Chicken Tikka Masala – always a crowd pleaser

Chicken tikka masala and butter chicken are both firm curry house favourites here in the UK. They are very similar in that they both have a mild tomato sauce with Indian spices. The main difference is the amount of butter and cream. The butter chicken, as the name suggests has a lot more more butter and a less intense tomato sauce. It is also cooked in a pan where as the chicken tikka masala is charred and cooked in a tandoor or grill before it enters the sauce and pan.

To be honest, I rarely cook this type of curry and I have never seen any family members in India cook it either. Whilst cooking in the tandoor is very much Indian, the history of this curry is disputed with many saying that was ‘created’ for a Western palate by a British Pakistani chef in Scotland in the 1970’s whose customer requested a mild tomato sauce for their chicken tikka pieces. It was such a hit that it became a firm fixture on the menu with other curry houses following suit. I certainly remember it being a standard curry to order at university curry nights out.

Whether it is truly authentic or not it is much loved across the UK. It is creamy and more buttery than my usual curries, but eaten now and again is a complete joy.

 

 

Chicken Tikka Masala

Serves 4-6 (if serving with other dishes)

4 chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces

marinade

3 tbsp full fat natural yoghurt

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp ground paprika

1 tsp ground garam masala

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

juice from half a lemon

1 tsp salt

1 heaped tsp garlic paste

1 heaped tsp ginger paste

 

 

Creamy tomato sauce

1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or regular butter

2 tbsp oil

2 white onions, finely chopped

1 heaped tsp ginger paste

1 heaped tsp garlic paste

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground garam masala

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp ground paprika

1x tin tomatoes or 400g fresh tomatoes, blitzed

200ml water

1 tsp jaggery/brown sugar

1 tsp salt

pinch freshly ground black pepper

150ml double cream

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp dried methi/fenugreek leaves OR coriander leaves

  1. First you need to marinate the chicken. Mix all the marinade together and then cover tightly with cling film/foil and place in the fridge for an hour – to overnight.
  2. Spread your marinated chicken out on a large baking tray and brush with a little oil. Place under a hot grill (240 degrees C) for 10-15 minutes so that it begins to char. Turn over halfway so that it chars on all sides. It does not need to be cooked all the way through at this stage as it will finish off cooking in the sauce. Do keep an eye on it though when it is under the grill as it can char very quickly and you don’t want it to be completely burned.
  3. In a deep wide pan (a wok would work well) heat the ghee/oil and gently fry the onion so that it begins to bronze – this will take around 6 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic paste.
  4. Add all the spices followed by the blitzed tomatoes, black pepper, salt and jaggery/sugar and water. Allow to simmer on a gentle heat for 7 minutes, by which time the sauce will have thickened sufficiently.
  5. Add the chicken to the pan and coat in the tomato sauce. Gently pour in the double cream and the final tablespoon of butter and simmer on a low heat for  15 minutes. Taste test to see if more salt is required.
  6. Finally add the dried fenugreek or fresh coriander. Drizzle a little more double cream before serving.

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