How to make the easiest (and best!) Chicken Tikka Masala I’ve ever made (with the perfect wine pairing!)

This post was created in partnership with the Côtes du Rhône. As you’ve probably noticed I love cooking Indian food at home, and I cook pretty much everything from scratch. Yes I take great joy in creating the perfect recipe for things such as my Better Than Takeaway Aloo Gosht, but I’m not going to pretend I don’t also have a fair few shortcuts at home from times when I just don’t want to cook – while I find cooking relaxing most of the time, it is also my job, so sometimes the last thing I want to do at the end of the day is make a meal.

While some of these options are things like frozen scampi and sweet potato fries or burgers from the butchers that just need to be grilled and stuck in a bun, but there are some other things I keep on hand that will help me get something ‘halfway homemade’ on the table still cooked with fresh ingredients, but with lots of the ‘from scratch’ work I usually do myself done for me, like jars of curry paste and cans of French duck confit.

Another truth about dinner in our house is that while we do try and be good and only drink on Friday nights and at weekends, regardless of the night of the week we always open a good bottle of wine with a curry, be it homemade or ordered in, rather than reach for the more traditional couple of beers. I think when done right, wine is the much better option, so when the guys in charge of looking after the wine from the Côtes du Rhône got in touch to see if I fancied joining in with one of Indian chef Hari Ghotra‘s cook-along curry classes with one of her Tikka Masala Curry Kits (where she just sorts out all the spices for you – proper spices I mean, not a pre-made cooking paste, and you just add in the fresh ingredients) to pair with a couple of bottles of their excellent wine I jumped at the opportunity to let someone else do the thinking part of dinner for once while still getting to enjoy something fresh, homemade, and made (sort of) from scratch! Côtes du Rhône are usually known for their red wine, but cooking this dish I loved discovering that their whites are just as delicious and just as affordable, as well as pairing really well with a rich, spicy curry.

The video I used to make the curry along with the curry kit is above so you can replicate the recipe too, and if you check the caption on Youtube the full list of spices is in there too in case you don’t want to wait for one of the kits to arrive or you’ve already got a big selection of spices at home. With my Indian cooking I’m very much a person who likes to measure everything out exactly, so I really enjoyed the more relaxed approach of cooking along. I’ve also included some step-by-step photos below sharing a bit of what I learned cooking this version of a classic Chicken Tikka Masala, because who does not want to learn how to up their game making everyones favourite curry at home?

(Oh, and I need to apologise for my kitchen – the worktop samples should be here soon, and when those go in I’m getting a new coat of paint on the walls and a backsplash of yet to be chosen tiles behind my new hob!)

First off, make an effort with your spices. I have an obscene selection of different spices in my kitchen (one of the reviews of One Pan that made me smile the most was someone who said I’ve made them more confident cooking with different spices) but I’m totally guilty of just sticking to what you can buy from the supermarket. Yes, going online and hunting things down is for the enthusiast not the casual cook, but I assume that because you’re here you want to go the little extra mile: now I’ve used dried fenugreek leaves and cassia bark in the kit, I’m going to order them online for the next time I make a tikka masala (and to store in my new spice tin Côtes du Rhône sent me I’m so excited by!) because they really do make all the difference.

I think we all know by now that grinding your own whole spices makes all the difference, but what I also learned making this curry is you can layer whole and ground versions of the same spices (think cumin, coriander etc.) to create different textures and aromas. I like ground spices for marinades, but grinding my own for the masala sauce gave the curry a lovely texture.

My next lesson? Baking my marinated pieces of chicken for a more authentic tikka experience in the oven until they got a bit of browness and charr was not the extra effort I always thought it would be (hence why I’ve always avoided it and gone for less than authentic recipes). People? Use your oven, you’re only helping build the layers of flavour! I’m also really excited to do the chicken on the barbecue when it warms up a bit outside to add that extra layer of smoke.

Next, I learned to relax. I did not grow up eating Indian food (my family don’t like it) and it is only something I have started to cook over the past few years, even though it is now one of my favourite cuisines (well, collection of cuisines) to relax into at home. Therefore I usually stick to rules I’m presented with from trusted food writers and don’t go off piste as much as I do say, making an Italian sauce or cooking a classical French dinner without a recipe. But, glass of Côtes du Rhône in hand when I realised I needed my onion, garlic, ginger and tomatoes practically pureed (as I usually do when I’m making a curry) but my beloved mini chopper was in the dishwasher, I just chopped up everything by hand. And the result was still delicious. So don’t sweat it (really, you should not be sweating onions for an Indian dish!) I credit both Hari’s relaxed tutelage and the wine in my hand for this one!

And finally, the flourishes at the very end. We all know the answer to the best, luxurious Chicken Tikka Masala is to add a generous slug of cream at the end, but stirring ground cashews into the sauce just before adding back the chicken and then the cream just added a richness that was next level, a little tip I’ll keep in mind to finish all of my creamy curries in future.

So, why Côtes du Rhône?

Okay, so I know this is a sponsored post and I’m literally being paid to talk about wine from the Côtes du Rhône here, but as I mentioned when I put together a little at home wine tasting with them last summer, Côtes du Rhône is one of the French wine regions I look for when I’m choosing a bottle of wine to go with dinner because I always know whatever we open will be a good, affordable wine to go with our meal. They’ve been making wine in the region for over 2000 years, and it really shows. You can always pretty much find a bottle for a decent price everywhere wine is sold, and I like that it is a region I can rely on. We have a quarterly wine subscription and while I try not to mess around with their selection so we can try new things, I always consider it a massive win when a bottle of Côtes du Rhône arrives.

Does red or white wine pair better with Indian food?

When you think Côtes du Rhône I know most people think red (which does work really well with a curry) but I was actually rather partial to the pairing Hari suggested with this curry, this delicious Gabriel Meffre which you can get from Waitrose (and it is only £9.99, though I’ve now spotted this Côtes du Rhône on the Waitrose website I’m going to grab a bottle of because it looks like insanely good value for our next special occasion as I know it will just be the perfect wine with a steak) It is refreshing while still being bold enough to both hold up to and compliment the spices and the very aromatic sauce. But red is always an excellent choice too: I find a good Côtes du Rhône red balances richness and lightness well alongside Indian food, even though there is so much variety across the Côtes du Rhône region.