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Spicing Things Up—Our Indian Feast

2011 October 7

I’ve had a jar of garam masala spice in my pantry for a few months…it’s been calling my name.

So last week, when I had a major craving for Indian food (no, I’m not pregnant), I knew the time had come to break open that jar. I wanted a big plate of roasted cauliflower and Chicken Tikka Masala.

For a recipe, I started with my go-to site, Smitten Kitchen. She did not disappoint. I found the exact cauliflower recipe I was looking for…the same thing of which I’ve eaten second helpings at Everest Cafe in St. Louis. I only needed cauliflower, cumin seeds, and a jalapeño—everything else was in my pantry.

Next, I needed a Tikka Masala recipe. This spicy-yet-smooth chicken dish is always my favorite thing in an Indian restaurant. If I had nothing but this and big basket of warm Nan, I’d be blissfully happy. So when I found a promising recipe on the Food & Wine site, I thought it was worth a shot. Again, I only needed a couple things—some chicken thighs and heavy cream, the rest I had on hand.

After reading the chicken recipe, I was sad to see I wouldn’t be eating this meal the same day, as the chicken needs to marinade overnight. So be aware that this will take some planning! But it is worth the wait, because the chicken becomes so tender and flavorful after resting in the yogurt and spices for at least eight hours.

Overall, these dishes were very easy to put together. I was so thrilled to see the Tikka Masala sauce becoming dense and orangey-red in color…just what I was expecting. The aromas in our house were incredible! Even Ethan knew something special was happening up on the stove.

Stu, an Indian food newbie, was very excited when he arrived home to the strong scent of spices. I finished this meal with some warm nan (Indian flat bread I purchased from Whole Foods) and basmati rice. Stu loved the mix of warm spiciness and creamy texture of the chicken. I was very pleased with the crunchy texture and full flavor of the cauliflower—we ate almost a whole head of cauliflower!

My first venture into Indian cuisine was a success!

Next time I think I’ll back off the cheyenne pepper and chili powder in the chicken dish. It was almost too spicy. Like right on the border. Luckily the rice and nan were there to neutralize a little of the spice kick. Overall the flavors were just what I wanted and I can’t wait to try it again. I think this would be a great meal for entertaining!

Chicken Tikka Masala
Recipe by Food and Wine, Grace Parisi 

Masala Marinade
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, fat trimmed

Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup blanched whole almonds
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons pure chile powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
One 35-ounce can peeled tomatoes, finely chopped, juices reserved
Pinch of sugar
1 cup heavy cream

In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne and turmeric. Season with salt and pepper.

Using a sharp knife, make a few shallow slashes in each piece of chicken. Add the chicken to the marinade, turn to coat and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the broiler and position a rack about 8 inches from the heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade; scrape off as much of the marinade as possible. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and spread the pieces on a baking sheet. Broil the chicken, turning once or twice, until just cooked through and browned in spots, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut it into 2-inch pieces.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil. Add the almonds and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer the almonds to a plate and let cool completely. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until finely ground.

In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garam masala, chile powder and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juices and the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Cover partially and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Add the cream and ground almonds and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes longer. Stir in the chicken; simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, and serve with basmati rice and warm nan.


  • The Chicken Tikka Masala can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat gently before serving.
  • Variation The marinade and sauce here are also delicious with shrimp, lamb and vegetables.


Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes
Recipe found on, originally from Gourmet, February 2004

1 (1 3/4-lb) head cauliflower, cut into 3/4-inch-wide florets
1 1/4 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeño, including seeds
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup water

Accompaniment: lemon wedges

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and place a shallow baking pan on rack. Preheat oven to 475°F.

Toss cauliflower and potatoes together in a bowl with 3 tablespoons oil, cumin seeds, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread in hot baking pan and roast, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender and browned in spots and potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes.

While vegetables are roasting, cook onion, garlic, jalapeño, and ginger in remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until very soft and beginning to turn golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Stir in water, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet, then stir in roasted vegetables. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.

Makes 4 side-dish servings.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Patti Voboril permalink
    October 8, 2011

    Sounds yummy!

  2. Amy Voboril Kohlhepp permalink
    October 11, 2011

    Wow, thats all I can say

  3. Sandy Schon permalink
    October 14, 2011

    Would love to try this recipe. I’ll have to leave out most of the spices or your dad will blow up!!!! Think it would still be good?

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