chicken tikka masala

chicken tikka masala with gobi masala and aromatic rice

Every couple of months I get the urge to make another curry, and I’ve made plenty in the last year. It was a Saturday dish, so I had to time to put a little effort in. After a little research I settled on Jamie Oliver’s chicken tikka masala from Jamie’s Dinners. I still had some garam masala left over from a Heston-inspired blend some months ago so that was going to be my main spice base. Also with recent experiments in brining being met with a great deal of success I had to stick some brining in as the first stage. You could skip this bit if you wanted to, but I love the moistness and depth of flavour this imparts.

I wanted a vegetable side-dish and love the way cauliflower absorbs curry flavours. The key for me is to almost overcook it – a soft, squishy floret bursting with spice is the way to go here.

Plain rice is always sniffed at in my house so I have to be creative with it. I remembered a delicious rice dish by the cuddly Nigel Slater, from my most favourite of his books Appetite. I’ve eaten it before just on it’s own, but gently pared down it makes a tasty – yet interesting – bowl of rice.

The curry itself was time-consuming (aren’t they all?) but thankfully very, very tasty. In fact about the most ‘authentic’ (yes, of course I mean authentic to that you find in a takeaway) tikka masala recipe I’ve eaten. Creamy, nutty and boasting spice from within. The cauliflower was a tasty foil for the curry, with aromatic rice to back it up. (On a side note, both Jamie’s and Nigel’s recipe called for at least 1 chilli in each – we’re not so crazy about super-hot things in our house, so I’ve omitted them to let the spices speak for themselves. By all means chuck some in if they’re your thing).

A dead tasty nottakeaway.

Chicken tikka masala (serves 3):

For the brine:

1 litre water

2 tablespoons sea salt

5 tablespoons honey

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 cardamom pods, cracked

3 cloves

2 chicken breasts, diced

For the tikka marinade:

6 cloves garlic, grated

3 inches fresh ginger, grated

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

1 tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 tablespoons garam masala

200g natural yoghurt

For the masala sauce:

2 onions, sliced

2 tablespoons garam masala

2 tablespoons tomato puree

2 tablespoons ground almonds

120ml double cream

Handful parsley, chopped

  1. Mix the brine ingredients together and soak the chicken in the water for at least 2 hours, anywhere up to 8 hours.
  2. Drain and rinse the chicken well. Discard the liquid.
  3. Heat the mustard seeds in a splash of oil until they start to pop (about 2 minutes). Remove the seeds from the pan and stir into the other ingredients. Coat the chicken with the yoghurt mix and leave to marinate for half an hour.
  4. In the same pan the mustard seeds were warmed in, add some butter and fry the onions gently with the garam masala. Leave to sweat and soften for 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, grill the chicken pieces on both sides until cooked through.
  6. Back at the onions, ad the tomato puree, almonds, 1 litre water and a good sprinkle of salt. Allow to bubble and reduce until thick.
  7. Add the cream and check the seasoning. Add the chicken into the sauce and stir well to coat the meat and let the flavours mingle.
  8. Stir in the parsley and serve.

Gobi masala:

1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets to cook evenly

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon garam masala

200ml vegetable stock

  1. Heat the butter in a small saucepan until foaming. Add the spice and cook for a minute.
  2. Add the florets and toss well to coat in the spice butter. Cook for another minute.
  3. Add the stock and boil fairly fast until the cauliflower is knife-tender.
  4. Turn off the heat and put a lid on it for about ten minutes. The cauliflower will soak up some of the excess fluid.

Aromatic rice:

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and bashed

1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves

4 cardamom pods

1 cupful rice per person

  1. Fry the onion gently until softened, then add the garlic.
  2. Add the spices and stir, allowing them to warm.
  3. Add the rice and a generous sprinkle of salt, stir will to coat the rice in the spiced oil. Top up the pan with three times the amount of water to rice. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
  4. Cover the pan and allow to simmer for ten minutes – do not lift the lid.
  5. Turn off the heat and leave for a further ten minutes, leaving the lid on.
  6. Stir through with a fork and grind over plenty of black pepper. If you have any left over from the curry, throw in some parsley too.


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