I must admit that I have come to enjoy Indian food much later in life than my British friends and family. I suppose that is because in Canada, Indian cuisine isn’t as readily available as it is in my adoptive home of Britain. When Canadians crave a takeout meal or can’t be bothered to cook, I think we tend towards pizza and Chinese before anything else. As a kid growing up in a household that rarely ordered in, I remember being excited for pizza nights like most children get excited waiting for Santa Claus. Driving with my dad to pick up the pizza, the thrill of holding the very large flat and warm box on my lap as we drove home, the smell of pizza wafting through the air tempting me to open the box and steal a piece of pepperoni. Delicious memories.
I also remember eating Chinese food as a child in Toronto’s Chinatown with my great Auntie Anne. Walking to her neighbourhood restaurant was always a special treat, and it was from eating with her that I learned the names of many of the popular Chinese dishes and grew to love these exotic tastes and textures so much. My grandparents were also big fans of Chinese cuisine and no trip to visit them in Manitoba was complete without a trip to Cathay House in Winnipeg – we always had to order the dry spareribs (with hot mustard) and the wonton soup. I loved to watch the comically oversized goldfish swimming in the giant pond beside the indoor pagoda. When my grandfather took Nick and I there for dinner two summers ago I was pleased to see that everything was exactly as I remembered it, even down to the goldfish.
In all honesty, I haven’t had any really amazing Indian restaurant meals since moving to London. I remember going to Brick Lane on my first visit in 2004, but I don’t have any particular memories of wonderful food. I have been to a few Indian places near where we live, but wasn’t overly impressed. We ordered an Indian takeaway with family once, and I was utterly disappointed. I seem to always order things that are just far too hot to be able to taste anything, or out of my fear of too much spice, I opt for milder things which seem totally bland. How is this the most popular ethnic cuisine in Britain I wondered?
And then my sister-in-law bought us a great Indian cookbook. Hallelujah! The recipes were fabulous, full of flavour and texture, and while many of them required ingredients we needed to source, the dishes were ultimately very simple to make. But there was one recipe that the book was missing, and that was for the most popular Indian dish in this Britain.
Along came Jamie Oliver and his great book the Ministry of Food. While initially I found many of the recipes in this book a bit simple and basic for our tastes, there are actually quite a few gems in the book and the Chicken Tikka Masala is definitely one of them. This has become a regular dish in our house, and it is a treat to eat every time!
Chicken Tikka Masala
Jamie’s Ministry of Food (2008)
- 4 skinless chicken breasts
- 2 medium onions
- 1 fresh red chilli
- a thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger
- a small bunch of fresh coriander
- vegetable oil
- a knob of butter
- 1/2 a 283g jar of Patak’s tikka masala curry paste
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 x 400g tin of coconut milk (we use the light version)
- 200g natural yoghurt
- small handful of flaked almonds
- 1 lemon
Slice the chicken breasts lengthways into 2cm thick strips. Peel, halve and finely slice the onions. Finely slice your chilli. Peel and finely slice the ginger. Pick the coriander leaves and put to one side, then finely chop the stalks.
Put a large casserole-type pan on a medium to high heat and add a couple of lugs of oil and the butter. Add the onions, chilli, ginger and coriander stalks and cook for 10 minutes, until softened and golden. Add the tikka masala curry paste and the strips of chicken. Stir well to coat everything with the paste and season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and the coconut milk. Fill one of the empty tins with water, pour into the pan and stir again. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on. Check the curry regularly to make sure it’s not drying out and add extra water if necessary. When the meat is tender and cooked, taste and add a bit more salt and pepper – please season carefully.
This will be fantastic served with fluffy rice and with a few spoonfuls of yoghurt dolloped on top. Sprinkle over the almonds and coriander leaves and serve with some lemon wedges for squeezing over.