Chicken Tikka – our way

The trial of the licensing exams is upon me! It is why I sport dark circles under my eyes (courtesy trying to study into the night on workdays) that would be the envy of the most discerning raccoon. It also why I spend long periods at slogging away at books while I pretend to be oblivious to the sun shining outdoors. Without a doubt, this was easier to do in the winter months. The summer will be testing me on will power as well as subject material. As the exam dates draw nearer, I bury myself in books and cramming, accompanied by occasional rants at and about nothing and everything. Nights are reserved for incoherent babbling. My husband (who incidentally is very calm and collected through his licensing ordeal) bears all this with a good degree of forbearance. He takes over most daily requirements for living completely, thereby leaving me to my alternative lifestyle until the exam is done and I’m normal again. Among other things, he also takes over the cooking.

This weekend saw the inauguration of the stovetop grill, a first in our household. While we love our tiny apartment, it is far from ideal. One of the things we’ve always missed is the lack of any kind of balcony or open space where we could have some plants or store a grill. So we were quick to grab the $15 cast-iron stovetop grill from a local Cost Plus recently. While I toiled away at zoning ordinances, Amey decided on the first meal we would cook on our new acquisition. He figured he’d start with what he knew, the excellent and always appreciated chicken tikka.

Tikka, pronounced with a soft ‘ti’, is a small piece of cooked and marinated meat or vegetable. (A harder emphasis on ‘ti’ means the mark put on the forehead for religious and ceremonial reasons). Of the myriad kababs available in Indian food, it is easily the most popular. The British preferred their meat in gravy in the time they spent on the sub-continent, which lead to the creation of Chicken Tikka Masala, seen in both Indian and British cuisines today. Chicken Tikka utilizes almost the same marinade as that of Tandoori chicken, but the latter involves larger pieces of meat, and on the bone. Depending on who you talk to, you will get a different list of ingredients for it. What is likely to be common will be the use of yoghurt in the marinade. This acts as a wonderful tenderizer for the meat, though people have been known to even add a bit of papaya to the marinade for this reason. The longer the meat rests in the marinade, the more soft and tender it’s texture. My husband seemed to know just what I needed, as paired with couscous and an onion raita, it was a wonderfully comforting meal for my hungry stomach and frazzled brain.

Chicken Tikka
Makes 4 skewers. Serves 2-3

For tikka:-
Chicken – boneless, skinless, 1 pound, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
Yoghurt – 1/4 cup
Red Chilli Powder – 1 tsp
Garam Masala – 1 tsp
Lemon Juice – 1 tbsp
Ginger – 1 tsp,
Garlic – 1 tsp, minced
Canola Oil – 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
Onions – 2, quartered
Tomatoes – 2, quartered

For raita:-
Yoghurt – 2 cups
Onion – 1, sliced
Green Chillies – 2, chopped fine
Salt, to taste
Pepper – a couple or grinds
Cilantro – to garnish

– To prepare the marinade, in a large bowl mix together yogurt, red chilli powder, garam masala powder, lemon juice, ginger paste and garlic paste, oil and salt.
– Place the chicken pieces in the mixture and marinate for two to three hours.
Heat the grill or grill plate.
– On metal or bamboo skewers, alternately piece in chicken pieces & onion and tomato quarters. Grill until chicken is cooked through.

Serve with basmati rice or couscous, accompanied by raita (recipe below)

– To make the raita, mix onion, chillies, salt and pepper in the yoghurt. top with cilantro and serve.

Cooks notes:
We’ve previously tried this recipe in the oven with delicious results. But those wonderful charred lines you want from barbecue are impossible to get with your meat contained an aluminum foil pan. The grill worked well for this, even despite the lack of the smoky flavour that only charcoal can bring to a party. The same marinade can be used in making fish, lamb and paneer tikka though marination times vary depend on what you are using. The process is also made easy by the availability of a tikka spice mix which any self-respecting Indian or spice shop is bound to have. If you use one of these, you are not likely to need any extra spices, though you may want to check whether or not additional salt is required.

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