Thursday, July 31, 2014

Chicken Tikka Masala with Cumin, Mustard Seed & Green Pea Basmati Rice

Chicken Tikka Masala is a ubiquitous and very popular dish in many an Indian restaurant outside of India proper. I've read that the recipe actually originated in the UK and is now widely served in Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants throughout the UK and North America. "Tikka" refers to the chicken pieces and "Masala" refers to the spice blend, which also incorporates tomatoes, cream and/or plain yogurt. I adapted this recipe from Shubhra Ramineni's cookbook Entice with Spice but instead of grilling the marinated chicken (which I did on my first try, but the meat was not as juicy/tender as I would have liked it to be), I pan-fried it until just done, then added it to the masala sauce just before serving. I like to serve this dish with an aromatic basmati rice recipe that I had adapted from Shubhra's same cookbook. The ingredient list may seem long, but it's all a matter of measuring and prepping beforehand (aka "mise en place"). Once all the ingredients are prepped, the cooking itself takes no time at all. The same principal applies to Chinese cooking. 

Chicken Tikka Masala:
2.5 - 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces

2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp. minced fresh garlic
2 tbsp. minced onion (red or yellow)
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 tbsp. plain Greek yogurt
2-3 tbsp. vegetable oil

Masala and Sauce:
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1 tbsp. minced onion (red or yellow)
1 tsp. cumin seed
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. sugar
2 medium-large ripe tomatoes, chopped
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt and/or heavy cream (feel free to add both)

Red food coloring (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro & extra for garnish

1. Place the chicken in a large bowl and combine well with the marinade ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate from 1 hour to overnight. 

2. Heat 2-3 tbsp. oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned. Remove the chicken to a bowl and set aside.

3. In the same pan, add 2 tbsp. vegetable oil and sauté the ginger, garlic and onion until fragrant and translucent (3-5 minutes). Add the tomatoes, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne, salt, cinnamon, black pepper and sugar and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor and pulse until just smooth (be careful as the mixture will be very hot).

4. Pour the tomato mixture back into the pan and add the cinnamon, lime juice, and yogurt and/or heavy cream. Bring to a boil and then simmer. Add the chicken (juices and all). Simmer for 5-10 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Stir in 1/4 cup of chopped fresh cilantro. You can also add a small amount of red food coloring to kick up the sauce if it's on the light-colored side - whatever floats your boat. 

5. Serve with fragrantly-spiced basmati rice on the side.

Cumin, Mustard Seed and Green Pea Basmati Rice:
3 cups Basmati rice
3 cups water
1 tsp. brown mustard seed
1 tsp. cumin seed
3 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. minced onion
1/4 cup green peas

1. Rinse the rice well, 2-3 times in a sieve or colander and let drain. 

2. Saute the ginger, garlic and onion in 3 tbsp. oil 1-2 minutes. Add the mustard and cumin seed and sauté briefly to release the flavors. Add the drained rice and toss briefly until all the rice grains are coated with the spice-oil mixture. Stir in the peas, then add 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover, and cook 15-20 minutes until the all the liquid has been absorbed (do not ever remove the cover during the cooking time). Trust me on that...stay away from the pot. Alternatively, you can also pour the rice & pea mixture into a rice cooker, add the water, and then let the cooker do its magic thing. 

For the rice: saute the ginger, garlic and onion in veggie oil, then add the mustard and cumin seed.  Add the drained rice and sauté briefly to coat all the grains with the spiced oil. Stir in the peas. 

You can cook the rice over the stove top or in the rice cooker. Be sure to vent the rice and remove it from the heat when it's done to prevent overcooking.

 Marinate the chicken anywhere from 1 hour to overnight in the frig.

Yogurt is a component of the marinade. Cover and marinate in the frig from 1 hour to overnight.

Heat 2-3 tbsp. oil in a pan and sauté the chicken until lightly browned and just cooked through. 

Remove the chicken to a bowl and set aside.

For the sauce: tomatoes, minced garlic, ginger and onions, and fresh limes for lime juice.

In the same pan used to sauté the chicken, add ginger, garlic, onion and cook 3-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes. 

Cover and simmer the tomato mixture about 5 minutes. 

Pour the mixture in a blender and pulse briefly until smooth. 

Return the tomato mixture to the pan and add lime juice.

Stir in yogurt. 

Add the chicken mixture and simmer an additional 5-10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. If the sauce is too light in color, feel free to add a drop or two of red food coloring. Stir in cilantro just before serving. 


  1. Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful post. Thank you for supplying these details.

  2. Awesome tips! I wish I would have read your ideas pre starting my blog!