England

June 12, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Posted in Northern & Eastern Europe | Leave a comment

Ah, England. So much influence across the development of the modern world in virtually all things… cuisine not being one of them.

Seriously, England has influenced the world hugely via warfare, colonialism and trade. The British Empire at one stage spanned half the world. The modern language is, despite the lack of native speakers, the de facto international language. Western legal systems are largely founded in English common law, many of Christianity’s modern incarnations can be attributed to the Church of England, and the only comedy worth anything is aped and copied from the classic English sense of humour. So why did they fail to make a significant positive gastronomic imprint on the world (and by saying positive, I’m excluding the chip).

OK, I’m being a tad unfair given some of the dull dishes we’ve had from some far-flung parts of the universe. English cooking is fine – but it’s both ubiquitous and generally evokes a sense of insipid plain fare, where vegies are merely boiled, meat is simply roasted plain, the only starch is a potato and the most exotic spice is a toss-up between pepper and rosemary.

In truth, England has a number of gems: Fish Pie is a gorgeous sloppy mess (Deb, must get your recipe), Toad-in-The-Hole is one of the odder ones from Yorkshire (tried to make a showing here but first attempt was unmitigated disaster), and the historical national dish of Fish and Chips was of course a contender. However, England is, by virtue of the hangover effects of colonialism, is a melting pot of cuisines. We shall tip our hat to that.

The Plan

This dish was invented in England in the 70s, despite its Indian roots. A man dining in Soho was given a dish of Chicken Tikka, but complained to see it arrive without a sauce. Quick as a flash, the chef whipped up a sauce (apparently based on a tin of Campbell’s tomato soup, although what *that* would be doing in an Indian kitchen defies explanation) and created Chicken Tikka Masala.

Matthew sourced this dish for me, and he implored me to use this one for England. No protests here.

CHICKEN TIKKA
Serves 4

  • 450g/1lb boneless, skinned chicken breast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ tsp tandoori colour or a few drops of red food colouring mixed with 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • ½ inch cube root ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsps ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground allspice or garam masala
  • ¼ of a whole nutmeg, finely grated
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 125g/5oz thick set natural yogurt
  • 4 tbsps corn or vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  1. Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes. Sprinkle with ½ tsp salt from the specified amount, and the lemon juice – mix thoroughly, cover and keep aside for 30 minutes.
  2. Put the rest of the ingredients into an electric food processor or liquidizer and blend until smooth.
  3. Put this marinade into a sieve and hold the sieve over the chicken pieces. Press the marinade through the sieve with the back of a metal spoon until only a very coarse mixture is left.
  4. Coat the chicken thoroughly with the sieved marinade, cover the container and leave to marinate for 6-8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
  5. Preheat the oven to 230°C.
  6. Line a roasting tin with aluminium foil (this will help maintain the high level of temperature required to cook the chicken quickly without drying it out).
  7. Thread the chicken onto skewers, leaving ¼ inch gap between each piece (this is necessary for the heat to reach all sides of the chicken).
  8. Place the skewers in the prepared roasting tin and brush with some of the remaining marinade.
  9. Cook in the centre of the oven for 6-8 minutes.
  10. Take the tin out of the oven, turn the skewers over and brush the pieces of chicken with the remaining marinade.
  11. Return the tin to the oven and cook for a further 6-8 minutes.
  12. Shake off any excess liquid from the chicken. (Strain the excess liquid and keep aside for Chicken Tikka Masala)
  13. Place the skewers on a serving dish. You may take the tikka off the skewers if you wish, but allow the meat to cool slightly before removing from the skewers.

TIME: Preparation takes 30-35 minutes plus time needed to marinate, cooking takes 15-18 minutes.

CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA

Serves 4

  • 450g/1lb Chicken Tikka
  • ½ inch cube of root ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt salt or to taste
  • 50g/2oz unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • ¼-½ tsp chilli powder
  • 125ml/4fl oz liquid, made up of the reserved juice from the precooked Chicken Tikka and warm water
  • 300ml/10fl oz double cream
  • 2 heaped tbsps ground almonds
  1. Mix together the ginger, garlic and ½ tsp salt from the specified amount and crush to a pulp. Keep the remaining salt aside for later use.
  2. Melt the butter gently and fry the onions for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the ginger/garlic paste and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Stir in the turmeric and then the cumin, coriander, garam masala and chili powder. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the liquid and stir gently.
  6. Gradually add the cream and stir.
  7. Add the remaining salt and simmer for 5 minutes and then add the chicken. Adjust heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  8. Stir in the ground almonds and simmer for 5-6 minutes.
  9. Remove from heat.

TIME: Preparation takes 10 minute plus time needed to marinate the tikka, cooking takes 25 minutes plus time needed to cook the tikka.

Serve over rice. Goes well with a nice yellow dahl on the side.

The Event

I’ve cooked this before:  whenever one roasts the chicken, try to get as much of the liquid marinade off it.   Some will melt and produce a watery liquid, it’s best to drain that off after thee first time you see it and add it to reserved liquid.

The cream in this makes the dish, but it’s very rich:  if anything, go a bit easy on the cream.

The Outcome

Jacq:  “Best. Dish. Ever”

Liam: “I give it 9 out of 10.   Mum’s last attempt was 0 out of 10”

Chris:  “Hey, I didn’t cook that one!  I just served it – and it was awful.  However, this is definitely 9 out of 10 – 10 if I didn’t have the flu.”

Me:  This is definitely a classic recipe, and the outcome is just divine.

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