Without question, chicken tikka masala is a brilliant curry that makes people very happy. Of course it’s inspired by fantastic Indian cooking, but is in fact an Anglo-Indian evolution, created to suit British palates. When you make it, you’ll be super-proud – you can use top-quality chicken, it’s loads of fun to marinate and grill, the method rocks, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll find a better expression. I love to make my own paratha breads to serve with it, too – check out the recipe at the bottom of the page. Dig a hole in the garden and get grilling!
Put the cloves, cumin and 1 heaped teaspoon each of paprika and garam masala into a small pan and toast for 1 minute to bring them back to life, then tip into a large bowl. Finely grate in the zest of 1 lemon, squeeze in all its juice, crush in the garlic, peel and finely grate in the ginger, and add the yoghurt and 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Cut the chicken breasts into 5cm chunks, then massage all that flavour into the meat. Skewer up the chicken chunks, interspersing them with lemon wedges and chunks of green or yellow chilli, but don’t squash them together too much. Place on a tray, cover with clingfilm and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
For the sauce, peel the onions and garlic, then finely slice with the red chillies and coriander stalks (reserving the leaves for later). Put it all into a large casserole pan on a medium-high heat with a lug of oil and cook for around 20 minutes, or until golden, stirring regularly. Add the ground coriander, turmeric and remaining 1 heaped teaspoon each of paprika and garam masala. Cook for 2 minutes, then add and toast the almonds. Pour in the tomatoes, crumble in the stock cube and add 300ml of boiling water. Simmer for 5 minutes, then stir in the coconut milk. Simmer for a final 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, then season to perfection.
When you’re ready to cook the chicken, drizzle it with a little oil, then grill on a hot barbecue, in a screaming hot griddle pan or under a hot grill, turning until it’s very golden and gnarly on all sides. Slice the chicken off the skewers straight into the sauce, reserving the lemons. Simmer for 2 minutes while you use tongs to squeeze some jammy lemons over the curry, to taste. Swirl through some more yoghurt, sprinkle with the coriander leaves, and serve with parathas or fluffy basmati rice.
Here’s a nice little game-changer – make your own paratha to enjoy with your chicken tikka. For 8 people, put 300g each of wholemeal bread flour and plain flour into a bowl with a good pinch of sea salt. Gradually add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 400ml of semi-skimmed milk, mixing until combined, then knead for a few minutes on a flour-dusted surface. Leave to rest for 20 minutes, then divide the dough into 8 and thinly roll out each piece to A4 size. One-by-one, drizzle and rub lightly with oil, roll up into a loose log, roll the log up like a Catherine wheel, then roll out with a rolling pin again to a flat round just under ½cm thick. Cook in a hot oiled frying pan on a medium heat for 3 minutes on each side, or until nicely charred, then sprinkle lightly with salt. Transfer to a board and smash together to expose the layers.