Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala is chunks of chicken marinated in spices and yogurt, that is then baked in a tandoor oven, served in a masala("mixture of spices") creamy tomato sauce.   A popular dish through out the world.  A survey in the United Kingdom claimed that it is that country's most popular restaurant dish.

Traditionally, the chicken is marinated in yogurt and spices for an hour or over night.  I'm not that patient, especially, during the week.  Before I leave the house, I select a protein from the freezer, plop it in a container and into the fridg in goes to thaw out while I'm at work.  When I come home, I check the pantry for what I have on hand and make our meal.  Yes, some days I know exactly what I'm making, but most nights I rely on my pantry staples.  This is an easy and quick version of Chicken Tikka Masala.

Chicken Tikka Masala
Serves 4


1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken, cubed
1 lemon, juiced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground red pepper
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
1-2 tablespoons grape seed oil (or canola, vegetable or corn - something with a high smoke point)

Sauce Recipe
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, minced (optional)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garam masala* or (1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cardamom, 1/4 tsp cloves)

1 (14 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup frozen peas (optional- not traditional)
1/2-1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


In a medium sized bowl, combine chicken through ginger.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Heat oil in a medium sized skillet.   Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry with a paper towel.  Place chicken in skillet and cook for two minutes per side.  You may need to do this in two batches because you don't want to over crown your pan.  Transfer chicken to bowl and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

For the sauce- use the same pan used to cook the chicken.  Melt butter then add garlic and jalapeno; cook for one minute.  Stir in your spices (coriander through garam masala) then add the tomato sauce.  Scrape the bottom of the pan to remove all the remaining chicken bits (aka fond). Allow to simmer for 15 minutes on a medium low heat.  Stir in cream; simmer to thicken about 5 minutes.  Add chicken and peas and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Taste and adjust salt to your taste.

Garnish with cilantro. Serve with basmati rice, naan or pita bread.

Note:  Garam Masala is now widely available at your local grocer.  You can also make your own.

1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine spices in a bowl. Transfer to an airtight container, and store in a cool, dry place.

Note: you can make this dairy free by using 1 cup of coconut milk in place of the cream.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cottage Pie

Have you ever read a book where a meal was described in perfect detail and you felt as if you were at the dinner table?  Does a character in your favorite TV show go on about their favorite dish?   After years  of  Red Dwarf and watching Lester devour chicken vindaloo, I decided to give it a try (but that's another post).  P.S. totally delicious.

Often this is how my evening menus come together.  This weekend has been a Masterpiece Theater/PBS type of weekend.  I watched almost two seasons of Upstairs Downstairs and wouldn't you know it they mentioned cottage pie a time or two.  After a little digging online, I found a few recipes and some background history.  According to Wikipedia, "The term cottage pie is known to have been in use in 1791, when the potato was being introduced as an edible crop affordable for the poor (cf. "cottage" meaning a modest dwelling for rural workers)."  Can you imagine  teaching people that potatoes are edible.

On to the recipe part!  I tested this recipe on my picky eater (aka man of the house), but I had to modify it since he does NOT eat mashed potatoes...What the....
My recipe is based on Martha Stewart's Cottage Pie with a few modification to utilize what was in my pantry.

Rustic Cottage Pie
Servings: 4


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 large carrots, diced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 pound ground beef or lamb
  • 3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup dark (porter) beer or beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup frozen green beans
  • 2 large russet potato, very thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet, heat butter over medium. Add onion carrots, garlic and cook, stirring often, until onion is soft, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in tomato paste. Add meat and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until almost cooked through, 3 minutes. Add thyme, Worcestershire sauce and beer(or beef broth) and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until slightly reduced, 2 minutes. (At this point, I poured out access oil - leaving about tablespoon).  Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir to combine. Slowly add 1/2-3/4 cup water, stir and cook until mixture thickens, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in peas and green beans and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer mixture to a 2-quart baking dish. 

Thinly slice the potatoes using a mandolin or a sharp knife.  In a medium bowl, combine potato slices with salt, pepper, fresh thyme and olive oil, gently toss to season the potatoes   Top the meat mixture with potatoes, overlapping slices. Bake until potatoes are browned around edges and tender when pierced with a knife, 40 minutes. Place under the broiler for 5 minutes or until the potatoes crisp.  Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

And for you visual folks- here is the recipe at a glance.

I asked my honey to take a picture of the final product because we all know how great my camera skills are.  Well, this was the artsy version our meal.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mushroom and Thyme Zucchini

It doesn't happen often, but there are days that I would rather open a can of tuna than cook anything.  Well tonight is one of those nights, unfortunately for me, I don't have any tuna.  This recipe comes together quickly and it's so filling that you won't miss the protein.

Note: This recipe shows up as a side on our Thanksgiving table because its a filling dish for a vegetarian or a  simple side dish to round up the meal.

Mushroom and Thyme Zucchini
Servings: 4 or 6 side


1 lb. sliced baby bellas

1 large zucchini, cut into half moons
1 medium onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced

4 sprigs of thyme
1 lemon, juiced
1-2 tablespoons Olive Oil
salt and pepper to taste


Heat olive oil in large saute pan.  Add mushrooms and onions and saute until golden brown- about 3-4 minutes on medium high.  Add garlic, thyme and zucchini and stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.  Serve immediately. 

Feel free to add your favorite spices.  Some of my favorites are:
a tablespoon of curry powder (less if you don't like it spicy) 

1 tablespoon of diced pimentos
2-3 tablespoons fresh pesto

Enjoy!  Stay warm