With its most common incarnation involving chicken, the mild yet flavour-packed tikka masala curry is famous across the globe, and needs no elaborate introduction.
There are numerous explanations as to the origin of this sweet, vibrant, multi-faceted dish. Opinions are divided, and I am of the opinion that if it tastes good, then that’s all that matters.
Whether chicken, meat or other main ingredient is used, the sauce is usually sweet, rich, with a vibrant red or orange colour. The richness of cream is often contrasted with lemon juice and yoghurt, and the saucy decadence further enhanced by the use of coconut and almond.
Having eaten chicken tikka masala in several other countries including India and Thailand, I can say that my best experiences have been in the UK. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?
Indian restaurants and takeaways in the UK often prepare a batch of paste in advance of service. This makes it convenient to assemble the finished curry, for which there is always plenty of demand.
My recipe for tikka masala reflects my ‘old-school’ early-life experience of the dish, no doubt with nostalgia playing a large part in its creation. I hope you enjoy my version, and of course feel free to tweak any of the ingredients to your taste: some people are very particular about their CTM.
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- 3 TBSP Oil or Butter Ghee (45ml)
- 10cm Cassia Bark
- 1½ tsp Ginger/Garlic Paste
- 1¼ tsp Mix Powder
¼ tsp Garam Masala
- ¼-½ tsp Salt
- 330ml+ Base Gravy, heated up
- 5 TBSP Tomato Paste (see Notes)
- 1½ TBSP Tandoori Masala (See Notes)
- Pinch of Red Food Colouring (optional)
- Pre-Cooked Chicken Tikka, Lamb, Prawns, etc.
- 1½ tsp Lemon Juice
- 3 TBSP Coconut Powder/Flour
- 1½ TBSP Almond Powder
- 2 TBSP Jaggery or Brown Sugar
- 75ml Single Cream + extra for garnishing
- 1 TBSP fresh Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
- 1-2 tsp Butter Ghee (optional)
- 1 TBSP Flaked Almonds (optional)
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- If using the flaked almonds toast them until brown in a frying pan on medium heat. Remove and save for later.
- Add the oil or ghee to the frying pan on medium high heat.
- Throw in the cassia bark and fry for 30-40 seconds to infuse the oil, stirring frequently.
- Add the ginger/garlic paste, stirring until it starts to brown slightly and the sizzling sound lessens.
- Add the mix powder, garam masala and salt.
- Fry for 20-30 seconds, stirring diligently. Add a little base gravy if the powdered spices start to stick to give them time to cook without burning.
- Now turn up the heat and add the tomato paste, stirring cautiously until the oil separates and small craters appear around the edges of the frying pan.
- Add the pre-cooked chicken tikka (or other meat or vegetable) and lemon juice. Mix well.
- Then pour in 150ml of base gravy, the tandoori masala, coconut powder, almond powder, and the optional red food colouring. Stir together, then leave to cook for 1-1½ minutes until the sauce has reduced slightly.
- Add another 150ml of base gravy, and the jaggery or brown sugar.
- Stir and scrape the bottom and side of the frying pan, then leave to cook on high heat for 3-4 minutes. The coconut and almond powders will soak up a lot of the sauce, so add extra base gravy if desired to thin the sauce out. Avoid stirring/scraping unless the curry is showing signs of imminently burning.
- About 30 seconds before the end of cooking, turn the heat down and add the single cream and the fresh coriander leaves.
- Taste, adding more salt, sugar, cream and/or lemon juice, if desired.
- Optionally, add some butter ghee just before serving for extra flavour and richness.
- Serve, with a little extra cream on top, and a sprinkling of fresh coriander leaves. If you have the toasted almond flakes to hand, scatter them on top for a decadent finish.
- All spoon measurements are level, i.e. 1 tsp=5 ml, 1 TBSP=15ml.
- Some brands of Tandoori Masala powder can be excessively salty. Check the taste before adding any to the tikka masala curry, and add less as desired.
- ‘Tomato Paste’ is either a) double-concentrated tomato puree mixed with 3 parts water, b) Blended tinned plum tomatoes, or c) Passata.