Legendary Dishes | Chicken Tikka Masala

The European origins of this dish are controversial.

Merchant navy sailors from the Indian subcontinent were among the first to open curry houses in Europe, writing home for traditional recipes. They were joined by like-minded migrants in the cities of England and Scotland.

The early curry houses offered meat with a spicy sauce and fluffy rice. Gradually curries were classified as hot or mild, and went by the names of korma, madras and vindaloo.

Chicken curry was popular.

The early 1970s saw a change in the type of curry dishes being offered.

Chicken cooked with yoghurt was a typical dish from northern Indian with variations in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Chicken marinated in spices and grilled was another with roots in Indian cuisine.

Chicken slow-marinated in spices and yoghurt, then baked in a tandoor charcoal oven was yet another.

When chicken tikka masala appeared on menus, diners assumed they were being offered an authentic Indian curry based on regional variations of these chicken dishes cooked in a tandoor.

Investigators later revealed that chicken tikka masala was a relative of butter chicken, tandoori chicken and tikka chicken, recipes with inner-city origins in Britain and India, and everywhere migrants from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan had settled.

This legend endures.

12 chicken thigh meat pieces, skinned
200 g yoghurt
45 ml lemon juice
45 g ginger
30 g garlic
15 g onion
1 tsp black pepper, ground
1 tsp garam masala, ground
1 tsp turmeric paste
1 tsp red chilli, ground (optional)
Red colour, dash
Salt, pinch
1 onion, sliced
30 g garlic-ginger, ground into 
a paste with 10 g water
1 tsp cumin, ground
1 tsp coriander, ground
75 ml milk/yoghurt
1 tsp sugar (optional)
Salt, pinch
Oil, for frying

Blend garlic, ginger and onion with lemon juice into a smooth paste. Pour into a large bowl and add the chilli, garam masala, pepper, red colour, turmeric, salt and yoghurt.

Coat the chicken in this mixture, leave in a cold place for at least four hours, turning the chicken from time to time.

Preheat the grill.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Arrange the chicken on a tray with a wire rack, grill until it begins to take on colour, turn and baste with marinade juices, about 15 minutes.

In a deep frying pan, heat oil until almost smoking, remove from heat, add garlic-ginger paste, then toss in the onion slices and slowly caramelise.

Remove from heat, incorporate milk or yoghurt (gradually to prevent it splitting), spices and sugar (for a slight sweet hit). Carefully add the chicken, remove to an ovenproof dish.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Serve hot with naan or rice, or a combination of both.