I’m finding my groove after some time away in the quiet mountains of the Lake Tahoe region.
It’s a strange thing harvesting lemons from your backyard one moment, and then finding yourself at a 9000 foot elevation surrounded by snow the next. Strange as in unfamiliar, but certainly not unwelcome.
Boundless, beautiful California — ocean, deserts, mountains, forests, lakes — you choose. Don’t mind if I do.
So while I daydream about our starlit nights, ski-filled days and roasted Brussels sprouts with gorgonza fondue (yup, it happened), I have a delicious and warming meatless riff on the well-loved Chicken Tikka Masala for you today — and it all happens in one pot.
I am particularly drawn to the juxtaposition of heat from the spices and the cooling nature of the cream/yogurt in tikka masala — one of the principal features that distinguishes this dish from the lovely Chana Masala.
Now clearly my chickpeas were not cooked in a tandoor and being that it is vegan recipe, the dairy element is also represented differently here with a creamy coconut milk. I also decided to ranch things up a bit by adding apple, raisin and almond which in my view work swimmingly in this adaptation (and you thought the British version was a departure – wink to my Indian friends).
I’ve selected some beautiful Indian spices with their characteristic thermogenic properties and balanced the heat off against the cooling properties of the coconut milk. The resulting sauce is luscious and full of flavor — the meal satisfying and simple enough to pull together any day of the week. I often serve it over coleslaw but on occasion rice or as pictured here, quinoa. Our whole family loves it.
As always, be sure to read the Notes in the recipe card below for best results.
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed and finely chopped
- 5 cups cooked chickpeas, thoroughly rinsed if using canned
- ½ heaping cup plump golden raisins
- 1 large happy apple, skin-on and diced (I used red delicious)
- ½ cup unsalted almonds (whole or slivered as desired)
- 8 large button mushrooms, sliced thin
- 14 fl oz/ 400 mL unsweetened full fat coconut milk
- 6 oz/170 g tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp ground garam masala
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ - ½ tsp (or to taste) cayenne pepper
- 1 large nub of ginger, grated (about 1 heaping tablespoon or to taste)
- 2 tsp coarse sugar (brown sugar is fine)
- In a large skillet set to medium-low heat, sauté onion, garlic and mushroom for a few minutes until the onion is translucent and the garlic fragrant.
- While the mixture is cooking, sprinkle the onion/garlic/mushroom with the following seasonings: garam masala; cumin; coriander; turmeric, cinnamon and cayenne pepper, tossing to coat.
- Add coconut milk and tomato paste to skillet and gently mix all ingredients together to integrate - making sure that the tomato paste is fully broken down and its color released in the spicy sauce.
- Add ginger and coarse sugar to the skillet, mixing to combine.
- Add chickpeas, raisin, apple and almond to the skillet, mixing to combine with the sauce.
- Taste the mixture and make any seasoning adjustments desired.
- Once mixture has heated through serve in individual bowls or plates with accompanying greens, coleslaw or grain of choice, as desired.
Garlic: flattening garlic (smashing/crushing) is a surefire way of releasing the allium’s beneficial oils. To smash, simply use the flat side of a large knife and carefully press down on the garlic over a cutting board until it breaks/flattens somewhat. Sprinkle with sea salt (the salt absorbs beautifully into the garlic at this stage) and then chop finely.
Season to Taste: as with all recipes, seasoning is all about personal taste. If you know that heat doesn't work for you for example, ease-off on the cayenne or omit it all together. The same thing goes with ginger and garlic (or others) - experiment according to preference.
Don't soak mushrooms: mushrooms naturally contain a lot of water that gets released in the cooking process. If you soak your mushrooms in water to wash them, you will end up with a runny mess. To avoid this, use a damp cloth or brush to clean the mushrooms instead.
BPA: canned beans are always an option but try to seek out those with a Bisphenol A (BPA) free lining. BPA is a known toxin that continues to be used in the lining of many food and beverage cans. Studies have shown that this industrial plastic is absorbed by canned foods and when ingested can give rise to significant spikes in urinary levels of BPA.
Even better the next day: while this tikka masala is ready to eat from the get-go, I do find that the flavors develop even more over time. The almond remains crunchy (even on day 2 and 3), the apple mellows just enough to attenuate the high notes while still lending some sweetness and flavor and the raisins plump up and soften. In short, this dish makes awesome leftovers!
Now, since you’re no doubt wondering about the lovely wood background you see in my photos today, here’s a closer look:
It’s a cutting board! (which I have no intention of cutting on) — a beautiful gift from my boys. In addition to its ornamental use and entertainment value — I could stare at it all day — I might also use it as a food platter one day.
Bon Appétit mes chères amies/amis!