There are certain cuisines that we are less familiar with then others, and for me the one I have never tried was Indian cuisine. I love to eat it but it’s “unknown” territory. My Indian customer in Connecticut got me hooked on the food, but I always believed it’s a special combination of freshly grounded seasoning, and techniques and yadi yadi yada … With respect to an authenticity, I wasn’t even fooling around with it.
But I started to experiment (just for myself) with some vegetarian dishes, creating recipes with eggplant and chickpeas and spinach …. some that tasted “like Indian cuisine”, but probably far from the original stuff. And then one day I virtually befriended one sweet Indian soul called Vrinda who assured me that just like any other “traditional staples” of different international cuisines, Indian cooking also has its multiple variations of dishes, and everybody adds their own personal touch to it. In other words – just do it, and make it your own!
So, why not? I gave myself permission to play with Indian food. And shortly after, I became a personal chef for a lady whose father is an Indian and, on top of it, great cook. On our second session, she asked me to prepare some Indian chicken dish. Whaaaat? That’s like cooking your own Bolognese for an auntie from Tuscany!
But being a fighter as I am, I looked up some recipes on line and realized that it shouldn’t be such a trauma. The bonus – it’s going to be delicious and spicy. And that’s all that I like.
So here is my adapted recipe for my first ever Chicken Tikka Masala. I loved it so much, that after all day cooking at my client’s house, I immediately made some for us at home so my husband can taste it! Please don’t get discouraged by the list of ingredients. Most of it are spices you probably already have in your spice cabinet and pantry.
Chicken Tikka Masala with Chia Basmati Rice
- ½ cup rice vinegar (or white yoghurt)
- teaspoon each of cumin, ginger, turmeric, paprika
- 5 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or regular butter
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1½ tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, double if you want more heat
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 3- 4 large ripe tomatoes (peeled – instructions included – and roughly chopped)
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons curry powder or
For the rice:
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 tablespoon of raw chia seeds
- ½ small shallot
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups of water or chicken broth
- Mix rice vinegar with 1 teaspoon each of cumin, ginger, turmeric, paprika, and add coconut oil. Pour over chicken and store covered in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
- Heat ghee or butter in a large skillet with heavy bottom over medium heat, add onions and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat. I used my favorite cast iron pot. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add cumin, salt, ginger, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and turmeric into the onion mixture and saute for 2 more minutes. Scrape the onion mixture to a small bowl.
- Peel tomatoes (pierce skin on the bottom of each tomato, boil for 30 seconds, take out of the boiling water, cool with running cold water in the colander in the sink, and carefully peel the skin off with your hand). Roughly chop tomatoes and let simmer in the same large pot you just sauteed onions, until it reaches sauce consistency (about 10 – 15 minutes).
- Return onion mixture to the tomato sauce and simmer for 10 more minutes. Mix in coconut milk, paprika, and sugar. Bring sauce back to boil and turn the heat down to simmer.
- Heat coconut oil in a separate skillet over medium heat. Take the chicken pieces from the marinade and stir carefully into the hot oil, sprinkle with more curry powder, and sear until lightly browned but still pink inside, about 3 minutes. Transfer chicken and any pan juices into the tomato sauce. Let simmer chicken in sauce until no longer pink, about 30 minutes. The sauce will reduce, thicken and all the flavors just beautifully blend together. Adjust seasoning if needed.
- While the chicken is cooking, heat tablespoon of olive oil (or coconut oil) in the small rice pan, mince shallot and garlic and cook until fluorescent but not brown. Add tablespoon of chia seeds and cook shortly, stirring. Add basmati rice, water (or chicken broth), season with salt (unless you’re using chicken stock), and bring to boil.
- Cover the lid, turn the heat down to low and let simmer for 15 minutes on very low heat. Turn off the heat, and let the rice finish up in its own heat. Fluff with fork when done, and pour the chicken tikka masala deliciousness all over the rice!!! If you have time before you dig in, you can decorate it with few leafs of cilantro. Enjoy!
I have paired this dish with Weingut Groiss Grüner Veltliner 2011. The crispiness of this wine paired well with this spicy and creamy chicken dish. I must tell you, well made Gruner veltliner like this one (by the way, it comes in 1L bottle so it’s a gem) is so versatile, it pairs with almost anything. This one is my “house wine” and I hooked many of my friends on it. Even those that prefer sweeter white wines. Funny, this wine is dry and crisp, but collectively loved.
Let me know what cuisine you are experimenting with!