I fell in love with Indian food about 10 years ago, when one of my friends and I popped into a nondescript storefront selling curries and naan like McDonalds sells hamburgers—only two or three guys working the entire line and whipping up orders like it’s nobody’s business.
As an Indian food virgin, I was drawn to a dish that was both exotic and familiar at the same time, one I was sure I couldn’t go wrong with, just because of the description, which probably went something like this: “Succulent pieces of yogurt-marinated chicken draped in a creamy, spiced tomato sauce.” Even now, just writing that description makes my mouth water.
This amazing dish, Chicken Tikka Masala, is somewhat of a globetrotter. While the spices in it are of distinct Indian origin, the British and the Scots both claim to have invented it. How could the Brits or the Scots invent an Indian dish? Good old colonization. The Brits set up the East India Company to trade with the Indian subcontinent in the 1600s, but the Company eventually ruled over parts of India until the late 1850s.
During this time, the British brought all the great spices they found in India to England, and the Brits, like me, were blown away. Subsequently, chicken tikka masala is now one of the most popular dishes in England and, in The Book of General Ignorance, authors Lloyd and Mitchinson claim that it’s “Britain’s true national dish.”
What’s all the fuss about? Save yourself some money on takeout, make Indian at home, and you’ll know firsthand how this great dish can delight your taste buds. I like my Indian food with a bit of heat, but you can easily alter the recipe to fit your desired spiciness level—from super hot to mild. The naan bread is perfect for dipping into leftover sauce or for conveying the delicate chicken chunks into your mouth. These recipes involve waiting time, but I promise your patience will be rewarded. Happy eating!
Spicy Chicken Tikka Masala
Adapted from Yakuta’s recipe, this serves 5-6. Leftovers are just as good, if not better, than the fresh dish. Cut out one or both of the jalapenos for less heat. However, the yogurt, cream and half-and-half really cool down this dish. Prep: 30 minutes. Cook: 50 minutes. Total: 2 hours, 20 minutes. Around 400 calories per serving. Click here to print a copy of this recipe.
2 (6 oz.) containers Greek yogurt
1 Tbs. lemon juice
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1.5 lb. boneless skinless chicken tenders or breasts cut into bite-size pieces.
4 long skewers (wood skewers soaked)
1 Tbs. butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
½ c. heavy cream
1 c. half-and-half
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
Make the marinade. In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, and 2 tsp salt. Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
Prep & cook the chicken. Preheat a grill for high heat. Lightly oil the grill grate. Thread chicken onto skewers, and discard marinade. Grill until juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side. If you don’t have a grill, simply cook the chicken over medium-high heat in batches in a large saucepan until almost cooked through and brown, 5-7 minutes.
Make the sauce. Melt butter in a large. heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic and jalapeno for 1 minute. Add cumin and paprika, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in tomato sauce, cream, and half-and-half. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Add grilled chicken, and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, and garnish with fresh cilantro.
This recipe was adapted from Mic. It makes about 14 naan but, believe me, everyone will want at least two pieces. Wrap leftovers in foil and reheat in microwave or microwave oven. Prep: 30 minutes. Cook: 10 minutes. Total: 3½ hours. Click here for a print copy of this recipe.
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast (2¼ tsp.)
1 c. warm water
¼ c. white sugar
3 Tbs. milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp. kosher salt
4½ c. bread flour
2 tsp. minced garlic (optional)
¼ c. butter (½ stick), melted
Make the dough. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or in a stand mixer, until smooth. Place dough in a well-oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume. If you want to make this ahead of time, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight for a long slow rise. Bring to room temperature, and then proceed with the rest of the recipe.
Punch dough down and let rise again. Punch down dough, and knead in garlic. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
Cook the naan. During the second rising, preheat grill to high heat. At grill side, roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle. Lightly oil the rolled out dough. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with butter, and turn over. Cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from grill, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared.
*If there’s no grill available, the naan can be cooked on the stovetop in a skillet or griddle pan. A baking sheet covered with foil in a 200˚F oven will keep the cooked naan warm while the rest of it cooks.