Masala just means a spice mix in India, rather than a particular way of cooking. Here is a simple chicken masala recipe, cooked with whole spices to make a light sauce. It is a great dish to make ahead as it tastes even better reheated the next day when the flavours have all permeated the meat.
8 chicken pieces, thighs, drumsticks or halved breasts
1 tablespoon tomato puree
3 tablespoons yoghurt
4 cloves garlic peeled and roughly chopped
2 cm ginger root peeled and chopped
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
5 whole cardamom pods
5 whole cloves
1 red chilli
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
A good grinding of black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Mix together the tomato puree and the yoghurt with 1 cup / 250 ml water in a small bowl
In a food processor or blender whizz together the garlic and ginger into a paste with 2 tablespoons water.
If the chicken is in large pieces i.e. the whole leg, divide it into small portions – drumstick and thigh and halve the chicken breasts. Remove the skin and pat the meat dry.
Choose a heavy bottomed casserole about 30cm/12inches wide. Heat the oil and brown the chicken pieces in batches on all sides. Remove the pieces to a warm plate once they are a golden brown. Once all the pieces have been browned, add the whole spices (cinnamon, bay leaves, cardamom, cloves and red chilli pepper) to the remaining oil in the pan. Stir once, then add the ginger and garlic paste from the food processor (it will spit madly so keep your distance!), add the turmeric last and stir fry for a minute.
Return the chicken to the pot with the spices, and pour over the yoghurt and tomato mixture, season with salt and pepper and add the lemon juice. Bring it all to a gentle simmer and cover the casserole. Cook gently for 15 minutes or so, turning the chicken pieces occasionally. Uncover the pot and raise the heat to medium, cooking for another 7-8 minutes until the sauce has reduced by half. Turn the chicken pieces once or twice in this time. Serve with rice or Indian bread and a vegetable accompaniment.
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