Tikka Masala

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

This is SUCH an easy dish to make – I cannot recommend highly enough that you try it.  This was my first ever effort at a Tikka Masala and the only warning I will give about making this dish is that you either wear an apron or some old painting clothes while you cook it.  Like with a pen leaking ink – no matter how careful you think you are being – you end up covered in the stuff.  This recipe uses red food coloring & it WILL get on you.  You will splash or touch or bump or smear & it will ruin whatever you have on.  Another option is cooking this nude but then you run the risk of scalding or searing your naughty bits or your pendulous lower abdomen (fine – maybe YOURS isn’t pendulous) or even your low slung lady parts.  That isn’t nice.  So – just wear an apron.

I made this with a package of frozen albacore from Trader Joe’s.  I just defrosted it & cut it into big chunks.  If this doesn’t appeal to you – feel free to use chicken or shrimp or a few substantial vegetables – like potato and cauliflower – or tofu.  Whatever.  There isn’t any real limit on how you can reinvent this dish – because it is really all about the fiery red gravy.  So – if you own a food processor – this is one simple meal to create.  This recipe will EASILY feed 6 people – likely with much left over.



Tikka Masala


2 lbs (or so) of: fresh seafood or chicken or tofu or mixed vegetables of your choice – cut into chunks

1 large onion

1 28 oz can of tomatoes and their juices

8 garlic cloves

1 3″ piece fresh ginger or 4-5 heaping TBS jarred minced ginger

2 jalapenos

1 TBS turmeric

2 TBS garam masala

1 tsp red food coloring (BE CAREFUL & don’t get it everywhere!)

1/3 cup Greek yogurt

salt to taste

5 TBS butter

1 tsp coriander SEEDS (not ground)

1 tsp cumin SEEDS (not ground)

1 TBS paprika

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 lb bag frozen peas (or FRESH if you can get them!)

8-10 carrots – chopped

Cilantro – for garnish


In the food processor, chop (puree almost) the onion very fine.  Set aside.  Then – puree the turmeric, garam masala, red food coloring, garlic, ginger & jalapenos with 1/2 cup water.  Pour into a bowl & set aside.  Without cleaning the processor bowl – puree the tomatoes.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, blend the yogurt, salt and 3 TBS of the red puree and then add either your fish or chicken or tofu.  Marinate this for half an hour or more.  If you are going all veggies with this dish – you can skip the marinating.

If you are using fish or chicken – cook it now on your stove top.   I used a round grill pan – but any frying pan or cast iron thing works.  Once it is cooked through, set it aside.

Melt the butter in a LARGE saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the cumin & coriander seeds & fry for 3-4 minutes.  Be careful NOT to burn the butter.  Add the onion & paprika.  Cook until onions soften & begin to change color – 5-6 minutes.  Add the red puree & blend well.  Add the tomatoes and blend well.  Add the cream & a cup of water.  Blend well.  Add all the vegetables you are using – including the peas & carrots.  Simmer this until your crunchiest vegetables are cooked to your liking.  Add water if the gravy starts getting too thick.  Once you feel the vegetables are cooked – add the COOKED fish or chicken (if using).  Stir it in.  Let this simmer another few minutes & add salt to taste.

Serve over basmati rice with chopped cilantro for garnish.





3 cups basmati rice – rinsed several times in a colander

1 TBS olive oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp salt

20 green cardamom pods (if you can get them)


Heat the olive oil in a pan.  Once hot – add the cumin seeds & the cardamom pods – again being wary of their popping & spitting.  I used 20 cardamom pods because mine were a bit old.  You might want to use fewer if yours are fresh & really pungent.  After a minute – add the rice & stir until it is all covered in oil & the spices are well blended.  Add 3 3/4 cups of water (or whatever ratio of rice to water your package suggests) & bring to a boil.  Use less water for firmer rice.  Once boiling – reduce heat to low & simmer, covered, for however long the rice package instructs you.  Remove from heat.  Fluff with a fork.

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