Friday, February 4, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala and Naan

I’ve been fascinated by Indian culture for just about as long as I can remember. Granted, this fascination didn’t exactly come out of nowhere or result from reading a lot of Rudyard Kipling. See, when we first came to the U.S. my parents were pretty involved in the Hare Krishna movement, so some of my first memories involve colorful events at the Hare Krishna temple in Boston, where I was surrounded by a sea of saris (how do you like that alliteration?), lively music, and bright flower petals.

Although my parents eventually joined the LDS church and moved our family to Utah, a bit of that devotion to the far East still remained. My dad keeps a poster of yoga asanas hanging on the wall of his study and books like the Bhagavad Gita and Autobiography of a Yogi sit alongside his copies of The Book of Mormon and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, my sister and I still like to bust out the old vhs tape of Sita’s Wedding-- a bollywood classic and our favorite movie when we were kids-- to drool over the gorgeous costumes and music, and many of the wooden spoons in my parents’ kitchen are stained yellow with tumeric, a colorful spice used in Indian cooking.

Most of the Indian food my mom cooked was simple, vegetarian fare. Things like a potato and spinach curry that she called sabji, or a bright yellow rice dish with potatoes, cauliflower, and tomatoes that didn’t really have a name, at least not one I can recall at the moment. So I didn’t encounter rich dishes like this tikka masala or vegetable coconut kurma (my favorite) until I grew older and started venturing out to Indian restaurants, but rest assured that I loved them all at first bite.

Chicken tikka masala consists of chicken marinated in yogurt and spices, then grilled and served in a spicy tomato cream sauce. This version, though it might not be the most authentic recipe out there, tastes pretty darn close to the tikka masala I’ve had at my favorite Indian restaurants. Served with some basmati rice* and naan, it brought a welcome flair to our dinner table.

Chicken Tikka Masala (adapted from

When I went to make this recipe I found a note that I had previously made to double the sauce. I followed that instruction this time around but found that it was a little overkill. If you like plenty of sauce to soak up the rice and dip your naan in, I would say do about one and a half times the sauce proportions listed below.

Oh, and this isn't traditional but I added some frozen peas just because I had them and felt like it.

1 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon salt
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
4 long skewers

1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1) In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, and 1 teaspoons salt. Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2) 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 (Both times I’ve made this I haven’t wanted to use my grill so I just put the chicken on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet and baked it at 375 for about 15 minutes).
3) Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic and jalapeno for 1 minute. Season with 2 teaspoons cumin, paprika, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in tomato sauce and cream.
4)Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Add grilled chicken, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in frozen peas (if using). Transfer to a serving platter, and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Naan (from

I was so excited to make this after seeing how simple this recipe was and what rave reviews it was getting. When mine turned out heavy and didn’t puff up too much, I immediately went to look for some kind of user error. Sure enough, my baking powder expired a year ago. So I’m going to go ahead and recommend this recipe anyway, since it seemed to work out just fine for 130 other people, who I’m assuming didn’t use old baking powder.

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups plain low-fat yogurt

1) Mix together flour, baking powder and salt.
2) Stir in the yogurt till the dough is too stiff for a spoon, then knead it in the bowl till it holds together well, adding more flour if necessary.
3) Turn it out on a floured surface and continue kneading for about 5 minutes till the dough feels smooth and elastic.
4) Form the dough into a ball and put it in an oiled bowl, covered with a towel, to rest for an hour or longer.
5) Take the dough out and cut it into 10 equal pieces. Form each into a ball and press the balls flat into round discs.
6) Heat a large frying pan or griddle, either seasoned cast iron or a good non-stick finish.
7) Heat your oven to about 500 and have the broiler on (this is how the original recipe states it - I know with my oven it's either 500 degree oven OR the broiler, but you get the idea.
8) Take 1 piece of dough at a time and roll it out on a floured surface till it is about 8-10 inches across and less than 1/4 inch thick.
9) Lay it on the hot griddle and cook it over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes (I don't think mine took that long).
10) It will puff up in places or all over, and there will be some blackish-brown spots on the bottom.
11) Slide a spatula under the naan and transfer it to the oven, directly onto the rack, for a minute or two, just till it finishes puffing up into a balloon and begins to color lightly on top.
12) Remove naan from the oven and brush it lightly with melted butter if you like.
13) Continue this way with all the dough, stacking the breads into a napkin-lined basket.
14) Serve the breads hot, fresh from the oven, or let them cool and wrap them up.
15) To reheat, wrap them in aluminum foil, in packets of 4 or 5 breads and put them in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

*Basmati rice is a long, thin rice that cooks up very dry and light. You can buy it at Asian markets and I believe in bulk at costco. I bought some from the bulk section of Whole Foods and it wasn't that great. Usually I just steal it from my parents' kitchen.


  1. Good Heavenly days, Daria...this sounds LOVELY! I'm making this this week, for SURE!

  2. I'm glad to see you are still posting b/c I have not! I've had quite the long break from food posts! I have to go back and catch up on everything you've put up. Yum.