Sometimes it can be worthwhile delaying a post. Earlier this year I began tinkering with a tikka masala recipe from one of my favourite omnivorous cookbooks – The Food of India. My original efforts used tofu in place of chicken which is the usually the main ingredient in this type of curry. An equally delicious version using cauliflower found it's way onto our plates several months later. Due to the tardiness of this post I am now able to provide you with two versions of this curry we have enjoyed many times and will continue to remain on our rotation of curry dishes.
The tofu for the tikka masala was prepared three different ways before deciding I preferred the latter method most. I followed a part of the original recipe too closely on my first two attempts, by threading the marinated tofu cubes onto skewers and frying them in a grill pan or broiling them in the top rack of my oven. Using skewers added more time to the dish without any benefit so my final method simply baked the marinated tofu cubes in the oven.
The beetroot powder in the marinade is not essential to the flavour of the curry, it's purely there to impart a colour similar to tandoori. I wasn't able to ascertain the ingredients of a tandoori colouring I bought many years ago from an Indian grocer so it went into the bin in case it contained cochineal. Experimenting with beetroot powder was initially a learning curve - it took a while for me to work out that the colour turned out less brilliant the longer the tofu or cauliflower was left to marinate.
Tofu tikka masala became a frequent request which I usually serve alongside a vegetable curry. The cauliflower alternative was instigated as I wanted to eat tikka masala with dal but felt we didn't really need another high protein dish on our plates and I always enjoy a good vegetable curry. Cauliflower seemed like a perfect vegetable to put to the tikka masala test as it is so lovely when roasted. And it most definitely passed the test!
Tikka masala is usually a mild creamy curry although the original version in The Food of India is very spicy like most of the recipes in this cookbook. I have lowered the spice quantities a little and would rate my version as a medium spicy dish. The creaminess is achieved by blending cashews with water into a thin liquid which tends to thicken when it is added to the curry sauce.
These days I am smitten with cauliflower tikka masala and rarely make the tofu version any more – not because I don't enjoy tofu tikka masala, merely as I love a combination of dal with a vegetable curry so much more.
Cauliflower or Tofu Tikka Masala (Adapted from The Food of India)
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets OR 500g firm tofu, drained, pressed and cut into 2cm cubes
1½ teaspoons paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon beetroot powder (optional)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cloves garlic
5 cm piece ginger
½ cup coriander leaves
½ cup soy yoghurt
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup cashews, soaked in water for a couple of hours, then drained and rinsed well
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oil
2 cardamom pods
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 x 400g tin crushed tomatoes
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon coriander leaves, chopped for garnish
Place the paprika, cayenne pepper, garam masala, beetroot powder, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, coriander, soy yoghurt and salt in a blender or food processor and blend until it becomes a smooth paste, scraping down the sides a few times as necessary. Spread the cauliflower florets or tofu cubes in a single layer in a baking dish, pour over the marinade and mix thoroughly. Allow cauliflower to marinate for 30 minutes or the tofu for an hour or two.
Preheat oven to 200C. Bake cauliflower for 30 minutes or tofu for 40 minutes flipping the pieces over at the halfway mark.
Blend cashews and water until it becomes a smooth watery consistency.
Heat oil in a large deep sided pan over medium heat. Add the cardamom pods and onion and cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown. Stir through the garlic for a minute, then add the tinned tomatoes and cook for a few minutes until slightly thickened. Stir through the ground cinnamon, cayenne pepper, brown sugar and garam masala for a minute then pour in the thin cashew cream. Combine throughly then add the cooked caulifower florets or tofu cubes and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the cardamom pods before serving if you can find them! Serve garnished with chopped coriander leaves.