Chicken tikka masala is as Indian and as non-Indian you can get at the same time. Developed originally in Britain to satisfy the population’s craving for mild curry, tikka masala holds a prominent place in Indian restaurants around the world. Its beauty lies in the fact that it is quite easy to prepare at home as well.
Tikka masala is a tangy and creamy tomato based curry loaded with chunks of marinated and grilled chicken. Most people have definite ideas on how they like their tikka masala. You can go more creamy than tangy or vice versa. I personally feel that adding loads of cream and making it richer veers dangerously close to making a murg makhni or butter chicken curry. But to each his own.
The flavors of chicken tikka are quite simple. Cumin (jeera), coriander (dhania), ginger, garlic and yogurt are mixed to form a marinade, the chicken is liberally coated in it, allowed to rest and grilled till slightly charred.
Fret not if you do not have an open grill, a few skewers and a hot oven are all you need. Look at that gorgeous char, will you?!
I skewered and grilled the chicken along with some red bell peppers. The tikka kebabs are quite delicious on their own or dotted lightly with some kind of chutney or dip.
This time, I made our favorite roasted red pepper raita to go with the kebabs. It was absolutely delicious, I almost didn’t want to put the chicken in the curry!
Speaking of which, start the curry/sauce while the chicken is in the oven. I would advise grinding the onions, ginger and garlic together to a paste-like consistency, so that the curry ends up velvety smooth, just like how it is supposed to be. If you are like my hubby and feel a curry is no good unless it has heat, feel free to add ground black peppercorns and/or chilies too. Nothing wrong in customizing a recipe to suit your palette. Isn’t that the whole point of home-cooking?
Now, let us get on with the recipes for chicken tikka kebabs, chicken tikka masala and the red pepper dip, shall we?
OVEN GRILLED CHICKEN TIKKA KEBABS
You will need:
For the marinade,
- Ginger and garlic paste – 1 1/2 tbsp
- Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
- Cumin powder – 1 tsp
- Coriander powder – 2 tsp
- Garam masala powder – 1 tsp
- Yogurt – 1 cup (yogurt must be thick and not too sour)
- Lemon juice – from half a lemon
For the tikka kebabs,
- Chicken – 2lbs, skinless and boneless breast or thigh pieces, cut into small chunks
- Red bell pepper – 1 large, de-seeded and cut into chunks
- Wooden or metal skewers – as needed
- Mix the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat thoroughly. Cover tightly with cling wrap and refrigerate at least 1-2 hours or 4-6 hours, if you have time.
- As for the red peppers, I prefer to leave them plain, though you could marinate them too if you like.
- When you are ready to grill the chicken, immerse the wooden skewers in water for 15-20 minutes. Skip this step if you use metal skewers.
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 deg.F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack on top.
- Thread chicken and red peppers alternately on each skewer, leaving 1/4″ gap between each piece. Arrange skewers on the wire rack and cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes, broiling them for the last 5-7 minutes to develop some charred spots on the chicken and peppers. Don’t worry if chicken seems slightly under-done, you can finish cooking them in the sauce. If you wish to serve the chicken tikka kebabs as such, cook for a total of 25-30 minutes or till done.
- Remove and keep warm covered in foil.
- Reserve chicken kebabs for the curry or serve them with a chutney or dip like this roasted red pepper raita or yogurt dip.
CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA/CURRY
You will need:
- Coriander powder – 1 tbsp
- Cumin powder – 2 tsp
- Red chili pepper – 1 tsp
- Black pepper corns – 6-8 (optional)
- Ghee or butter – 3 tbsp
- Onion – 1 large, roughly diced
- Ginger – a 1-in piece
- Garlic – 5-6 cloves
- Tomato puree – 2 cups (canned or from fresh blanched tomatoes)
- Tomato – 1, chopped
- Water – 2 cups
- Salt – to taste
- Cilantro leaves – a handful, chopped
- Dried fenugreek leaves or kasuri methi – a generous pinch (optional)
- Grilled chicken and red bell pepper tikka – see recipe above
- Whole milk (or half and half or heavy cream) – a few tablespoons
- In a skillet or large pan, dry roast the coriander powder, cumin powder, red chili powder and black pepper corns till lightly darkened and fragrant (use low heat and do not burn). Cool and grind in a mortar-pestle or spice grinder. Keep aside. (This step is purely optional, but dry roasting brings out the flavors of the spices. You can also use whole coriander seeds, cumin seeds, dry red chilis and black pepper corns and make the spice powder from scratch.)
- Grind the onions, ginger and garlic to a smooth paste and keep aside.
- In a large pan, heat the oil/butter. Add the onion-ginger-garlic paste and saute on medium heat till it turns golden.
- Add the roasted spice powders and saute for a minute.
- Now add the tomato puree and chopped tomato and cook till the gravy thickens and the oil starts to separate. Add water, a generous sprinkling of cilantro (reserving some for garnish) and crushed kasuri methi. Bring it to a gentle boil, season with salt and simmer for 6-8 minutes.
- Remove the grilled chicken and red pepper pieces from the skewers and add to the sauce. Simmer for 5-7 minutes, ensuring chicken is fully cooked and absorbs all the flavors from the sauce.
- Stir in a few tablespoons of whole milk, half and half or heavy cream. Mix thoroughly and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.
- Serve hot with rice, pulao, naan, rotis or other Indian flat breads.
- You would find that tikka kebabs served in restaurants have a vibrant red color, which is nothing but food color mixed in the marinade. I never use them though you could if you wanted to.
- For a mild chicken tikka masala, skip the black pepper or add more cream.
- Kasuri methi or dried fenugreek leaves add a distinct flavor and aroma to many North Indian dishes. I usually do not use it. So there is no need to worry if you don’t have it or cannot find it, the curry will be fine without it.
- Red bell pepper adds a lovely flavor profile to the tikka curry, but you can use only chicken if you don’t have bell peppers.
- Use marinated and lightly grilled paneer or tofu chunks for vegetarian/vegan versions.
ROASTED RED PEPPER RAITA OR YOGURT DIP
Find recipe here.
So, how about some succulent chicken tikka kebabs and chicken tikka masala?
Serve with lime wedges and whole wheat rotis or maybe a simple rice pulao. Enjoy!
Tell me, do you like chicken tikka? Ever tried making it at home? Do give this recipe a try and let me know how you like it!
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