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.
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.