Probably created in Britain, chicken tikka masala, or CTM as it’s often called, is easily the most popular Indian curry in the UK today. And yet, no one is very clear about its origins. It is possible that a chef in Birmingham, with too many pieces of tandoor grilled chicken (“tikkas”) left over, decided to reheat them in a quick stir-fried curry sauce. Whatever its origin, it is here to stay.
The tikkas need to marinate for six to eight hours. Serve with Indian bread or rice. I prefer chicken thighs, but you can use breasts if you like.
For the chicken tikka
boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs 675g, cut into 2½cm pieces
salt 1¼ teaspoon
lemon juice 3 tablespoons
root ginger 1 tablespoon, peeled, finely grated
garlic 2 cloves, finely grated or crushed
floor cumin 1 tsp
peppers 1 tsp
chili dust ½–¾ teaspoon
flagellation cream 6 tablespoons
garam seasoning ½ teaspoon
olive either sunflower oil 3 tablespoons
for the masala
olive or sunflower oil 4 tablespoons
onions 140g, cut in half and thinly sliced
ginger root 1 tablespoon, peeled, finely grated
garlic 5–6 cloves, crushed
ground coriander 1 tablespoon
turmeric ½ teaspoon
chili dust ¾ teaspoon
peppers 2 teaspoons
yoghurt 4 tablespoons
Tomatoes 2 medium, peeled and very finely chopped
chicken stock 350ml
salt ¼ teaspoon, or to taste
garam seasoning ¼ teaspoon
cilantro leaves 4 tablespoons, chopped
Start by marinating the chicken tikka. Place chicken in a non-reactive container and rub in salt and lemon juice. Lightly prick the chicken pieces with the tip of a knife and rub in the seasonings again, then let sit for 20 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, cumin, paprika, chili powder, cream, and garam masala. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate 6-8 hours (longer won’t hurt).
When you are ready to cook, prepare the masala: Pour the 4 tablespoons of oil into a large skillet with a lid, preferably non-stick, and place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions. Stir and fry until golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and continue to fry, stirring, for one minute. Add the ground coriander, turmeric, chili powder, and paprika. Stir for 10 seconds, then add a tablespoon of yogurt. Stir and fry until absorbed. Add the remaining yogurt this way, one tablespoon at a time.
Now put the tomatoes. Fry them for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they turn pulpy. Add broth and salt, and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. The sauce should become thick. Add the garam masala and coriander leaves, taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.
Shortly before eating, preheat the grill to its highest temperature. Thread chicken onto 2 to 4 skewers (flat spade-shaped skewers are best). Brush with the 3 tablespoons of oil and balance the skewers on the edge of a shallow baking pan, so the meat is suspended and not touching the pan. Place them about 5 inches (13 centimeters) from the heat source and grill for 6 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned, cooked through, and charred in places. (Cut a large piece of chicken down the center to check for any trace of pink.)
When the tikkas are cooked, reheat the sauce and add the chicken. Serve immediately.
From Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Nation by Madhur Jaffrey (Ebury Press, £20)