“I think music, in my opinion, is not about motivation in the way — it’s a running base. It’s art. And my whole philosophy of music is different. It’s almost like cooking and serving to people, seeing them smile and enjoying the Food really” (A.R.Rahman) and I couldn’t agree more. When you cook and serve that not only makes you feel elevated and pleased but also pleases those being served, you know you’ve done something phenomenal.
It’s Grilled, it’s Tikka and it’s blanketed by a luscious thick creamy curry, what else makes a perfect curry. Only one expression personifies this dish and that is, it will knock your socks off. The meat is grilled in its own marination and the curry is prepared with a fried onion, tomato and yogurt gravy, ready to absorb all the smoky flavour from the grilled chicken cubes and a splash of lemon squeezed on top, giving the whole curry a succulent, creamy and grilled flavour. I love grilled and BBQ’d meat as they are not only healthy but the smoky and charred flavour result is absolute delectable. Coming from an Asian background, I can vouch for one thing, we love our Tikka’s and be it grilled, baked, rice or curry it is just something we Asians can’t get enough of.
So, I was roaming about the internet strolling through a few tikka recipes and I found a sea of tikka recipes, some that really grabbed my attention and some just didn’t feel right. I love my tikka dishes and I make them any chance I get and they are an absolute must for my dinner party table. I have done tikka in all forms, grilled, baked, BBQ’d, curried and rice and let me tell you, each frame adds a distinctive edge to the tikka flavour. Apart from the flavour I absolutely adore the gorgeous orange colour of the dish, reminds me of a beautiful sunset in autumn here in UK.
There is a huge debate about the origin of the dish though with people claiming to have created it in their Glasgow restaurant with people claiming to dismiss the claim and claiming themselves to be descendants of Mughals and have been passed the recipe from generations. All I know is that wherever it came from, I’m just grateful it’s here and being in the UK, I can vouch curries such as these are Britain’s most wanted.
The whole dish screams deliciousness. It’s prepared in two parts, whereby, the meat chunks are marinated and grilled separately on a griddle or oven and added to the thick luscious sauce is prepared separately. I love the little heat the sauce possesses and a bit of sharpness of spice as a result of the addition of All-spice to the sauce. Nonetheless, the heat of the spice is cut down by the addition of yogurt and cream which gives it a light colour and balance of flavour. My personal favourite about this whole recipe are the curry leaves, I am complete nutter for them. The flavour is unlike any other spice with it’s spicy lemon-like and faintly bitter taste, and their warm musky aroma is highly addictive. This is why I love this dish so, it is an amalgamation of South and North Indian cuisine as the prior use curry leaves abundantly in their dishes just as the latter uses coriander extensively and in general in Asian cuisine altogether.
The grilled chicken chunks can be grilled on a griddle or in the oven or even BBQ’d to really put forth the smoky flavour. If however, you are grilling it otherwise, it is completely up to you if you want to use a coal to smoke the grilled chicken for that punch of smoked flavour. Me, however, leave it without. I love the cream marinade that cooks aggressively and wraps itself round the chicken pieces and chars the meat from places as it bakes or grills. That’s enough for me and anyway, the tikka sauce is already heavy in taste, so, I like to keep it light. Usually you would use yogurt to marinade but in this particular recipe, cream works gorgeously and it keeps the chicken chunks moist and tender as well as enhancing the flavour of the dish.
The curry is cooked in two portions, first cooked with sauteed onions, green chillies, garlic, tomato paste and puree and cooked into a paste before it is blended to make a smooth paste after which it’s back on the heat and loaded with yogurt and curry leaves. It is significant that the paste be blended in order to achieve that silkiness of the curry. If you think the curry is a little too thick for your liking just loosen it up with a little water or milk.
Once it’s done, it’s a gorgeous sight with it’s aggressive sunset colours. It’s almost as if someone has painted it with orange dyes, hues, corals, reds and tangerines and finally I leave you with an excerpt from one of my favourite books called “Rise up and salute the sun” by Suzy Kassem, that just popped into my head just now as I was jolting down the sunset colours. I told you I love books as much as I love to cook. The following is truly deep;
“Each day is born with a sunrise and ends in a sunset, the same way we open our eyes to see the light, and close them to hear the dark. You have no control over how your story begins or ends but by now you should know that all things have an ending. Every spark returns to darkness. Every sound returns to silence and every flower returns to sleep with the earth. The journey of the sun and moon is predictable but yours is your ultimate art”.
1. Chicken cubes — 1 kg
Grilled Chicken Marinade
1. Cumin Powder — 2 tsp
2. Paprika Powder — 2 tsp
3. Red Chilli Powder — ½ tsp
4. Garam Masala Powder — ½ tsp
5. Lemon Juice — 4 tbsp
6. Cream — 6 tbsp
7. Ginger crushed — 2 tsp
6. Garlic crushed — 2 tsp
8. Dry Fenugreek Leaves — 4 tsp
9. Salt — 1 tsp
1. Onion — 2
2. Green chillies — 3
3. Salt — 1 tsp
4. Black Pepper — 1 tsp
5. Garlic crushed — 2
6. Ginger Chopped — 2 tsp
7. Red chilli Powder — 1 tsp
8. Turmeric Powder — 2 tsp
9. Garam Masala powder — 1 tsp
10. Tomato Puree — 4 tbsp
11. Tomato crushed — 1 ½ cup
12. Curry Leaves — 12-16
13. Coriander leaves — To garnish
14. Lemon juice — 2 tsp
15 Yogurt — 8 tbsp
1. Prepare the Grilled chicken
a. In a bowl, marinate the chicken cubes with all the ingredients listed under the Chicken Marinade for 20-30 minutes.
b. Skewer the cubes onto skewers and grill on the griddle or fry pan.
c. Reserve any marinade left over in the bowl for the curry.
2. Prepare the gravy
a. In a cooking pot, heat oil and fry the diced onions until soft.
b. Add salt and pepper, chopped green chillies, chopped ginger and garlic and the spices i.e. red chilli powder, turmeric powder, garam masala powder and roast for 2 minutes.
c. Add the tomato puree and cook for another minute. It will become a thick clumpy paste.
d. Add the crushed tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
e. Add in the reserve marinade from the grilled chicken marinade and mix.
f. Take it off the flame and blend the gravy into a smooth paste with a hand blender or in a blender.
g. Pour back into the pan, on the flame and add in the curry leaves and cook for 1 minute.
h. Add in the yogurt and mix.
i. Add in the chopped coriander, dried fenugreek leaves and a squeeze of lemon.
j. Take the grilled chicken and slide it off the skewers into the curry.
k. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with Naan or Rice.