Chicken Tikka Masala + Garam Masala

Sunday, 17 April 2016

I went to an Indian wedding reception once. It was aaaahh-maaay-ziing. It was probably my first real intro to Indian food (it set the bar high). Andrew's cousin married a girl from PEI, but her immediate and extended family came from India. They were married in India, but had a reception in PEI.

The reception was an education.

Everyone was blindingly beautiful in their intricate, jewel-toned, embellished saris and delicate, but stacked, gold jewelry. If we had attended the real deal in India, all the women's appendages would have been showcasing carefully applied henna and the bride and groom decked out in flowers.

I was well underdressed in my floral dress from Smart Set.

We received an Indian dancing tutorial at the beginning of the night. We were told that all we needed to do was to follow three simple moves and we would look like a Bollywood dancer: pretend to turn a door knob with two hands, while moving your shoulders...pretend to screw in a lightbulb with two hands...again, while moving your shoulders....(try you know what I am talking 'bout)..and finally pretend to rub a dogs back with two hands...again while moving your's all about the shoulders..

Food is a big darn deal at Indian weddings (and every wedding really). But according to Indian Westerners are doing it wrong.

They fill us with tons of skewers of kebabs, indian candy, and many other appetizers that I don't even remember due to the flow of alcohol that we sucked back, while dancing.

Then just when you are at the point of bursting....a midnight Indian meal with all the fixings: curries, stews, grilled meats, veggies and flatbreads of every shape, size and flavour.

This is the tradition: basically you save the best for last...and if you are a westerner, you are already drunk as a skunk and filled to the brim with Indian appetizers...and then you eat a full supper.

Tradition cites that after the supper, everyone goes home. So that's when every Westerner is left on the dance floor and everyone else goes home to sleep.  (It's really a good plan if you think about it...naan bread really does cause carb coma) So Westerners kinda do it backwards.

I would never claim to be a great cook, let alone a great cooker of Indian food. But I do like what we make. So I wanted to share a recipe we have been making a lot lately: Chicken Tikka Masala.

Just like I have said before, patience is key, especially when it comes to Indian food. The more time this dish has time to sit and stew, the better it is.

Also, look for ways that you can really use the freshest ingredients (which I try to do in this case, except for the chili paste that I use).....and hands have to make your garam masala. Don't buy a premade one. If you can grind some of the spices yourself, the brighter and more flavourful the dish will be.

We use a garam masala recipe from a rand-o website ( But it's still pretty awesome.

We have a mortar and pestle that we use to grind the spices...which is a pain but I refuse to use my coffee grinder (I really should buy one that we only use for spices). You could also buy pre-ground stuff too.

1 tablespoon cumin (ground or self-ground cumin seed)
1 1/2 teaspoon of coriander (same as above)
1 1/2 teaspoon of cardamon (ya gotta grind this one yourself...I insist...even though the seeds from inside the shell pods, kinda look like little mouse poops)
1 1/2 teaspoons of black pepper (buy a pepper grinder)
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves (these are also good to grind fresh)
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg (you could grate some fresh stuff)

Cardamon pods and the seeds (adds a bright citrus flavour)

Clove grinding with a mortar and pestle
Fresh Garam Masala

You obviously don't use as much in the recipe, that this batch would make.  You can store it in a tupperware container in the cupboard, but I do find that it loses it's potency after a few days. You might have to add additional spice to whatever you use it in, the older it is.

So here is my make-shift tikka masala...

I don't marinate the chicken as some recipes call for. I like to tenderize the chicken by cooking it low and slow for some time, instead.

So you need:

4-5 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons of red curry paste (I use Patak's)
1 large white or yellow onion
a healthy dose of garlic (5 or 6 cloves, minced or pressed)
1 inch of ginger, minced
2-3 tsp of garam masala (2 tsp if it is freshly ground, 3 tsp if it is pre ground)
2 large cans of salt free diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 cup of plain yogurt (I like greek yogurt cuz it's thicker)
1/3 cup of cream (you can really work with what you have here...whipping cream, blend cream, whole milk etc.)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped fresh cilantro

My new garlic press!! So much better than my last one.
Grab a large stewing, heavy bottomed pot. Heat a tablespoon of oil in the pot, on medium heat (I use canola cuz it has a high smoking point). Chop the chicken into bite size pieces and add to heated oil. Brown chicken and remove from pot. Add onions, then garlic and ginger to the same pot. Cook and stir until softened. Add chicken back to the pot and then add garam masala, curry paste. Stir until spices and curry paste have mixed with the chicken and aromatics. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to minimum heat. Simmer for 2-3 hours with the lid on, checking and stirring every so often to ensure it is not sticking to the bottom. Add yogurt and simmer another hour. Add cream and salt and pepper to taste at the end of the cooking process. Top with cilantro.

Yogurt going in the tub

Serve with naan bread and rice...and lots of wine or beer.  Add a dash of door-knob-turning dancing and you are all set.

Grilled Naan Bread!  A recipe for another day!

Not too shabby I think....

Have a great week!


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