We were both hungry for something Indian-food-ish. Really hungry. It was time to figure out a new recipe for a nice Tikka Masala-like sauce, for a change of pace. So I went hunting. I looked through my Indian cookbooks and went wandering online for a while, and found that the core ingredients for a creamy tomato curry seemed fairly stable from one recipe to another, but as with any sort of classic food, not only did the proportions vary widely but the peripheral or add-on ingredients did, too.
Jamie Oliver’s recipe seemed to me to sit somewhere right in the middle of the typical combinations, so I chose to use that as a jumping-off point for today’s home-brew. And what do you know, it came out pretty nicely. And relatively simply. I made a big enough batch that I could freeze a couple of meals’ worth, too. I opted to cook up the other parts of the meal (a batch of vegetables, roughly chopped prawns, and coconut rice) separately, then just took some of the finished sauce after it’d simmered for a while and spooned up customized individual combinations in bowls for our dinner.
Tickled Tikka Masala
Finely mince or crush 2-3 cloves garlic, 2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, 1-2 teaspoons freshly chopped jalapeño, and 1 T grated citrus zest (I used lemon and lime together). Mix with 2-3 T lemon juice, 1.5 T chicken bouillon (I like Better Than Bouillon brand). Set aside.
Blend together dry ingredients: 2 Tablespoons garam masala, 1 T ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 T cumin, and 1 T smoked paprika, and 2 T freeze-dried diced shallots. Toast gently in 3-4 T ghee in a large pan over medium-low heat.
Add the citrus-bouillon blend and stir it all together to warm through. To this, add a whole can of rich coconut milk (13.5 oz Chaokoh, my fave) and stir it in. Add 24.5 oz canned tomato puree or sauce (tomatoes and salt only; Mutti Passata is my favorite) and about 2 T tomato paste. Let this whole thing simmer gently for an hour or two, covered, stirring occasionally.
Add whole milk yogurt or labneh to taste, serving by serving and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro. Or, if you don’t have a yogurt-and-green-thingies-averse partner like mine, finish the whole dish with them. Or you can top it with toasted coconut, with cashews, pistachios, bacon pieces, chopped dried apricots, or whatever suits your fancy. However you choose to do it, as you can see by the long list of ingredients and the longer list of recipes I surfed before landing on one of my own, the dish is endlessly customizable. And yes, it turns out, every bit as tasty as I remembered.