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 2" pieces


1 tbsp. minced or grated fresh ginger
6 cloves garlic, grated 
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt (not the Greek variety)


1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. sugar

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion (red or yellow), finely sliced
3 medium-large ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3/4 cup water
1 cup heavy cream

Red food coloring (optional)

Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

1. Combine the marinade ingredients together in a bowl and mix in the chicken. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate from 1 hour to overnight. 

2. Combine the masala ingredients together in a small bowl; cover tightly and set aside.

3.  In a large enameled cast iron pan or Dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp. vegetable oil over medium high heat and sauté the ginger, garlic and onion until fragrant and translucent (3-5 minutes). Add the masala mix, jalapeño & bell peppers and saute briefly, 1-2 minutes. 

4. Add the tomatoes and chopped cilantro. Cook, stirring frequently, 3-5 minutes. Add the chicken and all of its marinade to the pot. Bring up to a boil and cook about 2 minutes. Add the water and simmer the mixture until the chicken is cooked through.

5. Bring the mixture up to a boil and stir in the heavy cream. Continue cooking over medium high until the sauce starts to thicken, 5-10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, as needed. Feel free to add a few drops of red food coloring to the sauce to kick up the color if it's on the light-colored side - whatever floats your boat.

6. Serve with plain Basmati rice or with the recipe below for Cumin, Mustard Seed & Green Pea Basmati rice.  Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

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 th
e 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.


Marinade ingredients. 

Combine the marinade ingredients together in a bowl and stir until blended.

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

 For the sauce: tomatoes, minced garlic, ginger, sliced onions, sliced jalapeño, 
chopped cilantro and fresh lime juice.

Masala mixture. 

Saute the onion, ginger and garlic in vegetable oil until slightly wilted. 

Add the jalapeño, bell pepper and masala mixture and saute for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. 

Add the tomatoes. 

Add the chopped cilantro and cook 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the chicken and cook about 2 minutes; add the water, bring to a boil and simmer until the chicken is cooked through. 

Bring the mixture to a boil then stir in the heavy cream.  

Once the cream has been added, 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 or garnish with cilantro just before serving. 

Serve with basmati rice (plain or the recipe above for basmati with 
cumin, mustard seed, and green pea)


  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!