British Heritage readers know that curry houses, i.e.; Indian restaurants, are now as British as Kate Middleton. Indeed, when Britons have been asked to identify their national dish, fish and chips, shepherd's pie, steak and kidney pie, all paled besides the fiery and beloved chicken tikka masala.
But, just like colonialism, curry houses are fading away. Because of strict immigration controls, according to the "Briton Perturbed By a Troubling Shortage of Curry Chefs" article in The New York Times, " a third of the nation's 12,500 curry houses are facing closing because they cannot find chefs." Many second generation British Indians are not interested in taking over their family businesses, due to the long hours and small income attached to these national treasures.
What to do? Bring in European Union chefs? The language and cultural barriers are a bridge too far, apparently. Loosen immigration strictures? Britain would have to leave the EU in order to do that.
While this all plays out, here is a suggestion--make an authentic chicken tikka masala at home, such as this one by Madhur Jaffrey. Meantime, tell us in the comments, what's your favorite curry house in Great Britain?
Madhur Jaffrey's Chicken Tikka Masala
This recipe is adapted from her wonderful book, Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Nation.
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1 inch-chunks
1¼ tsp salt
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp peeled, finely grated root ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely grated or crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
½–¾ tsp chilli powder
6 tbsp whipping cream
½ tsp garam masala
3 tbsp olive or sunflower oil
For the masala:
4 tbsp olive or sunflower oil
1/2 onion, finely sliced
1 tbsp peeled, finely grated ginger
5-6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp ground coriander
½ tsp turmeric
¾ tsp chilli powder
2 tsp paprika
4 tbsp yoghurt
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and very finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
¼ tsp salt, or to taste
¼ tsp garam masala
4 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
- Start by marinating the chicken tikka. Put the chicken in a non-reactive bowl and rub in the salt and lemon juice. Prod the chicken pieces lightly with the tip of a knife and rub the seasonings in again, then set aside for 20 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, cumin, paprika, chilli powder, cream and garam masala. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate for six to eight hours (longer will not hurt).
- When you’re ready to cook, make the masala: pour the 4 tablespoons of oil into a large, preferably non-stick, lidded pan and set it over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the onions. Stir and fry until they brown, six or seven minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and continue to fry, stirring, for a minute. Add the ground coriander, turmeric, chilli powder and paprika. Stir for 10 seconds, then add a tablespoon of the yoghurt. Stir and fry until it is absorbed. Add the remaining yoghurt in this way, a tablespoon at a time.
- Now put in the tomatoes. Fry them for three or four minutes, or until they turn pulpy. Add the stock and salt, and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently for 15–20 minutes. The sauce should turn thick. Stir in the garam masala and coriander leaves, taste for balance of seasonings and add more salt if you need it.
- Shortly before you eat, preheat the grill to its highest setting. Thread the chicken on to two to four skewers (the flat, sword-like ones are best). Brush with the 3 tablespoons of oil and balance the skewers on the rim of a shallow baking tray, so that the meat is suspended and does not touch the tray. Place about 13 centimetres (5 inches) from the source of heat and grill for six minutes on each side, or until lightly browned, cooked through and charred in places. (Cut a large piece of chicken to the centre to check there is no trace of pink.)
- When the tikkas are cooked, reheat the sauce and fold in the chicken. Serve immediately.