Why chicken tikka masala is Britain’s no. 1 dish
When a dish is not considered to be authentic, like Chinese lemon chicken for example, is it right to say that it is inferior? I have always thought so… at least in the case of Chinese food. We’ve all had one of those terrible anglicised chicken stir-fries with thick gravies full of corn flour and MSG, but what about other cuisine that has been adjusted to appeal to western palates?
I made chicken tikka masala the other week, and yes, I am well aware that this dish is the Indian equivalent of that Chinese lemon chicken. A quick Google search even tells me that top food writers such as Charles Campion refer to it as “a dish invented in London in the Seventies so that the ignorant could have gravy with their chicken tikka.”
I love chicken tikka masala, does that make me ignorant? Perhaps, but nothing beats that roasted chicken with a spicy cream and tomato gravy, which makes each spoonful of rice a satisfying one. Maybe one day I’ll find a recipe for lemon chicken that is just as delicious!
Here’s the recipe:
Ingredients for marinating the chicken:
3-4 boneless chicken breasts, skins removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
250g thick natural yoghurt
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons chilli powder
2 teaspoons freshly cracked pepper
Skewers (If using wooden skewers completely submerge them in water for approx. 30 minutes. This will stop them from catching fire while grilling).
Ingredients for the tomato gravy:
1 can of tomatoes
250g heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 red chillies, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika powder
1 tablespoon of ghee or plain butter
Salt and pepper
Handful of coriander leaves/cilantro, chopped for garnish
Toasted sliced almonds for garnish
Lime slices for garnish
Fresh cucumber slices for garnish
1) Mix all of the ingredients for the marinade in a large bowl. Thoroughly mix until the chicken is nicely coated.
2) Cover and refrigerate overnight (can be for ½ hour if you’re pressed for time).
3) On the next day, either prepare your charcoal grill or heat up the grill function of your oven to high.
4) Thread the chicken pieces onto the skewers, discarding the marinade.
5) Grill the chicken evenly on all sides, until juices run clear – approx. 10 minutes.
6) To prepare the gravy, heat a large pan to medium and melt the ghee/clarified butter.
7) Sauté the garlic and chopped chillies until fragrant.
8) Sprinkle the ground cumin, paprika powder and a pinch of salt.
9) Sauté for a further minute or two until the mixture turns into a paste-like texture.
10) Pour in ¾ of the canned tomatoes, scraping the bottom of the skillet to deglaze it and to release any bits stuck to the pan.
11) Simmer uncovered for approx. 10-15 minutes on low heat until the sauces begins to thicken
12) Add the grilled chicken pieces and cream. Simmer for a further 10 minutes and keep tasting the mixture in case you want to add more tomatoes in it
13) Thicken the sauce further and heat the chicken and cream through.
14) Serve sprinkled with fresh chopped coriander leaves, toasted almonds, freshly squeezed lime and steamed Basmati rice. Serves 3-4