I don’t know that it’s possible to overstate how fond the Great British Public is of a Good Curry. Chicken tikka masala, in particular, has its supposed origins in a hybrid of authentic chicken tikka (pieces) and a can of Campbell’s tomato soup which is surely evidence that the great colonial experiment was successful…
I was reminded of how well Brits & Masala go together when, recently, and under considerable hunger-related duress, CB and I decided to visit a Subway. The inducement to such a decision obviously paid dividends when, while I was ordering a Subway Melt with peppered cheese, lightly toasted thank you, CB’s eyes lit upon the chicken tikka sub. “Get me one of those,” says CB from some distance away. “Are you sure?” I ask. CB replies that she is. There’s a short delay while the young mum in front dictates the exact salad toppings for her two dozen subs. The woman behind us huffs and puffs a bit. “What salad do you want on yours?” I ask. CB replies that she’ll have whatever I’m having. “Are you sure?” I ask. “I’m not having cucumber or any of that nonsense on it.” CB reconsiders: “Ok, I’ll have cucumber.” She comes a bit closer to the counter. “And some lettuce and tomato.” (I’m having none of these things). The woman behind us offers some advice: “There’s all sorts of choice, isn’t there? Difficult to know.” Yes, thank you. “What sauce?” I ask. CB replies – “a minty yoghurt or a raita”. As we all know, Subway doesn’t do anything like this. The lady behind us intervenes again: “Yes, chicken tikka really has its own flavour, doesn’t it?” Which is why, when we saw this chicken tikka masala recipe in a Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food, we knew we had to adapt it. The ingredients list looks long but there shouldn’t be anything on here that you’ll struggle to get and it’s such a delight to eat.
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp regular paprika
1/2 tsp garam masala. Homemade is best.
juice and zest of half a lemon, other half reserved
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, finely grated
3 generous tbsp natural yoghurt
400g chicken breast, cubed
3 green or yellow medium chillies, chopped into large chunks
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 fresh red chilli, finely sliced
15g fresh coriander (small bunch) – stalks and leaves separated
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garam masala + more to taste. Homemade is best
1/2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
3 tbsp ground almonds
400g tinned plum tomatoes (not the end of the world if you only have tinned)
400g light coconut milk
half a chicken stock cube
- Put all of the spices for the marinade in a pan and toast for 1 minute, if not new. Tip these into a large, non-reactive bowl with the lemon juice and zest, garlic, ginger, yoghurt, the chicken cubes and 1/2 tsp sea salt. Mix thoroughly. Cut the spent lemon half into large chunks and do the same with the unused half. Leave to marinate for between 4-24 hours. Once marinated, evenly skewer the chicken, lemon chunks and yellow/green chilli chunks onto kebab skewers and set aside while you prepare the rest.
- For the sauce, add the onions, garlic, chilli and coriander stalks to a medium heated heavy bottomed saucepan with a lid with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Cook down for 20 minutes until the onions are golden and caramelised. Stir frequently. Add the paprika, garam masala, ground coriander and turmeric and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the almonds. Everything should be quite dry by now. Add the tomatoes and crumble in the half stock cube with 150ml boiling water. Simmer for five minutes.
- Add the coconut milk and and simmer for 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, switch on your grill or heat your griddle and cook the chicken on the skewers until completely cooked through. Take care not to let any of the chicken or lemon bits burn. When cooked, slice the chicken and chillies straight into the sauce. Hold the lemons back and carefully squeeze out the sticky lemon flesh into the curry. Cook for 2 more minutes and then serve over steamed brown rice, dressed with the remaining coriander leaves and, if you like, a dob of natural yoghurt.
A happy return to Fiesta Friday, too!