Posted in: Noms

Updated: Chicken Sneaka Masala part 3: The Masala

I’ll start out by offering sincerest apologies to anyone reading this who may consider Indian food their natural diet. I’ve taken certain liberties here to produce something that appeals to my western palate while, I hope, staying faithful to the Indian techniques normally used for this type of dish.

This is essentially a Masala – a sauce – to accompanying the Tikka detailed in the previous two posts. It’s a peculiarly western attitude to assume that a beautifully fragrant Tikka needs a ‘gravy’ to go with it, but here’s my attempt.

  • 6 shallots, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2″ cube of ginger, finely grated
  • 3 cardomom pops, 3 cloves, 1″ stick of cinnamon (for seasoning the oil)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (it’s a lot, I know, but bear with me)
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes / 3 chopped tomatoes
  • 100 ml coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • fresh coriander leaf

“Hang on,” you cry, “there’s nothing in there! It’s just a pepper sauce!”

Well, yes. The thing is, the tikka marinade is so beautifully spiced that care must be taken that it’s complimented by the sauce and not smothered. So here’s the reasoning behind it. It’s basically a standard ginger / garlic / onion base there, but I’ve substituted shallots for onions to add a little sweetness to compliment the slight sourness of the tikka marinade. Then there’s the tomatoes and the coconut milk, both of which add their own sweetness.

Now, that’s a lot of cayenne to have in there – it’s because the cayenne takes the edge off the sweetness, preventing it from becoming overpowering but will add too much heat for many people. As a result, I’m adding a fair whack of natural yoghurt right at the end to diffuse some of the heat. So, the method is:

Heat some oil and season with cinnamon, cloves and cardomom. We don’t want to add too much flavour, so after these have sizzled for 20 seconds or two, whip them out with a slotted spoon. If you don’t have one (you know who you are ;-)), it’s a handy addition to your kitchen.

Drop the shallots, ginger and garlic in the oil and fry until lightly browned, stirring continuously. Add the cayenne to this and continue stirring, take care not to burn the spice. Add the tikka’d chicken and  tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add the coconut milk. You’re adding a lot of liquid here, so it’s going to take a wee bit of time to reduce (bearing in mind the chicken is already cooked). Once reduced, stir in the garam masala and yoghurt, bring back to a simmer (stirring continuously) then add the fresh coriander leaf. Cook for a minute or two, then serve on yummy rice.

There are a lot of flavours vying for attention here and I’d imagine it would be easy to make the cayenne pepper overpowering. If in doubt, use an equal amount of chilli powder instead.

EDIT: Tried this again with a few small tweaks to the sauce and it came out MUCH better. Firstly, reduce the amount of Cayenne to half a teaspoon and add half a teaspoon of ground cumin and ground coriander. Next, replace the tin of tomatoes with a tablespoon of tomato puree, add a lot more water and then let it reduce before adding the coconut milk and reducing a bit more. I left out the yoghurt and fresh coriander, but this can be added according to taste.

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