Morsels of tender chicken in creamy tomato sauce aka Chicken Tikka Masala , is a very popular fare in Indian restaurants . Some say it was invented in the kitchens of London , others speculate it was concocted by the chefs in Punjab . Whatever the origins were this is a lovely dish , and in my book that is good enough . In case you are wondering , this is not about the dried tandoori chicken pieces swimming in overly creamy sauce served in restaurants . What I am talking about is the dish that home cooks have embraced, not any restaurant knock off. It is fairly simple , flavorful and has fewer calories to boot – I promise you are not going to regret making this .
Here is a creamy orange red gravy with a delectable blend of spices . There are umpteen versions out there ranging from simple to complex recipes . Ultimately it comes down to a few fresh high quality ingredients . A good garam masala is key – whether home made or store bought . Add a few spices to bring out the flavors and you are golden .
The first step is to marinate the chicken . Extended marination does not mean enhanced flavor . 1/2 an hour to a couple of hours is all that is required . Mix the ingredients for the marinade together to form a smooth paste . Cut the chicken into bite size pieces and rub the marinade all over. Marinate for 30 minutes to an hour, in the refrigerator .
When ready to cook , preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) . Take a sheet pan or baking dish and lightly spray with oil or line with parchment paper. Shake off the excess marinade from the chicken pieces and place on the baking dish about 1″ apart . Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or till done. When the chicken is done the juices will run clear. Remove from the oven.
Alternately these can be cooked on stove top . Heat a skillet on medium high heat. Add 2 to 3 tablespoon of oil and cook the chicken in batches.
While the chicken is cooking in the oven , lets get to work on the sauce . Chop the onions , remove the seeds from the tomatoes and puree the pulp and keep aside . In a saute pan heat 1 to 2 Tbsp oil over medium heat and add the whole spices – cumin , cardamom , bay leaf cloves – and methi leaves . Once the spices splutter and starts to give off nice aroma add the chopped onions and saute for a few minutes till the onions begins to brown slightly . Add the pureed tomatoes to the pan.
Once the tomato sauce begins to darken in color add the tomato paste and mix well . Reduce the heat . Add the cream / coconut cream and mix in . Add the chicken along with the juices . Stir well . If the gravy looks too thick thin it with a few tablespoons of thin coconut milk / milk / yogurt or even water . Taste and adjust the seasonings . Turn off the heat once it comes to a boil . Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves on top . Serve with basmati rice / naan / or any flat bread .
- For a smooth gravy , blend the cooked onions along with the tomatoes .
- Fresh tomatoes can be substituted for tomato paste and visa versa . If not using tomato paste , puree 2 more medium de-seeded tomatoes .
- Fresh coriander leaves (cilantro) brings out the flavors more , but if preferred add 1.4 teaspoon coriander powder to the browned onions .
Chicken - 1 lbs. / 1/2 Kg boneless .
Thick Yogurt - 1/2 C
Garam Masala - 1 Tsp
Chilli Powder - 1 Tsp
Coriander - 1/4 Tsp (optional)
Ginger - 1/2 " piece grated
Garlic - 2 pods , grated
Salt - 1Tsp or to taste
Turmeric - 1/2 Tsp
Onion - 1 medium (1C chopped)
Cumin seeds - 1 Tsp
Cardamom Pods - 3 to 4
Cloves - 6
Bay Leaf - 2
Methi (Dried FenuGreek) Leaves - 1 Tbsp (optional)
Cream / Coconut Cream - 1/4 C
Tomato - 2 medium de-seeded and chopped
Tomato Paste - 1 Tbsp
Oil - 1 to 2 Tbsp
Cilantro - Few Sprigs
Mix the ingredients for the marinade together to make a smooth paste .Cut the chicken into bite size pieces .Rub the marinade all over the chicken and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes .
Preheat the oven to 400 °F (200°C) . Remove excess marinade from the chicken pieces and place on a tray about 1" apart .Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the juices run clear.
Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat .Add cumin seeds , cardamom , clove , bay leaf and methi leaves to the hot oil .Once the spices splutter add the chopped onion and saute for a few minutes till it begins to brown . Puree the tomatoes and add to the onions . Stir well for a few minutes until the moisture evaporates and the color deepens (Do no brown). Stir in the cooked chicken and any remaining marinade .
Stir and saute for a couple minutes , add the cream / coconut cream .Reduce heat to low and mix well .Add a few tablespoons of water / thin cream to adjust the consistency of the sauce .Taste and adjust the seasonings .Bring to a boil and turn off the heat .
Sprinkle the chopped cilantro on top . Serve with basmati rice / naan.
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Serve with Roti , Naan or my favorite Lacha Parataha.
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