Monday, 19 December 2011

Tikka Masala Chicken

As I mentioned before, my boyfriend loves spicy food, and he introduced me to the wonder that is curry. Of course not everyone handles spices like he does: some of us have sensitive taste buds that could be shocked into oblivion by a first encounter with an extremely hot Indian treat. Luckily, there are plenty of mild curries out there that can warm us from the inside out without making us feel like we are going to self-combust. Even when it comes to the spicier curries, I prefer to tone it done a wee bit because I love to taste the great variety of different flavors within a dish. And many yummy things are thrown in a curry; it would be a shame to drown out any of those flavors!

Curries make amazing winter food (and comfort food, for that matter), not just because of the spices, but also because they are generally really rich and full of chunks of veggies. Served with rice, they can be a complete meal, totally satisfying and very tasty. I prefer the creamier ones with chicken and the more robust blends with pork or lamb, but all the curry recipes I post are easily veganized by substituting the meat for tofu. I've veganized all my curries at one point or another, and I always loved the result. Just adjust your cooking time, as tofu doesn't need to cook as long as dense meat cubes! I'll usually make sure my pieces of tofu are nicely browned on a few sides, and let the curry simmer for 15 to 20 minutes: it does the trick.

Tikka Masala is a lovely mild curry that can make a great introduction to making Indian food at home. You need few ingredients and the method is very simple. It's a curry that is incredibly popular in Britain, so the Indian authenticity of tikka masala is as debated as the true blue Chinese origins of General Tao chicken. But hey, they both taste awesome, so let's enjoy!

As with my previously posted Kashmiri Masala, I recommend you use Patak's curry paste for this recipe. The main spices in Tikka are chile, paprika and cayenne, and the paste in wonderfully fragrant and gooey.

Use this curry when you need an elegantly presented, super-easy to make meal. It's incredible what some slivered almonds, a dollop of plain yogurt and some lemon wedges can do to make this dish gorgeous!

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 medium yellow onions
1 fresh red chile
1 thumb-size piece of fresh ginger root
1 small bunch of fresh cilantro
Peanut of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon of butter
1/2 cup Tikka Masala paste
Sea salt and ground pepper
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
1 cup natural yogurt
1 small handful of sliced almonds
1 lemon

Slice the chicken breasts lengthways into 3/4 inch strips. Peel, halve and finely slice the onions. Finely slice the chile. Peel and finely slice the ginger. Pick the cilantro leaves and set aside, then finely chop the stalks. Put a large casserole-type pan on medium heat and add a couple of glugs of peanut oil and the butter. Add the onions, chile, ginger and cilantro stalks and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and golden. Add the curry paste and the chicken strips. Stir well to coat everything in the paste, and carefully season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and the coconut milk. Fill one of the empty cans with water and carefully pour it into the pan and stir again. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on, stirring occasionally. Add water if it seems to be drying out. When the meat is cooked and tender, taste and add a bit more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with basmati rice, a few dollops of yogurt, a sprinkling of almonds, the cilantro leaves as garnish, and lemon wedges to squeeze over.

I was out of yellow onions that night, so I used a red onion, which gave the dish a pink hue, and a slightly sweeter taste than usual, but I do love the piquant taste of red onions, so there were no complaints. Cooked in this rich and creamy sauce, the chicken strips become very tender. It's a beautiful dinner for a cold evening, and it tastes delicious reheated, so save the leftovers for the next day!

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