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A Continental Cuisine Series

India Journal

Back to Blighty: MASSALA

Delhi was a crazy but fascinating place and it was quite a shock to get home and then fly up to Glasgow. I have no problem with the place in fact I rather like it, but to come from 36C to 6C and raining hard it’s quite a shock to the system. We flew there to film the second installment of the strand and to meet the son of the founder of chicken tikka masala.
Asif from the Shish Mahal restaurant park road has been here for many years, but it was his father who lays claim to the invention of this national icon. In the seventies his father was cooking late one night and a bus driver came in rather late. He ordered a chicken tikka; this was cooked and served straight away. Some minutes later, the dish returned to the kitchen and the waiter told Asif’s father that it was dry. Asif’s father at the time was recovering from a stomach ulcer and was eating a tin of soup. Thinking quickly he placed a fresh chicken tikka into a saucepan and added a tin of the condensed tomato soup, warmed through and served to the delight of the bus driver. Low and behold, this now famous dish had been invented!!!

I’m not too sure if he is right or wrong, but it does sound very plausible. But I’m sure there will be somebody who disagrees entirely. But enough of that, we now have to cook our own versions of chicken tikka masala and go head to head to see who will win over the great British public. I’ve taken on board what we have seen in Delhi, plus what I have gleaned from my good friend. 
I’m going to go the old method, and use a can of tomato soup in a retro style. Reza is a wonderful cook and I’m sure he work up another fragrant, deep flavoured masterpiece, but I wonder if I can win this time.

We film the cooking sequence and get or dishes ready. As I thought Reza’s is a wonderful dish, but he is really unhappy about the consistency of his sauce. Hey I may have a chance here. He takes it very seriously indeed, and takes out all his chicken and re makes the sauce. Its only a bit of fun I remind him.

We set up in Buchannan street right under the Donald Dewer statue and its really hammering down. Hannah, sets off to try and get the builders on a huge site to take an early lunch, as the noise is pretty loud.
The food is cooked and we start to serve. Its goes very well for Reza and he takes a flying lead. I claw few back but his orange voting disc bowl is rapidly emptying. The overall feeling is that the Glaswegians seem to love a hot curry. Mine was just not hot enough, plus it had too much acidity from the marinade.

Suffice to say I got a real kicking, and my Indian friend took the honours again. It was thoroughly well deserved and I bow to his expertise. Next and final time I have to win. Its Vindaloo time and we are off to Newcastle the part of the country where the hottest curries are eaten. So, hot it is, but with a nod to the lovely fragrance that we experienced in Goa.


Preparation time:- 40 minutes.
Cooking time:- 40 minutes.


  • 4 chicken breasts, skin on, cubed into 4 cm pieces
  • Juice and finely grated zest 1 large lime
  • 1 tbsp. very finely grated fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, very finely crushed
  • ½ tsp. red chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. garam masala
  • 2 tbsp. coriander
  • 2 tbsp. oil, any
  • 100g thick sheep yogurt
  • Salt 
  • Pepper


  • 4 tbsp. oil
  • 2 tbsp. ground coriander
  • 2 tsp. turmeric
  • 4 tsp. paprika
  • 4 tbsp. grated ginger
  • 2 tsp. fenugreek leaves
  • 2 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 small red chilli chopped very finely
  • ½ tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 large onions very finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 can Heinz tomato soup
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 125mls whipping cream
  • 4 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 50-75g cold, cubed unsalted butter
  • few leaves fresh coriander
  • Sugar


  1. Place the lime juice and zests into a bowl, then add all the rest of the ingredients and really mix well.
  2. Add the chicken pieces and mix well again with a little salt and pepper.
  3. Cover and leave overnight in the fridge.
  4. Pre heat a grill to its hottest setting.
  5. For the sauce heat the oil and add the coriander, turmeric, paprika, ginger, fenugreek, garam masala, chilli and cloves and fry for a minute or two.
  6. Next add the onions and garlic and cook again for a few minutes.
  7. Next add the tomatoes, soup, stock cube, cream, vinegar and a little water and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the onions are cooked and slightly reduced.
  8. Blend the sauce in a liquidiser until really smooth, and then pour back into a saucepan and re boil.
  9. Remove the chicken from the fridge and place the chunks onto a baking tray and grill for 3-4 minutes on each side and is half cooked.
  10. Place straight into the simmering sauce and simmer for 4-5 minutes to finish cooking, do not overcook. Season well with salt, pepper and sugar to balance.
  11. Finally add the butter and shake the pan until the sauce is thickened and glossy.
  12. And the coriander and serve.


Serves 4


For the chicken tikka marinade

  • 3-4tbsp chopped coriander (stalks and leaves)
  • 2medium onions thinly sliced and fried in oil until golden brown and drained 
  • 2 tbsp. chopped ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 4 green chilies chopped
  • 60ml thick yoghurt
  • 3tbsp single cream 
  • Juice of ½ lime plus zest
  • 1level teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1tsp garam masala
  • Salt to season
  • 500g boneless chicken breasts cubed
  • 1-2 tbsp. vegetable/sunflower/rapeseed oil

For the sauce

  • 1kg ripe tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 200ml water
  • 2 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed
  • 1tbsp grated ginger
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 4cloves
  • 1bayleaf
  • 2tsp chili powder
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 80g chilled diced butter
  • 80ml double cream
  • 1tsp dried fenugreek leaves
  • ½ tsp. garam masala
  • 3tsp sugar (according to taste)
  • 1tbsp cream for garnish (optional)


  1. Put all the ingredients for the marinade except for the chicken into a jug blender/food processor. Blend to a smooth paste.
  2. Place the chicken into a large mixing bowl and pour over the marinade. Mix thoroughly until well combined.
  3. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to marinate for a couple of hours or overnight.
  4. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.
  5. Place the marinated chicken pieces onto a baking tray in a single layer drizzling over1-2 tbsp. oil.
  6. Cook under a hot grill 3 minutes each side before adding to the sauce without the excess marinade.
  7. To make the sauce, put the tomatoes into a large saucepan. Cover and cook over a medium heat until they begin soften. Add 200ml water, the garlic, ginger, cardamom, cloves and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the tomatoes disintegrate. Remove the bay leaf, and then pour the mixture into a jug blender. Liquidise until smooth. Pour the blended tomato mixture into a clean saucepan, add the chili and cinnamon powders and simmer for approximately 10 minutes or so until thickened. Add the butter a little at a time, stirring constantly. When the sauce turns glossy add the cream and simmer for a couple of minutes. Season with salt, crush the fenugreek leaves with your hands and sprinkle over the sauce along with the garam masala. Keep warm.
  8. Once the chicken has been cooked, add the pieces to the sauce without the excess marinade. Bring to the boil, simmer for a few minutes making sure the chicken has cooked through and finally adjust seasoning. Drizzle over some cream for garnishing.

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