I first made this three years ago after my friend Jay (my regular crafting partner in crime) made the original version — chicken tikka masala, as featured in an Indian feature in the September 2007 issue of Cook’s Illustrated. I vividly remember making in, in my little apartment in Chicago. I had about 2 inches of counter space, but I made it work and instantly fell in love.
When I brought the goodness to Detroit, my squeeze fell for this dish hard too and it remains one of his favorites. That’s why he didn’t believe me when I said I have never posted it to the blog. I took pictures when I first moved to Michigan 2 1/2 years ago, but I never posted them (I didn’t love that first kitchen…or the camera I had). I’ve spent some time tonight going through each blog I’ve ever posted to verify it — it’s not here!
So, now you have it. This is a different kind of comfort food. For something different, I added cauliflower and chickpeas to replace the chicken from the beginning and I’ve kept making it that way. I’m sure it would be good with different substitutions or with just chickpeas too (like most I’ve eaten in restaurants).
I’ve always included the recipe with the cream it calls for, but decided to do a vegan version tonight. It was good, but lacking a little richness with almond milk instead. I think next time I’ll try coconut milk (which I’m out of at the moment). But it’s hard to make this recipe taste bad. And easier than you think!
I served it with the onion stuffed flatbread I first made a couple of weeks ago (which is still very, very delicious).
• 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
• 1 medium onion, diced fine (about 1 1/4 c.)
• 2 garlic cloves/2 tsp. minced garlic
• 2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
• 1 serrano chile, minced, ribs and seeds removed (I usually do 2+ and it’s still not spicy…you can always leave some seeds in for some spice)
• 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
• 1 Tbsp. garam masala*
• 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
• 2 tsp. sugar
• 1/2 tsp. table salt
• 2/3 c. heavy cream/coconut milk/almond or soy milk
• 1/4. chopped fresh cilantro leaves
• 1 small head of cauliflower, chopped in to small chunks
• 2 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
* Garam masala is a blend of spices. If you don’t have any (but it comes in handy, so pick some up!), you can substitute with 2 tsp. ground coriander, 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom, 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper.
1. Heat oil in a large dutch oven or pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light gold, 8 to 10 minutes. At this point, the edges start to blacken and it might even be sticking to the pot a bit. No worries.
2. Add garlic, ginger, serrano chile, tomato paste and garam masala. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about three minutes.
3. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar and salt, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium/medium-low.
4. At this point I add coarsely chopped cauliflower. It takes a while to cook to tender (maybe 15-20 minutes), so I keep it covered and stir it every once in a while.
5. Add drained and rinsed chickpeas and let heat through.
6. Add cream/soy milk/coconut milk, stir in and remove from heat.
7. Add chopped fresh cilantro just before serving — I always serve it with brown rice.