Thursday, 13 March 2014

Chicken Tikka Masala with a Twist (and some cheats!)

So, the British-Indian curry gets a healthy makeover...

In my defence, I'd like to put forward that this was a pre-meditated crime planned by my dearly beloved, and I was egged on by people from another place in the murky ether of the internet, who wanted a healthy recipe for it. Well, that's fair enough, because lots of people love this dish - so many, that it's become one of the country's favourite dishes!

This quantity serves four people, and is from 281 (YES, 281!!!) calories per serving - or 323 calories with the optional onions and peppers (see recipe below re. chicken tikka calories). The single large fresh chilli (de-seeded) and 1/2 tsp chilli powder make for what I would term a 'medium' hot curry - adjust this to suit your tastes!

A quick breakdown of the calories: chicken tikka,: from 140 calories per serving (160 with my chicken tikka recipe made with chicken breasts); masala sauce: 141 calories per serving, optional onions and peppers: 42 calories per serving.

So I succumbed to peer pressure from these terrible people, and my own children too, and made this. Hopefully, it will please the chicken tikka masala lovers who would like a healthy version - it certainly pleased the chickn tikka masala lovers in this house (although one of them would have liked it sweeter - for me personally, it was more than sweet enough, so there's plenty of room for you to adjust this if you've got a sweet tooth!). I've made the addition of some lightly charred peppers and onions, to make a larger, more filling portion for your money - inspired, if you like, by the sizzling dishes of chicken tikka surrounded by peppers and onions brought out on cast iron in some western Indian restaurants. It's optional, you can make this just a plain chicken tikka masala if you prefer - but it adds a nice, crunchy dimension to it, and was highly approved of - and given that chicken tikka masala is not an authentic Indian curry, I felt it was fair game for giving a twist to!

Without further ado, here's my recipe - the recipe is mostly for the sauce (I've substituted the usual gallon of double/heavy cream and ground almonds for greek yoghurt and coconut cream/powder, to give a similarly rich-tasting sauce), and the great thing is that you can choose to 'cheat', if you like - sadly, not with a jar of sauce, but you can choose whether to make your own tikka marinade for the chicken, use a pre-mixed spice marinade, buy pre-marinated chicken in tikka spices (raw, no artificial ingredients), or even buy ready-cooked chicken tikka (again, the brands I've mentioned are free from artificial colours and flavours)! It's up to you how much of the process you want to do yourself, or cut out. But if you're counting calories, and using pre-marinated/pre-cooked chicken tikka, you will need to check the calorie count on the packaging, of course. [Calories below indicated in square brackets]

Chicken Tikka Masala with a Twist
GF = product is gluten free at the date of posting according to the manufacturer, where products contain more than one raw ingredient - always check if cooking gluten free)

For the Chicken Tikka (take a deep breath - there's a bazillion options to suit you!!)
One half quantity of my Chicken Tikka (using 450g chicken, recipe here, GF) [640]
450g chicken breasts diced [495] marinated in 2 tbsp Tikka Spice Blend (e.g. Schwartz - NOT GF) [c.36] one tsp lemon juice [1] and one tsp neutral oil (e.g. sunflower) [45] - total calories [577]
One 390g pack of (raw) Tikka Chicken - e.g. Morrisons, (GF) [620] / One and a half 300g packs of Waitrose (raw) Chicken Breast Chunks in Tikka Marinade (GF, 450g total) [599] / One and a half 300g packs of Sainsbury's (raw) Chicken Thigh Chunks in a Tikka Marinade (GF) [651]
Three 140-150g packs of (already cooked) Chicken Tikka Pieces/Chunks - e.g. Sainsbury's (GF), 420g in total [558] / ASDA 450g in total (GF) [563]

For the (optional) Onions and Peppers
1 large onion (130g) peeled, topped and tailed and cut into wedges (from top to bottom) about 1.5 inches wide [53]
1 red pepper and 1 green pepper (or your choice of colours, 130g each, after de-seeding), cut into attractive long triangles, wedges or diamonds no more than 2cm wide [68]
1 tsp coconut oil/ghee/neutral oil (e.g. sunflower) [45]

For the Masala sauce
1 tsp coconut oil / ghee / neutral oil (e.g. sunflower) [45]
1 large onion (130g), finely chopped (or roughly if you want to blend your sauce at the end) [53]
2 cardamon pods and 4 whole cloves [-]
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped/crushed [18]
2 inches peeled ginger, finely grated [7]
1 large red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped [7]
1/2 tsp hot (pure) chilli powder [3]
1/4 tsp ground cinammon [1]
2 tsp garam masala [14]
1 tsp turmeric (optional, mostly for colour) [7]
1 tbsp ground paprika (optional, not your expensive Spanish stuff, again for colour as well as flavour) [18]
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes [100]
200ml Greek yoghurt (I use 'Total'), given a really thorough stirring/beating with a fork (to avoid lumps and curdling) [192]
1 tsp fine sea salt
1-2 tsp jaggery, or soft brown sugar (optional and/or to taste - sugar is 16 calories per teaspoon) [32]
2 level tbsp coconut cream powder / coconut cream (optional) [63/61]
Large handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped [5]

Cook in the order to suit you - either cook the peppers and onions, and grill the chicken tikka first, then set aside, or cook them while the sauce is simmering for 15 minutes. I've put the methods separately so you can choose to suit you (if your chicken is pre-cooked, then you don't need to cook it, just add it to the sauce to warm through.

Cooking the (optional) onions and peppers
Heat a large, heavy based, non-stick pan
over a high heat. Add the oil, swirl around, then add the onions and peppers and cook, tossing/turning occasionally, for around 5-8 minutes until there are a few slightly charred patches, but they are still a little firm and retain their shape. Set aside.

Cooking the marinated chicken (if cooking from raw)
Pre-heat the grill (broiler) to high. Arrange the chicken pieces on a wire rack (a cooling rack works well, as the wires are quite close together) over a foil-covered metal tray (to reflect heat and catch drips). Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on one side (then optionally use a culinary blow torch quickly over the surface, to get a little more browning/slightly charred effect), then turn over and do the same again. If you're serving it 'de-constructed', make sure the chicken is cooked all the way through - if you're adding it to the sauce, it doesn't need to be cooked all the way through just yet.

Cooking the Masala sauce
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based non-stick pan, over a low to medium heat. Add the finely chopped onions with the cardamon pods and cloves, and keeping the heat low, cook or 8 to 10 minutes until the onions are just starting to brown.

Add the garlic, ginger and chilli, and continue to cook for a further 20 seconds or so, until they are fragrant. Add the dry spices (chilli, cinammon, garam masala, turmeric and paprika) and continue to cook for another 20 to 30 seconds.

Add the chopped tomatoes, the greek yoghurt, coconut cream/powder 1/2 tbsp lemon juice (to start with), 1 tsp jaggery/sugar (if using, to start with), and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a gentle simmer, boil the kettle so you have hot water to hand, and leave to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring as and when (you could cook the chicken, onions and peppers during this time, and get your rice/cauliflower rice on, if cooking). If the sauce gets too thick, add a splash of hot water.

Add the majority of the coriander, reserving some for garnish and taste the sauce, and add the rest of the lemon juice and jaggery/sugar if required (and/or more to taste - sugar is 16 calories per teaspoon, so 4 calories per portion). At this point, if you would really like a smooth sauce, you could fish out the cardamons and cloves and blend it quickly (I personally prefer the more rustic sauce).

Add the cooked/almost cooked chicken to the sauce, along with the peppers and onions (if using), and simmer for another couple of minutes until the chicken is warmed, and most importantly cooked through. You can check this by fishing out a couple of the biggest pieces and cutting into them to check. Add further hot water, if the sauce has evaporated a lot, and check for seasoning.

Serve, scattered with the reserved coriander, and enjoy your healthy and tasty version of chicken tikka masala!

If you happen to want to colour your chicken and/or sauce that 'interesting' reddish colour it's served in some restaurants and takeaways, I'd advise that you use some yellow food colouring, as well as red, so that your tikka masala doesn't take on an unattractive pink colour. The yellow will give you more of an orangey red colour.

You could also serve it as a bit of a 'de-constructed' chicken tikka masala, and cook the sauce first, keeping it warm while you cook the peppers and onions and grill (or re-heat) the chicken tikka, serving the chicken over the peppers and onions, with some sauce poured on top and garnished with coriander. However, I wouldn't recommend using turquoise plates, as it REALLY clashes quite revoltingly (as I discovered, too late!!)...

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