Chicken Tikka Masala and Cumin scented Green Peas Pulao

Chicken Tikka Masala

People are spending hours and days glued to their TVs listening to horrific news and looking at videos and images that can make any heart cry. Bad news after bad news coming from Japan have moved everyone. My roommate for four years and a long time friend lives in Tokyo and the moment I got the news about the disaster, my very first thought was ,”gosh, is she ok?!” Soon after you are relieved to find that the ones close to you are safe, you realize that there are countless people equally important to others who are unfortunately not that lucky. It is these hard times that make you take a moment and reflect on what’s really important. As we go about our lives, it is not that hard to start taking things for granted. And we keep falling into that trap, until woken up again.

Chicken Tikka Masala

It is also the moment that makes you realize that what’s actually true is today and now! A came back home after a crazy month of travel and work and this was the weekend when we got to spend some quality family time. But the same thought kept coming to my mind. The thought of living life and the thought of loving to the fullest. The weather was good enough to pull out the flip flops, put on the sunglasses and enjoy some beer. And the day was good enough to do some cooking and make something that I’ve been thinking of making forever but had been putting off. So I made some Chicken Tikka Masala.

I made a “not so traditional” version of Chicken Tikka Masala. But then again I am not sure if there is anything that qualifies as a “traditional Indian tikka masala”. In fact, Chicken Tikka Masala was not even born in India. Rumor has it that years back in the 1960s, a British gentleman stepped into an Indian restaurant and returned his order of chicken tikka complaining that it was undercooked. Tired of his customer’s rants, the chef opened a can of tomato soup, threw in some cream and cooked the tikka in the sauce.  Ironically, the dish became so popular in England that in 2001, it was declared as England’s national dish. Some Indian critics claim that it was born in the early 1500s when Babar, a Mughal emperor sick of choking on the bones of his tandoori chicken asked his Punjabi cooks to remove all the bones. Cooks terrified of the angry emperor chopped off all the bones before throwing the chicken into the tandoor (clay oven). They cooked the chicken in spices and served it to the emperor.

Whatever be the story, I know that it is one of the most popular Indian dishes and the kind of Chicken Tikka Masala a restaurant serves determines the quality of a restaurant and a chef in my book. Recently Soma from eCurry posted a recipe for butter chicken which stuck in my mind ever since. Its my little brother’s all time favorite dish but needs a little more of love and patience that I can give to my food right now. So I made Chicken Tikka Masala instead and served it with some roti and Cumin scented Green Pea Pulao. This is a quicker and simpler version from a busy mom to some Indian food lovers and I have a feeling that you are going to like it!


For Chicken Tikka:
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (cut into cubes)
1 tsp Kashmiri red pepper powder (This is a red pepper which is not very hot but gives a beautiful color. But you can also use cayenne pepper if you can’t find it)
1 1/2 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 cup yogurt (any fat % is fine)
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp red food color (optional)

For the tomato sauce:
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes (pureed)
1 tbsp garlic paste (I prefer fresh but you can use store bought too)
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp onion powder (optional)
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 1/2 tsp powdered black pepper
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp powdered fennel seeds
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chopped cilantro (for garnish)


For Chicken Tikka:
Mix all the dry ingredients into the mixture of yogurt and lemon juice to prepare a marinade.
Add chicken pieces into the marinade.
Mix everything well. Cover the bowl and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour. I did it overnight.
Thread the chicken pieces onto the skewers.
Grill the skewered chicken until done or pop it into the oven for 15-20 minutes at a temperature of 400 deg. F.

For the Masala:
Pour oil in a thick bottom pan. Add ginger garlic paste.Turn on the heat and let the paste slowly cook as the oil heats up. This perfumes the oil and also your house!
When the oil is hot, add onion, coriander, fennel, black pepper powder and garam masala. Mix it all together.
Add tomato puree and mix it very well with all the spices. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes until the sauce starts reducing and the excess water evaporates. Stir occasionally scraping the bottom.
Add cooked chicken pieces along with the drippings if cooked in an oven and cream. Mix it all together and let it simmer for another 5-7 minutes.
Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. My mom always says that letting the Indian curry sit for a few minutes before serving helps all the spices do wonders!
Garnish with some chopped cilantro and serve with naan, roti, or Rice Pulao like I did.

For Cumin Scented Green Pea Pulao:

1 tbsp clarified butter or ghee (You can also use olive oil)
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup green peas (I used frozen sweet peas)
1 1/4 cup basmati rice

Wash rice thoroughly with water. Set aside.
Heat oil in a saucepan. Throw in bay leaf and cumin seeds and cook until they start popping.
Add green peas. Cook for a minute.
Add rice and salt. Mix everything and then add 2 1/2 cups of water (the rule of thumb for cooking basmati rice is to add water a little over twice the quantity of rice, I added a half cup extra).
Bring the rice to a nice boil and then turn the heat to medium, cover the saucepan with a lid and cook until all the water is absorbed.
Turn off the heat and let it rest covered for 10 minutes.

Disclaimer: In no way I am trying to promote or endorse Coca Cola through my photos or post. I just found an old bottle of Coca Cola as an interesting prop so I used it in my photos. By doing this, in no way I’m asking you to use it or serve with my food or recipes.



  1. “Remember that Bengali households still are known for their amazing food culture and this fact is known world-wide :)
    tanSEN was bengali my dear friend, so were a lot of other people! want to see the entire list as it stands today? so was subash chandra bose and sri aurobindo :)

    and i can name a million others and i am proud to say our greateness can be exerted beyond our national borders.
we are the fifth largest speakers!

    we bengalis have won pretty much every award in the world stage
you name it we have it and we are damn proud of what we have :)
its the only country in the world which took rebellion because it couldn’t speak its mother tongue and it won! and won so hard that the UN had to adopt that day as the international language day, which celebrates languages from all over the world.

    its the only country in the world which took rebellion because it couldn’t speak its mother tongue and it won! and won so hard that the UN had to adopt that day as the international language day, which celebrates languages from all over the world.

    did you know that the FAMOUS SEARS TOWER is architectured by another bengali?”

    MBA (IMT Ghaziabad)
    Bengaluru, Karnataka

  2. Hello,
    We love your recipes, especially when its on Chicken Tikka.
    These are so delicious.
    I have always looked at your blog for the various pictures and the way you write.Just Love it!
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    The points you mentioned are genuine and perfect.
    The content completely describes about the topic you wanted to portray with us.
    Thanks for sharing such valuable post.

    VentairIndia Team

  3. I absolutely love chicken tikka masala. My husband just came back from a trip to India for business and the family he was staying with made this. He still talks about this. I will make this recipe for him. Mary

  4. I made this last recipe last night with my sister, and couldn’t believe my taste buds. Incredibly satisfying!! I would even say one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever tasted. My mouth is still watering. Your blog is absolutely beautiful, I am grateful to have stumbled upon it and can’t wait to try more of your recipes. Thank you so much for sharing this with the world.

  5. Interesting that you would call regular rice with peas in it Pulao. Recipe looks great but curious about the rice since I cook Indian regularly and am Indian.

  6. I recently returned from a trip to Pune, and made this for some friends since we had eaten it at a couple of restaurants on our trip. I was so nervous, but your recipe was easy to follow and it came out wonderful! Next on the list to try is your Naan recipe!!

  7. Hi Nadia, yes you sure can use breasts instead of thighs. I just find thighs more tender. But just a little tip, if you are using breasts add a few chunks of pineapple to the curry and it will help keep the breasts tender.

  8. This looks so wonderful! Chicken tikka masala is my all-time favorite Indian restaurant dish. After looking at these beautiful photos, I want to attempt making it at home.

  9. this is absolutely beautiful, as always! what would it take to get you on a plane to melbourne for a cooking fest? :)

    like you i have been glued to the horrific news coming from Japan, and i had three friends travelling there during the earthquake (that luckily got a spot in a shelter). it is absolutely terrifying, and a reminder that we have to live in the here and now and cherish every minute we have. i’m glad you could still find a way to send out positive energy and creativity in sharing this dish with us, all the while mindful of how fragile life really is…

  10. I love Chicken Tikka Masala – this recipe is filled with wonderful ingredients & I will simply omit the dye. Why do they use that anyway? Is it for tradition?? Beautiful as always :)

  11. Oooooh Prerna i had been missing so much here during my break, i don’t feel like going back from this page, ur pic trust me my dear you will be soon snapped by some popular publishing companies for book! on a lighter note i’m so messy in opening a can with a opener cutting fingers most of the time shame….you have done that so perfect 😀

  12. You are so right about taking what we have for granted, Prerna. Though I also think we shouldn’t blame ourselves either, because there are so many things going on in the world right now and in our lives, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and lost at times if we try to be conscious of it all. But it important to take a step back from time to time and make sure we’re giving the really important people and things their time. I’ve been thinking and watching and praying (as much as an agnostic can) for Japan and all its suffering people in the last week. It’s been great to see how some people have come together and that it’s helped people as far away as you or I to take a fresh look at life. But, mostly on the government level, there’s also been mistrust and finger-pointing that isn’t so reassuring. The dangers of nuclear technology is a fact of our modern age and something with widespread effects so I hope the reaction to this situation will set a good example of collaboration and understanding for the future rather than more distrust and discord. Haha, sorry I do go on don’t I? I also wanted to say that your chicken tikka masala looks scrumptious. I know my boyfriend would love for me to make this for him 8).

  13. Ha ha…and the difference in the names – u and i 😉

    I am so glad I found your blog! I have a dinner at home on saturday, and an absent cook! Had been frantically searching recipes that a non-cook like me could understand and make…and voila! :)

  14. Awesome spread Prerna… everything looks gorgeous.. each and every picture speaks a lot.. love the lighting and fantastic spread… Wish I can have that meal rightaway.. I am dumbstruck now.

  15. U r such a perfect gal.
    wish as we can share recipes wish ur share of talent was in me to ,a pinch will do wonder as salt does.

  16. Yummy as usual…..besides butter chicken, my husband always orders this dish as a staple at a restaurant. sometimes he won’t even look at a menu because he know he’ll end up ordering this anyways :)

  17. Watching the news recently has just been so heartbreaking. As you say, it really does remind you about what is important in life.

    Your photos are absolutely breathtaking, as usual. I am honestly in awe of your amazing talent.

    Your disclaimer made me laugh!

  18. I’ve watched some news programs these past couple of days (and read a lot more newspaper articles)… and I’m not sure what good parking myself in front of the TV does.

    With each imagine that I’ve seen, I’ve gravitated towards the kitchen where I’ve been trying to reflect on everything that’s been happening.

    This was another wonderful post… thoughtful and ultimately scrumptious.

  19. chicken tikka masala is (was) one of my absolute favorite dishes. in the midst of this move, this looks like the most amazing comfort food. i’d eat the sauce and the rice. want to send a care package? :)

  20. I’m glad that your friend is ok. It really is horrifying seeing all the coverage on Japan

    On a happier note, this is one of my favorite foods and you have photographed it BEAUTIFULLY! I always feel lame when I order Tikka Masala at Indian restaurants because of the whole thing with Britain, but dang…. It’s so tasty!

  21. Yum! I love chicken tikka masala, and I found your accounts of the possible origins of the dish really fascinating! Wherever it came from, it’s a fabulous dish and I can’t wait to try your recipe.

  22. Prerna you have me drooling at 9:30 in the morning for chicken tikka and naan :-) thanks much for the mention.

    I see you have used fennel powder, which I have never done before in the tikka masala. Does it give a very distinct different flavor? for when i make regular chicken curry with fennel, i can sense that flavor very easily. or is it subtle along with the other spices?

    yes it tastes better as it matures!

    the devastation is heartbreaking… so hard to believe that all that is for real. life is so darn fragile and unpredictable.

  23. I read your entire post, but the only thing my mind was focused on is that cold glass bottle of coke. I haven’t had one since returning to US 3yrs ago from UAE, and when I was in India 6months ago, they had canned coke everywhere. I only got to drink Mt Dew in a glass bottle at the snack place.

  24. It’s true what you say about us taking life for granted as we go about our busy schedules. Sometimes I find myself stopping to think of how selfish I’ve been for the past week because I’ve failed to remember in my prayers those who are in need. We, as humans, always need reminders.

    It’s a shame that I’ve never tasted chicken tikka masala before. After reading that you base the standards of an Indian restaurant on this dish, I’m definitely going to try it the next time I’m out for some Indian food.

    Lovely post, thank you for sharing!

  25. Oh my I was just writing out a chicken tikka masala post! And yours look SO beautiful I feel like scrapping mine ;-)Well done my friend. I must say that I don’t prefer tinned tomatoes in Indian cooking but it goes perfectly with chicken tikka masala

  26. Hahaha Prerna can’t tell you how many times I was tempted to snap a pic of the coke bottles just like you did. Costco has them and I always want to grab them. Growing up Indian food went down well with coke in our house. Nothing else tasted better with it than coke, though we cut way back since then on the consumption of coke. Hardly have it in 20 years now but now and then we will have a sip of coke with Indian food and say ahhhhh:)

  27. Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola, secret product placement for Coca-Cola. Even Indian simmer needs funding-ola, so let’s all hear it for Coca-Cola.

    Coca-Cola. Upstaging your food since you posted this.

  28. Hi Prema, I just wanted to say that I found your blog today and I love it! So much that I sent it to my sister and my mum and they love it too! Keep up the good work and I am following on Facebook now too. Beautiful.

  29. Great looking dish, Prerna! It does not seem too complicated, but I have to hunt for garlic and ginger pastes (it’s easier than making my own:). Isn’t it odd that so many of us reach for comfort food, something warm, that reminds us of our childhood and families far away when we are distressed?
    The images on TV are heart-breaking and it’s definitely time to re-arrange the priorities in life.

  30. Thanks for posting this, as I am a busy mom on the run who still wants to cook appetizing food for her family. I was almost hoping to see a bottle of Campa Cola in your picture, hehe

  31. Yes, I think the recent tragic events have given us reason to pause and grieve for those who have lost their lives or their loved ones as well as take the time to look to our own lives and appreciate what we have been given and not take anything for granted. I’m glad to hear that your husband is back and that you were able to spend some good quality family time together, cherish those special moments.

    By the way, this is one of my husband’s favorite dishes!

  32. Yes Prerna, what’s happening in Japan is horrifying…as if they’are going thru a bad time, what with earthquakes and tsunamis and volcanoes in the danger zone and radiation leaks and fires…..just praying for all though I don’t know anyone personally the end you realize material stuff is so immaterial and transient, what matters is your loved ones…

    I’ve always loved your pics and the titles you give to your blog posts…makes my mouth water just reading it! I love chicken tikka masala but never tried at home…yours is easy enough for me to attempt!

  33. Even we are glued to the TV these days prerna. It is heart breaking to see the lives of people coming down like a pack of cards. As for the recipes, they look yummy. I don’t know how you manage to make the food look sooo good each time :)

  34. It is so true what you say, when you know all your lvoed ones are safe, there are still other peoples loved ones that can’t be found.

    All this food looks absolutely delicious and I can’t wait to try cooking it in my new kitchen!