlic & ginger.
Mix the chicken with the remaining marinade ingredients listed above and put it back into the ziploc .Then it’s back into the fridge again for 24 hours.

Yoghurt and spice marinate

Grilling the chicken tikka

Skewered chicken for the grill

I Grilled my chicken on skewers on my Weber Grill at full blast around 350c for 6 minutes per side.

Grilling the chicken

If your using oven, place chicken on a baking trays on a rack close to the grilling element. Cooking chicken for 6 minutes per side until lightly charred on the outside and the chicken juices run clear. 12 – 15 minutes per tray

Masala sauce

2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
50 grams ghee or butter
50gm olive oil
10 grams ground chili powder
2 large onions diced
5 cm ginger peeled and sliced
3 Tbls tomato paste
750gm 1/2 cut cherry tomato or 3 tins tomato )
250gm red capsicum
125ml chicken stock (or water)
2 tablespoon garam masala
2 teaspoon ground fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 Tbls coconut cream (to finish)
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander (to finish)
Making the sauce:

To start I rub my tomato & capsicum with a little oil and slow roast at 120c for 1.5 hours to release there natural sweetness but you can skip this if you don’t have the time. Place the capsicums in a bowl and leave for 15 minutes. peel the skins from the capsiums and dispose

Place the tomatos and capsicums (as well as any water from the baking trays into a wide based pot and add the chicken stock and enough water to just cover .. put the coriander seeds,cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds in some muslin cloth , tie it up to make a spice bag and submerge. simmer with the lid on for 30 minutes

Heat ghee with olive oil over medium heat in a wide based pot and add the onions. Cook onions over low heat for about 15 -20 minutes stirring frequently until soft and lightly caramelized.

Add tomato paste and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Add ground chili powder, sliced ginger, Garam masala and cook for for 3 minutes till fragrant. Add tumeric ,cook for 1 minute ( don’t overtemper tumeric as it can become bitter)

Remove the spice bag and add tomatoes & red capisum stock to the tempered spices. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Blend with a stick blender till smooth and velvety.

Finished Masala sauce

Taste & season with salt and brown sugar if required

Add in the grilled chicken tikka and simmer for 10 minutes, to finish the dish stir in the coconut milk as well as 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves. Serve with some steamed basmati rice , dress with chopped coriander and a dollop of yoghurt.

Chicken tikka Masala

i hope you enjoy our adaption of a traditional – very non traditional – dish of chicken tikka masala, who knows maybe it’s even better than the original Glasgow recipe.


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